Howdy all you Supercultists out there on the interwebz!
I’m Bad Movie Professor Cameron Coker (BS in “Tommy Wiseau” with a minor in “SPOONS!”) and I’ll be posting my hype-tacular speeches every week along with some long lost speeches from past Supercult Shows!
This week is the second part of our end-of-semester double feature! The ultimate cult film to end all cult films! Tommy Wiseau’s infamous masterpiece, The Room!
Johnny has everything a man could ever want: great friends, a good job, and a gorgeous fiancé named Lisa but soon this benevolent, friendly, selfless man will discover that you can’t trust anyone when Lisa inexplicably gets bored with Johnny and says…”Oh, Hi, Mark!” Lisa’s true nature as a manipulative, self-serving siren is revealed and Johnny’s life begins to crumble around him. It’s a romantic drama that’s sure to TEAR YOU APART!
Directed, produced, written by, and starring Tommy Wiseau, The Room has been called “the Citizen Kane of bad movies” and more than one notable publication has named it one of the worst films ever made. Originally only shown in a limited number of California theatres, the film quickly developed a cult following as fans found humor in the film’s bizarre storytelling and various technical and narrative flaws. Within a decade of its premier in 2003 the Room was selling out screenings in the United States and had inspired a video game, a book, and a traveling stage show.
You can play “The Room: The Game” on Newgrounds.com here! Beware of Spoilers and don’t forget to collect all the SPOONS!
The Room was originally a play completed by Tommy Wiseau in 2001. Wiseau then adapted the play into a 500-page book which he couldn’t get published, and then into a film which he decided to produce and distribute himself (under the thinly veiled production company “Wiseau Films.” Both of these logo animations appear back-to-back before the film:
Perhaps the one and only form of advertising that was ever made for the film was a billboard, located on Highland Avenue just north of Fountain, featuring an image Wiseau refers to as “Evil Man”: an extreme close-up of his own face with one eye in mid-blink. Wiseau chose the “Evil Man” for what he regarded as its provocative quality; around the time of the film’s release, the image led many passers-by to believe that The Room was a horror film. Wiseau also paid for a small television and print campaign in and around Los Angeles, with taglines calling The Room “a film with the passion of Tennessee Williams”. Despite the film’s failure to enjoy immediate success, Wiseau paid to keep the billboard up for over four years, with its bizarre imagery and longevity leading to it becoming a minor tourist attraction. When asked how he managed to afford to keep the billboard up for so long in such a prominent location, Wiseau responded: “Well, we like the location, and we like the billboard. So we feel that people should see The Room. […] we are selling DVDs, which are selling okay.”
The book, “The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made” was written by Greg Sestero, who plays Johnny’s best friend Mark in the film, and has the tagline “The hilarious and inspiring story of how a mysterious misfit got past every roadblock in the Hollywood system to achieve success on his own terms: a $6 million cinematic catastrophe called The Room.”
Here are some random facts from the book and from Supercult show runner Jared Wright:
- Tommy Wiseau likes to drink hot water. He orders it at restaurants and had a hot water keg on set.
- Tommy also had a private bathroom constructed on the set of the room that had its own plumbing and was separate from the studio bathroom. It only had a curtain for a door.
- Tommy had a rooftop set with a green screen backdrop built in the studio parking lot instead of shooting on an actual rooftop. He also had an alleyway set built instead of filming in an actual alley. He reasoning behind this was “it makes it big Hollywood production.”
- The book describes Tommy’s early life, or at least the parts of it that Sestero understood from Tommy. It is implied that Tommy is originally from some country in Europe, that he moved to France, then New Orleans, and then to San Francisco. In San Francisco he became a street vendor selling toys, specifically bird toys, and he changed his name to reflect that by “taking the French word for ‘bird,’ oiseau, and swapping out the O for the W of his birth name”
- Because of Tommy’s salesman skills selling toys he became fairly wealthy and started his own fashion company “Street Fashions” and became even wealthier. Some of The Room’s San Francisco shots were filmed on top of a Street Fashions building that Tommy owned.
- Tommy fund The Room’s $6 million production cost all from his own pocket using his private fortune. He bought all the camera equipment as well, which is usually a no-no in Hollywood; you just rent because new tech come out all the time.
