We'd been waiting for about an hour at The Plaza theater for The Room to start. We'd seen the movie here a dozen times before but that night was different. That night, Tommy Wiseau was going to be there.
The line of people waiting to meet this man wrapped around the building. All of us had seen the movie more times than we cared to admit. We were enthralled by this movie. Yet, as we watched him push through the crowd, shaking hands and taking photos, there was only one thing on everyone's mind: who is this guy? The man behind this cult phenomenon that, for better or worse, has taken the nation's underground movie scene by storm?
Ok maybe they didn't phrase it like that. But I sure did.
The movie itself has been called many things, but the tagline "the Citizen Kane of crap" is most often attached. And it's hard to not understand why. Shots are unfocused, plots appear and disappear like Whac-a-moles...and yet, week after week, flocks of enthusiasts and curious new viewers go to see this movie. Say what you will about the movie (and most people do), but there's no denying that Tommy Wiseau has created something everyone wants to see again and again.
Wanting to know more about the enigma wrapped in a mystery behind The Room, I requested an interview with Tommy Wiseau who agreed to talk with me over the phone. What follows is the entirety of what may be one of the most curious conversations I've had, often raising more questions than answers:
Eric: Alright, thank you very much for talking with me Mr. Wiseau.
Tommy Wiseau: Ok just call me, eh, let's don't be too formal. Just call me, call me Tommy that's fine. Haha.
Eric: Oh, you've got it Tommy.
Tommy: Ok, we have no restrictions, let me just give you a little line, er, about the interview you may ask, anything you want, it doesn't matter. But the question is if you receive the answer, maybe you will not like my answer, but let's move on okay? Hahaha.
Eric: That's fine with me. Alright, um, one of the first things I wanted to know is, what got you interested in film to start with?
Tommy: Well, when I was a little kid, I wanted to be, like you know a movie star, you know? Or, I always have interest in movie you know? Because I like the visual aspect of the movies, et cetera. I studied movies for many years, but I am professionally an actor because I, my background is actually a stage actor and acting. So, uh you know, if you have a background-my thing about acting—I don't know if you wanna talk about acting—but to respond first to your question, um you know I like it, a black and white movies for example you know? My first project what I did for the school was black and white and color mixed together. And I got an A-minus on my project.
Eric: What school was it that you went to for acting?
Tommy: Well, that was, there are several schools, like I say I'm, you know, a very private person, I don't drop the names.
Eric: Oh, ok, that's fine. I did want to know how much has the recent success of The Room changed your life? From, since making school projects to now? How have you adjusted to the success of The Room?
Tommy: Well, let me just say this, it's not just a school project you see, keep in mind that The Room by design was a, uh my approach was very commercial way of, if I may say that, meaning that the preparation, what I did with The Room is the same like big studio did. The difference is, big studio spend more money than I do as well as have better resources. And uh, the fact also is that I have a meeting with a lot of the big studios, started in 'P', I give you just a hint, one of the biggest, there's only one in Hollywood, and they review my, my movie and they say 'Ok, thank you Mr. Wiseau, maybe next time', I say 'Ok, maybe next time.' But, today you know like, to respond to your question, today people, uh the same people come to me and say 'Well, can we work with you', and you know apparently, they recognize certain success in The Room. And again, respond to your question, you know I'm happy with what's happening. We have many fans as you probably know across the world right now. We are screening in the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and other countries as well. So, I'm very happy with what's happening. And yes, the fact also is it did open certain doors for me. I've been working recently for Comedy Central and other projects, so it's very positive if I may say. Even though, as you probably notice, from my comments, certain comments about media, um you know you guys sometimes have tendency to misquote me, you know like 'Tommy speak heavy accent' et cetera, et cetera. To me, some of the stuff is completely nuts, but let's just move on. I'm not here to criticize anyone. Just my respond to your question.
Eric: Uh, okay. Moving on. Uh, what other projects are you considering working on now? Like what direction would you like to move? Are you considering getting into television more, or would you like to stick to film?
