The Disaster Artist is the story of Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) and Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) making The Room. The Room would go on to become a midnight sensation as audiences played along with Wiseau’s bizarre passion project.
Based on Sestero’s book of the same title, there were some stories too bizarre to even explain in a movie. Screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber explained how they approached the adaptation.
“We were very mindful of which were the things we were going to actually see at the premiere [of The Room at the end of the film] and recreate and which were the things that were just going to be the backdrop to the drama of making the movie,” Weber said.
Fans of The Room know every detail but The Disaster Artist plays equally to people who’ve never seen The Room. Only a few scenes were too complicated to explain to newbs, so they can read the book.
“The establishing shot was one of my favorite things and that’s not something you can quickly explain to a theatre audience,” Neustadter. “We’re at Johnny’s party and there’s a cut to a building somewhere else. You’re like okay, obviously that’s an establishing shot. We’re about to go into that building. No, we go right back to the party. You’re not processing a movie the way your brain usually processes a movie.”
Another endearing film flub from The Room was a bit too complex to spoof. Johnny (Wiseau) records Lisa (Juliette Danielle) and Mark (Sestero) together. When he plays back the recording, their conversation is different.
“It’s such a funny concept and it’s really, really great to read on paper but in a theatrical setting it’s not going to come across in the same way,” Neustadter said. “Those things had to go by the wayside. There’s enough amazing things from The Room and from what Franco did recreating it.”
As much as The Disaster Artist is as much for people who have not seen The Room as its biggest fans, it is also for people who aren’t necessarily aware of the technicalities of filmmaking. They wanted to make sure Tommy’s faux pas were obvious to people who might not necessarily know why he’s getting directing wrong.
“We only have a little bit in the movie about Tommy spying on his own cast and crew,” Weber said. “He really extensively was keeping tabs on everyone. The amount of things that were too inside baseball in terms of Tommy’s technical expertise or lack thereof in terms of filmmaking.”
That also excluded Sestero’s double role behind the scenes. “We wrote that Tommy gave [Danielle] the Lisa role but didn’t tell Greg who was the line producer which also didn’t make it in there, the whole thing of him wanting Greg to be the line producer and Greg not even knowing really what a line producer does,” Weber said.
There is a montage of Wiseau writing the script, but most of The Disaster Artist occurs on set. “There was a lot more preproduction in early versions of this that probably would’ve only been interesting to Room fans or people who knew it,” Neustadter said.
One major set piece is Tommy doing days of takes of a rooftop scene. He could not even remember his own script.
“I think for the very same reason that when he wrote the phone conversation into the script, he didn’t bother to look back at what he’d written previously when it was the first phone call,” Neustadter said. “He never bothered to look and see. That’s so Tommy. Some of it’s off and they performed it exactly like that.”
Sometimes the writers got a two for one: a real life behind the scenes incident coinciding with a legendary scene from The Room.
“We knew Tommy did not allow water at one stretch and there was no air conditioning, it was really hot,” Weber said. “So figuring out that the backdrop of that day is the breast cancer scene. Using what really happened and crafting it, there was so much good stuff to work with.”
The Disaster Artist opens wide December 8.