- The Room was filmed on 35mm film and HD digital format simultaneously side by side on a special camera rig. Tommy admits he was confused about the format so just shot both. It’s likely that the Room is the one and only film to ever shoot both 35mm and HD digital simultaneously and it probably will stay that way forever.
- There are a lot of “pop culture” observations from Tommy Wiseau within the film such as throwing a football around with a group of guys while standing five feet apart from each other and what it means to have the American life.
- Some of Wiseau’s favorite actors are James Dean and Marlon Brando. He would perform parts from their movies in acting class all the time. Vincent Chase was one of his old acting teachers and there is a main character on the TV show Entourage named after Tommy.
- Kyle Vogt, the actor that plays Peter (the psychologist who always looks directly into the camera) in the movie had to leave before production ended due to a prior commitment. He told Tommy about this before production began so that Kyle could get his scenes done before he had to leave. Unfortunately with Tommy’s acting and directing skills and his habit of constantly showing up hours late to set everyday he was not able to complete Kyle’s scenes in time. The lines that he was supposed to have later in the film were simply given to a new character Steven (Greg Ellery) that was created just to say those left over lines. Steven appears near the end of the film with no explanation.
- The flower shop scene was filmed impromptu at a random flower shop in San Francisco. No one in the shop is an actor. The line “Hi, doggy” was said during the take after Tommy noticed there was a dog sitting on the counter. He hadn’t noticed it before the take because it was being so still.
- In the book it is implied that Tommy wrote The Room to get through thoughts of suicide. He was in deep depression because he wasn’t finding success as an actor or with women. This transformed into the plot of the room where Johnny (played by Wiseau) is cheated on. His wife has an affair with his best friend and in the end uh, err…well, watch it to find out! Basically everyone in he film betrays him and Tommy’s character is the perfect person.
- Tommy is a terrible actor. Not only can he not act, he can not, I repeat, CAN NOT remember his lines even if it is the simplest of sentences. They had to do an insane number of takes just so Tommy could get through his lines. He would start saying a line then halfway through forget it and yell “Line!” He’d then do the same thing for the next take…and the next…over and over again.
- In the famous rooftop scene where Tommy utters “Oh Hi Mark” the reason he is holding a water bottle is so he can concentrate on his performance.
- The original actor that was going to play Mark was fired without Tommy telling him. Tommy wanted to replace that actor with his friend, whom he met in acting class, Greg Sestero (the author of The Disaster artist and the guy that ended up playing Mark in the movie). On the first day of filming Tommy said that the producers (i.e. HIM) wanted to screen test Greg reading Marks lines. This went on for a while and eventually the other guy caught on and quit the production.
- During the course of the film Tommy would constantly fire people or people would quit and he would hire new people to replace them. There were a total of 3 cinematographers that shot the film.
- The script supervisor Sandy Schklair left before production ended to take a job with Janusz Kaminski whom us Supercultists know as the cinematographer for Cool as Ice starring Vanilla Ice. Janusz Kaminski later became Steven Spielberg’s DP and shot such films as Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan and Minority Report. Later in 2011 after The Room re-emerged as a cult classic, Sandy Schklair announced that he now desires credit for directing the room. Schklair told Entertainment Weekly that shortly after Sandy was hired on as script supervisor, Wiseau became too engrossed with his acting duties to direct the film properly; Schklair claims that Wiseau then asked him to “tell the actors what to do, and yell ‘Action’ and ‘Cut’ and tell the cameraman what shots to get.” The script supervisor also claims to have had a conversation with Wiseau in which he refused to give up the title of “Director”, but asked Schklair to “direct [his] movie.” The story is corroborated by at least one of the film’s actors, who requested anonymity for the story, but Wiseau has dismissed Schklair’s claims.
On top of all this hilarity playing out in the background, there are actually quite a few glaring problems that are hard NOT to notice. Several plot threads are introduced and then immediately abandoned…never to be revisited. Notable examples include a conversation between Lisa and Claudette in which Claudette off-handedly mentions to Lisa that she has breast cancer…and then we never hear another word about it. The audience also never learns the details surrounding Denny’s drug-related debt to Chris-R or what led to their violent confrontation on the roof. In fact, among the outtakes included on the DVD is an alternate version of the Chris-R scene, set in a back alley; instead of tossing a football, Denny is playing basketball and attempts to get the drug dealer to “shoot some H-O-R-S-E” with him to distract him from the debt.
