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The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made Hardcover – October 1, 2013
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*Starred Review* Reading this downright thrilling book is a lot like watching Tim Burton’s Ed Wood: it’s sometimes infuriating, often excruciating, usually very funny, and occasionally horribly uncomfortable, but it’s also impossible to look away from. The Room, a 2003 film written, directed, and starring the inscrutable Tommy Wiseau, was massively and enthusiastically lambasted by critics, proclaimed by some as the worst movie ever made (an insult, some movie fans might say, to Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space). Sestero, who starred in The Room, teams up with magazine journalist Bissell (who previously wrote about the movie in Harper’s) to walk us through the unpredictable, confusing, and—it must be admitted—wildly incompetent production of Wiseau’s vanity project. This is a making-of book like no other, the day-to-day story about the filming of a movie that everyone involved with it, except its creator, knew was awful. But it’s also the story of a very interesting friendship between Sestero and Wiseau (who knew each other for several years before The Room), and the story of an enigmatic and incredibly self-absorbed man who, in making his film, seemed to be trying to exorcise a troubled past and build an entirely new version of himself. Wiseau, for all his eccentricities, comes off as a sympathetic fellow, someone we, like Sestero, can’t help rooting for. The Room has become a cult fave, and this book goes a long way toward explaining how and why. --David Pitt
The Disaster Artist is co-written (or probably, judging by its wit and literacy, written) by journalist Tom Bissell, and with its allusions to Ripley and Sunset Boulevard, it understands the story it wants to tell. Tommy is a middle-aged man of some means and cloudy provenance, desperately lonely, waiting for the world to take notice. Greg is the beautiful young man who notices. —Louis Bayard
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I think as fans we sometimes forget that these characters we see onscreen (and yell insults to on countless midnight screenings) are portrayed by actual human beings, separate from their characters. I loved reading about how Juliette Daniels ended up playing Lisa and Dan Janjigian's preparation for the Oscar-worthy role of Chris-R. The Disaster Artist has brought an entirely new dimension to The Room. The book's biggest feat was helping the reader understand Tommy Wiseau, as much as anyone can understand Tommy Wiseau. Some of the details that Greg shares with us break my heart. I now view Tommy in the same way one would view a vampire puppy-- with an equal mixture of "aw" and "eek".
I can be sure that the next midnight screening I attend, I'll be giggling to myself over how long it took to shoot the famous, "I did naaht heet her" line. Or over the real reason why Peter was blinking so much. Or whether the enigmatic Chloe knows what obscenities audiences yell when they see her name appear onscreen. Without this book I would never have known that I've memorized The Room better than Tommy Wiseau. It was a fantastic read and I'm so excited to see what Greg Sestero does next!
This is the sort of story that would be rejected as fantastical if the reader did not know it was true. And even Sestero, who was probably closer to Wiseau than anyone else, does not know the full story. Wiseau's birthplace and birth name appear to still be hidden, and Sestero is never able to determine just how Wiseau managed to earn the millions that let him make "The Room".
Sestero himself is not that interesting to read about; he comes off as just another lightweight pretty boy trying to make it in Hollywood. Whenever Wiseau slips out of the narrative, the book gets dull. Thankfully, he always returns, quickly and more bizarrely each time.
It's fun to realize how significant chance meetings can be. (I met my best friend in an equally fortuitous scenario.) Tommy is unique in every sense, though I'm still chewing on exactly what he is. A lonely weirdo? Someone trying to connect with others, but trauma gets in the way? Someone so dazzled by fame that he forgets his own shortcomings (which we all have)?
Still, the book is an absolute riot. Like "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil," someone who hasn't seen the movie might swear it's fiction.
But it's NAAAAT!
For instance, we only get approximations of where Tommy is from and when he immigrated to the US (stopping first in France), but we never learn his birth name or much about his family and upbringing. We're given an explanation of how Tommy amassed the fortune it took to produce The Room, but it lacks details so we can't prevent the thought that there was something else to it, i.e. illicit activities; Sestero assures us though that no criminal organization would be stupid enough to enroll Tommy in its ranks. In sum, Sestero can only guarantee the truthfulness of what he witnessed firsthand, and we have reason to believe Tommy's often full of it.
The best part of the book for me was finding answers to questions I really wasn't asking about him, e.g. how is it to have Tommy as a roommate? What took him to write a movie script in the first place? What does his current name mean, and why did he choose it? Why is he so manipulative? All of this information is packed in a well-written story that flows in chapters that alternate between two timelines, the story of Tommy and Greg's acquaintance and friendship, and the production of The Room, with a nice cinematic arch too, building up to a conflict and climax. I loved reading this book, and found myself alternating between judging and relating Tommy, but my fondness for this unique "human bean" has grown a thousand times.
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