The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room,
the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made by Greg Sestero & Tom Bissell
Simon & Schuster, 2013; 268 pp
Reviewed by Charlie Riccardelli
People in the twenty-first century needed a midnight movie of their own, an equivalent to Ed Wood’s 1950 sci-fi schlock Plan 9 from Outer Space, and they found it Tommy Wiseau’s The Room. The movie is a bonkers relationship melodrama written for Tennessee Williams-level intensity, but looking like someone filmed a role-playing session at couples counseling gone awry. The Room draws much of its power from writer/director/producer/star Tommy Wiseau who unleashes his entire twisted psyche on the screen, particularly his troubled experience with women (“Oh man, I just can’t figure women out. Sometimes they’re just too smart. Sometimes they’re just flat-out stupid. Other times they’re just evil.”). Few people know anything about Wiseau, whose odd, gargoyle-like appearance and stilted aspect have made it difficult to place his age or origin, and no one knows exactly where an unemployed actor like Wiseau found $6 million to finance an independently produced vanity project. However, our author Greg Sestero (along with co-writer Tom Bissell) has arrived to clarify the story of Tommy Wiseau and The Room. Sorta.
Sestero met Wiseau in an acting class in San Francisco where they first began their friendship. Sestero, who starred in The Room as Mark and served as a line producer for the film (even though he admits to not knowing what a line producer does). He chronicles his first-hand experience trying to mediate the chaos that was the film’s production, but that only covers half the book. Large sections of The Disaster Artist don’t cover the making of the film but rather Sestero’s early career as a Hollywood nobody, working menial retail jobs and covering his big role in the assembly-line sequel Retro Puppet Master. Wiseau makes appearances occasionally during these chapters, functioning like a wacky neighbor on a sitcom to throw the protagonist’s world into disarray. Those fans of The Room looking to find answers into Wiseau’s creative or personal life won’t find much here. Sestero never uncovers the mystery of Wiseau, offering little more than bizarre anecdotes concerning late night road trips and all-hours phone calls. The occasional appearance of Wiseau’s speculative (but unconfirmed backstory) serves as a reminder about this book’s void in dishy material.
While he cites much of the film’s troubled history and offers glimpses into Wiseau’s existence, Sestero never even touches upon the cult of The Room and how it has blossomed over the last decade into a cultural phenomenon. Worse yet, Sestero’s depiction of his friendship with Wiseau is oddly framed. Our author makes it easy for us to understand how difficult it can be to have a friend as unpredictable and demanding as Wiseau but admits that the man remained a devoted friend to him in the worst of times—offering up a whole apartment, driving him to auditions, and paying him handsomely to work on his movie. After all that, this book is the result? The depiction of Wiseau, while likely based in fact, is so cruel and mocking that Sestero's credibility as a friend falls into question. As he makes numerous attempts to remind us that Wiseau, after all, was a good friend (usually after many pages of criticism), Sestero looks more like an opportunist who exploited his friendship for personal gain both then and now. His whole portrayal of Wiseau left me feeling so uncomfortable that I sped up my reading just so I didn’t have to spend more time with Greg Sestero.