In perhaps the most infamous example of on-screen non-sequiters, the principal male characters congregate in an alley behind Johnny’s apartment to play catch with a football while wearing tuxedos. When Mark arrives, he is revealed to have shaved his beard, and the camera slowly zooms in on his face while dramatic music plays on the soundtrack. Nothing that is said or occurs during the game has any impact on the plot; the scene ends abruptly with the men deciding to return to Johnny’s apartment after Peter trips while trying to catch the ball. Wiseau received enough questions about the scene that he decided to address it on a Q&A segment featured on the DVD release; rather than explaining the scene, though, Wiseau only states that playing football without the proper protective equipment is fun and challenging. Greg Sestero has been questioned about the significance of Mark’s shaving, though his only response has been “if only you knew”.
The cable network Adult Swim has run the movie several times since 2009 as part of their April Fool’s Day programming. In 2012, they showed the first twenty seconds of it before switching to Toonami for the remainder of the night.
The comedy show Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, also on Adult Swim, featured Wiseau prominently on an episode titled Tommy. Recruited as a “guest director”, Wiseau is interviewed in mockumentary style along with the show’s leading actors during the production of a fake film called “Pig Man”. Two scenes from The Room are also featured during the episode.
Tommy Wiseau has retroactively characterized the Room as a black comedy, but audiences have generally viewed it as a poorly made drama, a viewpoint supported by much of the film’s cast. The Room is such a cult phenomenon that screenings are held around the world. The film now shows on the Last Saturday of every month at the Laemmle in Los Angeles, with tickets regularly selling out in advance. If you call Tommy and Greg they might even come to your screening for a special Q&A Session with the audience!
There are several audience participation games that are regularly observed, some of the best include:
- “SPOONS!” When Tommy Wiseau needed to hastily fill out the set of his movie he went out and bought picture frames for the walls and tables but left the default store inserts in all of the frames. Nearly all of the framed artwork in the film inexplicably features spoons. When you see a picture of a spoon, yell “SPOON!” and throw a handful of plastic spoons at the screen!
- Lots of the B-Roll for the film is shot through the railing of the stair well or other set pieces that cover the frame with bars. Whenever you see either a filler shot of the actual Alcatraz prison, or when a shot is framed with bars, yell “ALCATRAZ!”
- FOOTBALL! When the characters throw a football back and forth, you do the same thing with your friends!
- When Peter (the psychologist) is replaced by a new character who looks nothing like him, yell “WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU?”
- During Lisa’s juicy, wine-induced confession to her firend Michelle Lisa’s neck twitches spasmodically for no discernable reason. During Lisa’s protracted neck-twitch scene yell, “SHOOT HER!” in reference to the opening of Jurassic Park.
- Denny is one of the many meaningless but weirdly hypnotic characters that waltz in and out of the movie with no rhyme or reason. Yell “DENNY!” whenever the tragic kidult Denny enters, and yell “Goodbye, Denny!” Whenever he leaves.
- The film frequently goes in and out of focus as if Tommy didn’t know how to operate the cameras he bought himself. Yell “FOCUS!” when the shot goes out of focus!
- The film also has numerous incredibly cringe-worthy sex scenes…during which the camera will go in and out of focus. Whenever the shot comes back into focus during a sex scene yell, “OH GOD, UNFOCUS!”
- There is a ton of B-Roll in the film of just iconographic shots of San Francisco. Whenever the movie does this in order to verify that, yes, we have not left San Francisco yell, “MEANWHILE, BACK IN SANFRANCISCO”
- Cheer “GO! GO! GO! GO!” whenever the B-roll shows tracking shots of the Golden Gate Bridge. Celebrate when the camera gets all the way across the bridge and express your disappointment when it doesn’t!
- “EVERYWHERE YOU LOOK, EVERYWHERE YOU LOOK!” Sung over houses that look like the ones from the opening of Full House.
- “CAUSE YOU’RE A WOMAN!” Make fun of the casual misogyny in the film, but you can also use this one as a ridiculous non-sequitur whenever the movie gets slow.
The Room has a 3.3 on IMDB and a solid 33% on Rotten Tomatoes, a testament to its status as the best worst movie of all time. Which makes it a perfect conclusion to our double feature AND our semester. Finally, after quite possibly the longest and most exhaustive speech in the history of bad movie speeches, the Supercult show is proud to present, The Room!