Interview with Tommy Wiseau

Song River

The Room was a 2003 American-romantic, drama film written, directed, produced by, and starring Tommy Wiseau. The film follows a melodramatic love triangle, pretty typical, except this version quickly developed a cult following. Whether Tommy Wiseau intended for this to be what transpired or not, it has been embraced as the “Citizen Kane of bad movies.” However, those who are fans of The Room defend its honor and have a deep appreciation for its production.
Currently, RiffTrax has created their own special parody of The Room and James Franco along with his brother, David Franco and Seth Rogen have taken the 2013 book, The Disaster Artist, written by Greg Sestero, who was a fellow actor in the original movie, and will be releasing their film version of the book soon.

Meanwhile, Tommy Wiseau tours the world doing Q&A sessions and viewings of the movie. Along with several other projects, Tommy stays true to himself as an artist and entrepreneur.

Song River: Hey, Tommy. How are you doing?

Tommy Wiseau: I am doing pretty good, how about you? And I apologize as it has been crazy busy, but I wanted to take a few minutes and talk with you.

SR: Thank you Tommy, and I am doing great. I know it has been a little crazy for you, but we just couldn't let a chat with you slip by!

I was looking into your background, you have been interviewed numerous times, and probably asked just about every question there is to ask. But I kept thinking to myself: there has to be two Tommy's. The one that is kept in the private arena, and the one that is given to the rest of the world.

TW: Are you referring to my character as Johnny?

SR: No. More of who is the actor Tommy to the public, and then who is Tommy with his friends and in his intimate relationships.

TW: Ah, yes. We all have it as actors. You know. There is the private life and then there is the public life. So, to a certain degree, the answer is yes.

SR: Is that hard to keep separate at times?

TW: No, I mean, I am not a different person on the stage, I am still me, but acting in a role. Acting on stage is of course very different from private life. How I relate privately, of course, is who I really am. I think people don't give me enough credit though. [laughed]

SR: Why is it that Tommy? Here we are thirteen years later, The Room, it has one of the largest cult followings known.

TW: We could go into it, but I don't want to talk about negative. This is your time.

SR: Fair enough. What was transpiring back in 2003? When you came up with this script, of what was going be a book, that has a love triangle storyline, one that has been told many times.

TW: Long story-short: I was going to school and I had taken a piece of paper and written down this
situation to put in a book, but I always wanted to be an actor. I didn’t want to do it the Hollywood way, I wanted to be comfortable. Otherwise, I didn’t want to do it. I have always been so passionate about the arts. I learned a lot of skills doing this process, you know, even the business, etc... And then I decided to write the script, but then instead of a book, just do it as a play. That was during the time when I had discovered the acting lab of Jean Shelton in San Francisco. Through her, she opened me up to acting. So through all this process, again long-story-short, I decided to make my script and make my movie. That’s the story.

SR: Growing up, did you always want to be an actor Tommy?

TW: No, actually I always wanted to be a rock star. An actor was secondary.

SR: Really? You wanted to be a rock star? What kind of music did you want to make?

TW: I like Bon Jovi's as an example of a style, but I like the hard rock. I also like the mellow. Really what I like is universal. Actually, when I was in France I had bought a guitar and learned to play a couple of tunes. [laughed]

SR: So you actually can play then?

TW: I can play a little. I am not a pro. I had taken some piano classes too. I love piano actually. [paused]

You know what we decide as an individual is so important because we are only here on this earth for such a short time. I wanted to create something. My first play I wanted to do in my class was 'A Streetcar Named Desire' and when I first started acting way back when, I played the Indian, again long-story-short [laughed]. So, you see all these influences. Some started good and some stuck around.

SR: What is the deal with RiffTrax and your movie, The Room?. How did all of that come about, and how did you feel about it?

TW: The only way I would do it is if they would buy the license to do this, and they did. In this whole process, I discovered that their entire team is filled with very respectable people.

The way I see it is there are two ways: those creating parody and having fun with it and the people working with it having fun, and then those who are just in the process of hating. I totally believe in the American freedom of speech, but I don't support people stealing your stuff and that has happened to us many, many times and that is just disrespectful.

SR: I am glad you've given it your blessing.

TW: I am too, as I said they are very respectful people.

SR: I know when I was reading some of the comments from fans of The Room regarding whether people should go and see the RiffTrax version first or watch the actual movie first, fans of the original film said, no go see The Room first then the RiffTrax version. It seems like the fans of your movie really have a respect for you and the film.