Tommy: Well, I like to stick to film, however, you know, I completed the pilot, it's called The Neighbors, I don't know if you've heard about it. And actually, I uh did work very closely with another network. It's not secret, it's Cartoon Network, if you ask me. And, long story short, they approve only one episode, and I'm against one episode. You know, because one episode, for me as a creator take similar to create ten episodes. You know what I'm saying. There's tremendous...it's the same like you guys, writers or whatever when you write something you want to continue to explore much more than people ask from you. I'm just guessing at this point. In my case, that's the case. But I'm working on other projects, feature movies right now. I have two, three feature movies and, again, I just completed the Comedy Central, THE HOUSE THAT DRIPS BLOOD ON ALEX, that is a horror movie. There was a premiere in Comic-Con, I don't know if you're familiar. That actually will be aired at Comedy Central I believe in November or October, for Halloween. And my interests is in, to respond to your question, film but the same time I'm open for TV. Because again, I like to work with the TV station to complete The Neighbors, you know? I think it's a funny project and you know, when I start something, I like to complete it. But certain support I needed, like everybody else. You know? Haha.
Eric: You mentioned THE HOUSE THAT DRIPS BLOOD ON ALEX. That's a project that's gotten a lot of attention recently. I'm assuming it's a horror, or is it a comedy?
Tommy: Well, it's a horror slash comedy, depending on how you can, you know, classify. Keep in mind, I did not direct this project, it was directed by a third-party and I was hired as an actor, basically.
Eric: Ok, well, as an actor is the horror genre a genre that appeals to you?
Tommy: Oh, absolutely, you know like I say, one of my projects I'm working currently is vampire movie. And like I say, I like drama, I like comedy, I like to work with vampires, you know genre, the way you described. But there's certain limitation, you know? I mean, I have to see what the project looks, you know? I'm choosy person, I'm a very picky guy. Hahaha. You probably noticed that. So, but the same time, I am the director, if I ask you if I can say a couple sentence about me, that I am always-my take as the director is you have to be very detail oriented. That's why, in reference to The Room, we have a lot of symbolism within The Room. And people are, I think, in the past two years, I will tell you one thing is I like what's happening. I like the media and, again, let me straight out something here, at the same time. You see, I'm not against when people say negative, contrary I'm pro-freedom. And you decide as the writer, blogger whatever it is you guys wanna do, that what is your take about The Room, you see? Because I always say, you can laugh, you can cry, you can express yourself, but please don't hurt each other. But I am sort of picky guy about the, when certain assumptions people make. For example, like "Oh, he didn't know what he was doing about HD or 35." Some of those statements completely absurd, because seven years ago Hollywood's confused about the HD format. As you know, today we are actually shooting on HD, and we transfer onto 35. And fact is that, 35mm is 35mm was very close to perfection, for example RED cameras, et cetera, et cetera. We don't have time to talk about technical things, but you may ask me, whatever question you have, but the fact is we're shooting for example on the RED, we transfer to 35.So, industry relating to 35 didn't die. At the time, Hollywood was actually afraid to it. Another aspect of The Room is, the reason I was using two formats, because actually I wanted to see it. You know, what's actually the difference? And Hollywood and some of the independents as well as feature productions, big studios, they did not have the format to compare to their feature. And let me also stress something on the record, that The Room is the only, the one feature movie that actually shot at the same time with both cameras, 35 and HD. We are the only one in the entire world. So you may compare, you may compare this and that, but the fact is a fact. Ok? So. I give you a little speech here. *laughs*
Tommy: You know, I have to enjoy it, Eric. You know what I'm saying? Otherwise it will be, you know, it has to be fun for me too, you know?
Eric: Well, I did want to ask you about a recent story that came up with a video maker online named the Nostalgia Critic. He did a review of your movie, and there's rumors going around that you guys sent a takedown notice, or that he plaigarized your video. You know, I wanted to know your take on that. Whether or not you felt that he had actually done you harm, or if it's a misunderstanding or what's going on with that situation?
