An interview with the surprisingly candid Tommy Wiseau.
That’s just one tidbit gleaned over the course of an interview more focused on the future than the past, with the director of the cult classic The Room waxing philosophic about his work ethic (“I believe in destiny, I use this theory about a respectful approach to projects, and I think you’ll be very successful.”), future projects, and his return to Milwaukee this weekend for two midnight screenings on this the 12-year anniversary of his biggest success.
While in the past Wiseau has gained a reputation as enigmatic or evasive in conversation (his halting speech pattern, broken English and always shifting train of thought make for lively conversation), our half-hour discussion was entirely pleasant, with his enthusiasm for his upcoming projects overflowing. If you’ve yet to experience The Room (and it is truly an experience), I highly recommend going to the Oriental this weekend to check it out. While Wiseau bristles at the notion that the film’s success is an accident, the way in which he’s leaned into its reputation as a darkly comic cult oddity (filled with jarring tonal shifts, subplots introduced then immediately dropped, and overheated melodrama) to make a career for himself is a true American success story.
Are you surprised that The Room inspires such a positive reaction 12 years later?
TW: Absolutely – I did not anticipate that but it seems to me that the public sort of rejoice just to see The Room and it seems that we’re on different levels of The Room right now.
In the years since The Room came out, there are several movies that have tried to play themselves off similarly – made by Hollywood outsiders with the intention of becoming a cult favorite – but none of them have really stuck. Why do you think your film stands apart?
TW: Well you know what, this question is the $1 million question – “You know why?” My take on that is one of the reasons is original material; I’ve been working very hard in a very sincere way, number one. Number two – the people as you know, through all these years, they did exaggerate who I am, what I do, et cetera. But I ignore all of this negative stuff. So basically, that’s the result of it, I guess. Next question (laughs). Right now I just finished a music video, for example. I don’t know if you saw it or not.
I did see that music video.
TW: I hope you enjoyed. If not, that’s okay too. At the end of the day, you may have something good that people enjoy; that’s the idea behind it. You know, with The Room – going back to respond to your first question, “Why?” – people have different ideas about entertainment and I will say that in the beginning, maybe the populace is not ready for The Room, you know? I never made The Room as a cause. I said “OK, this is a movie. Enjoy it. Have fun with it.” Right? But, the audience embraced the differences. You’re right, they copy The Room – they try to do this, but I always have news for them. I say “Hey, original’s original.” Like Shakespeare said, “To be or not to be,” you know? (laughs)
I saw you in Chicago about five years ago when you brought along The Room. During your Q&A, a woman came on stage and grabbed you and then another guy came on stage and you lifted him up above your head–
Do you have any other crazy stories like that from past Q&A’s?
TW: Yeah, it all depends on the audience. But always something happens – people ask me “can you marry me?”, “can you lift me?”, and I enjoy it very much. I always encourage people, people ask me and I say its part of your job to actually see the people, because you actually want to do something to present to the world differently. We all have to learn – Shakespeare would say the same thing – Shakespeare would say “we can learn from it.” Again, The Room is not an accident. People say “Oh, this has happened by accident. Oh, poor Tommy,” and I say “Wait a minute, stop right now. It doesn’t happen by accident.”
How would you describe The Room to someone who hasn’t seen it?
TW: Prepare yourself for something different. And let it go, and think positive. And if you don’t like (it), that’s OK, too. You have to see it again, and maybe you will like it – not 100 percent, but maybe 1 percent. If I did 1 percent of my job and you liked it, I would be very happy.
Do you have any plans to make more episodes of The Neighbors (a Hulu-exclusive sitcom)?
TW: Yeah. We completed the six episodes, we’ve been talking about the Emmy awards – we didn’t receive any (nominations), but I’m very proud of it and we’re actually putting it on Amazon.com as well as other platforms.
We have new animation for The Neighbors, and for the first time, actually, we’ll be showing that in Milwaukee. In Milwaukee, we have the new version of The Neighbors with new animation and I’m very excited about it. This will be like a little test. It’s an improved version, let me put it this way. It’s gotten a really great reaction from people. We’ve screened The Neighbors, then we do Q&A and then we do The Room, so we’ll see what happens.
Do you have anything else you’re about to start work on?
TW: We’re working already on Foreclosure, a feature movie where one of the main characters, Richard, the bank takes over his house. I don’t know if you probably know about the crisis we had ten, fifteen years ago when people lost homes and signed papers they weren’t supposed to sign and didn’t know what they signed. We want to do something dramatic. The Richard character takes over the bank, so it’s a lot of drama.
I have a story to tell about banks. For my first car I have a balloon payment, you know what this means? It means that you have to pay as soon as they ask for the final payment. Long story short, I didn’t know about it, to be honest with you. So I get a bank notice that says you have to pay, and I say “are you kidding me?” You have this happiness, you get along and everything’s hunky-dory, and suddenly, they say, “wait a minute, you did something wrong.” So whose fault is this: yours, as a consumer? Or do you blame somebody else because they did not explain to you? So that’s Foreclosure, I think it’s very different, it’s something unique, and something related to the real world. Some of the stuff is based on factual situations and I don’t think it’s fair for the consumer to suffer. However, we as consumers have to look at the other side of the coin, and we also have a responsibility as well. I want to film (Foreclosure), but right now we got such a great reaction about this music video – I would say 99 percent positive – people want to give me new jobs and I’d love to, you know? So it’s something that I didn’t realize but I actually enjoyed doing it.
So should we look forward to more music videos from you in the future?
TW: I think so. So I think Foreclosure will be filmed next year You know, I told you I saw this Fantastic Four….it just….I’m not being critical- let me put it this way, I like it, I did enjoy it number one. Number two, it’s too bad they didn’t call me, that’s all I want to say and I rest my case. (laughs) That’s all I can tell you. (laughs) Good response in Europe though, that’s my understanding, but it’s too bad they didn’t call me, that’s my point. Maybe if there’s a sequel, you know. You know, maybe your article gets me that job, who knows what will happen.
I know they said they’re going ahead with a second one –
TW: You know what, I tell you what – I’m very open, I’ll give you my commission fee.
Your move, Fox (and I’ll hold you to that, Tommy).
The Room plays twice this weekend at the Oriental Theatre, at midnight on Friday and Saturday. Tickets are available here.