TW: I know I have noticed a natural respect for The Room over the last two or three years, I think because I am very open about it and we have special events once a month and have a Q&A session. The way I look at it is this: if I had not done this film, we wouldn't have it to talk about. [laughed]

SR: What is it about Americans and their love for cult type films? They seem almost to be a part of the fabric of who we are.

TW: I would agree practically, but you might be surprised as to what you are going to hear. I never planned The Room to be a cult film, but people put it as such. It is good, but it is also bad. At the same time, good and bad. But I always encourage people that they can laugh, they can cry, you know it's up to them, just don't hurt each other.

It is nice when we do the Q&A sessions and people can be involved with the movie, yell/scream whatever along to it. It's great, it's healthy. You know when you're a kid you can go around yelling and screaming and no one thinks you're nuts, but as we get older and become adults you can't go around doing that or they think you’re nuts. So, it is a good outlet I think. You know to yell and scream. Just make sure you have respect for others.

SR: I understand now that James Franco and Seth Rogen are connected to The Room, through a book called “The Disaster Artist,” which was written by one of your co-stars of The Room, Greg Sestro. Now, again I want to know how you feel about all of this too?

TW: [laughed] Well, that is a similar situation as they approached me about rights, and, by the way, I am in it, believe it or not, a little part. And now I am actually free to talk about it, as we have finished filming. Of course it was in the agreement with Franco that I not talk about it until it was done. It seems to me that Franco did a very good job, respectful again. As well as his brother, David Franco. I think James did an excellent job.

SR: As you've become somewhat of what one would call an icon, back in 2003 did you ever think, WOW this is all could happen?

TW: I never thought about it. I remember the billboard we had up their in Hollywood for The Room, which was only supposed to be up a year or less, but ended up being for five years. I do believe in destiny, but all of this... absolutely not. But here it is, the American story. A guy comes over from Europe with a dream. I wanted to make a movie and then move on to the next project. Did it happen that way? No, but you know maybe it was for the better. At first, no one liked it, but then now everybody likes it.

SR: Have you considered writing your own autobiography? So many people really want to know where you were really born, if you were a double agent?

TW: Actually you know, I want to be very straightforward, I put a lot of hard work into The Room, but here I am now with this character I had created. So, yes maybe.

SR: Have you ever considered writing a part two of what happened to the rest of the characters from The Room?

TW: We will see what will happen. Right now I am focusing on what Franco is doing, but that is a really good idea.

SR: How do you deal with rejection?

TW: We all have to deal with rejection, you know? Whether you are an actor, teacher, lawyer it is a part of life. Yes, actors may have to deal with it more as they go in and read for parts, but it is a part of learning to deal. When people say, “I cannot get a job.” I say to them, “Well that is when you have to go in and use your right and left the side of your brain and create your own job.”

Then people have had this assumption of where did this money come from I have? Well, it came from hard work.

I am also a designer, I design underwear. I didn't know if you knew that.

SR: Are you mentally ready to become this Pop Icon, as Franco takes “The Disaster Artist,” and creates this film. You could very easily become a comic con name.

TW: I am totally open to the whole concept! It would be lots of fun.

SR: You've worked on other projects a video called, “Homeless in America” and then you've been working on the American foreclosure situation. What is your take on American politics?

TW: I am still working on the foreclosing film. I am not into politics honestly, but I feel society has been changing the last ten years. We are not a communist country, we are a capitalist country and we have great values which are preached overseas. People seem to think we are just Yankees here in America, but on the contrary, we are very giving people. How much money do we send out all over the world and we get a kick in the pants? We have so many homeless right here, yet the money keeps going elsewhere. We have over 20,000 homeless just in the Los Angeles area, and I think there is something very wrong. All this crap we've been doing doesn't work. I think many mistakes have been made. You have to do the footwork to see and understand what is really happening. It isn’t going to be seen sitting up there in the 'house.' I used to work for the healthcare dept in San Francisco, I saw it. When I did the “Homeless in America” I wanted to see what was really going on. We can't have this assumption that every homeless person is just there because of drugs or whatever. It's the same story everywhere, and we need to recognize it and help. I see churches and organizations reaching out to help others and it is good.

SR: Is there a movie or screenplay for theatre you have always wanted to be in?

TW: A Streetcar Named Desire I did in school, but I'd love to do it on Broadway. Actually, I'd love to put The Room on stage.


Tommy Wiseau: Movie Trailer, Tour Information for The Room

Clip of RiffTrax The Room