Tommy: I personally think that, you know I don't have my details in front of me, because a lot of people use them in place, et cetera, but you see the-I personally think, yes it is certain misunderstanding. Because, you see, again my take on any reviewers, or any person in the world who like to review the movie or talk about it, you can say whatever you want. But the fact also is that, you know, you have to ask for certain, I would say quote "permission", in a sense, if you wanna use a clip. I think to you to copy directly from The Room, for example, DVD or in the theater is wrong. That's why we copyright it, you see? If you ask for the clips or images, we usually provide to any person. And you know my assistant would say very openly, and now actually, we're saying that ask first, before you ever take it. You cannot just take it because you feel like it. I think it's wrong, you know? Imagine Shakespeare work or Mona Lisa if the Mona Lisa, you know, image was disturbed by many critics and, for example. But we know what we talk about. The Room is the new thing on the block, so I don't think it's wrong, at the same time, I'm pro-freedom. So, my take on that is, you know, I don't the details, what actually transpired, be honest with you, but you know, my take on this is you can say whatever you want, you know? It's there to, I would say, talk about it, but at the same time I don't know, I have a respect for everyone, you know? As you probably hear from my statement. Any media, any critics, I encourage people actually to say whatever you wanna say to my Q&A. I am very pro-freedom. I am pro-expression, I am pro-...you know, as long as you don't hurt anyone. That's my point, you know? So, to respond again to your question, I don't see any harm whatever he said. It's fine with me. You, know if it's negative or positive, whatever his take. Actually I didn't see his complete review, I just glanced a couple times, somebody showed me one time. Because I'm traveling a lot right now. So, I really don't have time actually to review all this stuff, what's going on. But that's my take on that.
Eric: That does raise one other question I wanted to ask, are you doing much traveling for your shows? And if so, how is that affecting your schedule for making new projects?
Tommy: Oh, yeah I just come back from Buffalo. We have such a beautiful screening. We come back from Washington D.C., I go to Seattle next week, and then San Francisco as well as other cities. So, I'm traveling a lot, you know? And it's fun to travel. You meet a lot of people. We usually have a very, very good time. *laughs*
Eric: Yeah, I was actually in Atlanta recently when you were there. You visited The Plaza.
Tommy: Oh, you were there?
Eric: Yes I was.
Tommy: Oh, did we met?
Eric: Yeah we did. I was at the front of the line when you came up, you signed a flyer for my friend.
Tommy: Oh, that's good you know? Yeah, I'm very open about it. And again, you know, some of this stuff I think people misunderstanding or misunderstood. And you know I just want people to really enjoy myself. And let me say something also, that I notice on the screenings, since you touch on some of this traveling, that I notice people actually do enjoy themselves. You know? *laughs* We always get a lot of good emails from a fan, I don't know there's something like, you know I always say The Room connects people. You know, directly and indirectly. And again, it's nothing, Eric, whatever your take on your experience is with me right now we're talking about, it's up to you what you wanna write, you know? I always notice that certain interview what I conduct, we always find out, I always find out something humorous. Which is good, you know? My take, also, is that as long as something's sincere, people will catch it, too and say 'Ah, he's a good reviewer,' or whatever. You see? So, again you see, I am pro-freedom. I want people to express themselves and say what you want. That's basically what my take on that. Sometimes people ask me about certain movies and I say 'Wait a minute, now' I mean, I like entire movie, but you know what? I like this part of the scene, or certain movies it was boring to actually see it. But you know, my take on movies is like, or any performace actually, you know you always-I don't know, any movie always offers something what is positive, seems to me, you know? The message is there, but sometimes it's hidden message. Like within The Room you see we have lots of symbolism. When people are actually very surprised, but that's what I encourage people to see movie, The Room in this case, several times. Because, it's a hidden stuff in it. You see? And I think that's why people are connect to it.
Eric: Okay. Well, it's definitely a movie worth watching multiple times. I've seen it several times myself. But Tommy, I think I'm out of questions right now, but I appreciate your time talking with me today.
Tommy: Sure, no problem.
And just like that, our conversation ended. To be honest, I don't know if we got any closer to discovering what goes on inside the mind of this "very private, picky person". But Tommy said he's "pro-freedom" and encouraged me to "say whatever you want." So you know what? I will.
I think this man needs to stay a mystery. There is a certain "otherness" to him. No one can really guess what he's going to do next. I, for one, didn't see 'The House That Drips Blood On Alex' coming. And next we'll see Tommy getting into the "vampire genre"? Who knew!
Every new question he answers reveals a piece of his past or his future, but there always seem to be more questions than answers. And love or hate The Room, love or hate Tommy Wiseay, there needs to be people like this in the world. People who, by virtue of being completely inexplicable and unphased by obstacles, produce media that the world can't ignore.
Tommy Wiseau, we salute you, you crazy cat.
Eric is a video enthusiast and a writer currently living in Atlanta. When he's not attending showings of obscure movies in tiny art houses, or watching the biggest blockbusters open at midnight, he spends his time writing about and satirizing anything and everything online, from gadgets to movies to politics. Whether in the comments or the blogs, you'll find him crafting some kind of witticism.