The Room’s Greg Sestero triumphs with a story of failure

The Room’s Greg Sestero triumphs with a story of failure

Author of The Disaster Artist comes to Kitchener-Waterloo

There are a lot of weird things going on in The Room, the totally incompetent 2003 melodrama that has become one of the biggest cult films of all time. Many of them, of course, come back to Tommy Wiseau, the shaggy-haired oddball who wrote, produced, and directed the film — in addition to starring in it as Johnny, a noble banker who is betrayed when his “future wife” Lisa (Juliette Danielle) and his best friend Mark (Greg Sestero) strike up an affair.

But the brilliant thing about The Room is that every element contributes to its strangeness. Sestero’s incongruous underacting, for instance, is the perfect foil to Wiseau’s over-the-top nonsense.

Sestero, who befriended Wiseau in an acting class in San Francisco in the late ’90s, is as subdued in reality as he is in the movie, like a man who is used to his life resembling a waking dream. He fell backwards into fame when The Room became a Rocky Horror-level cult hit over the course of the 2000s. He embraced the phenomenon, writing a book, The Disaster Artist, about the making of the movie with journalist Tom Bissell.

“Tom wrote an article in Harper’s Magazine that was really terrific. It intellectualized The Room and took Tommy [Wiseau] seriously,” said Sestero, in a phone interview. “And that’s exactly what I wanted to do — to write a book that was first rate about something that was considered fifth rate.”

That book has now become a major movie of its own, directed by James Franco (James plays Wiseau while his brother Dave plays Sestero). As glowing reviews for The Disaster Artist roll in, it seems that Wiseau and Sestero have finally, in a very roundabout way, made it. At the very least, Sestero says, “It’s exciting to be part of something that is actually looked upon as a good film.”

This year may mark a new chapter in their careers — Wiseau and Sestero even co-star in an upcoming movie, the dark comedy Best F(r)iends, due to be released in 2018.

But while the release of The Disaster Artist has Sestero walking red carpets, he hasn’t forgotten the small cinemas and cult audiences that made it possible. Later this month, Sestero will appear at the Princess Cinemas in Kitchener-Waterloo for two sold-out shows, presenting an exclusive behind the scenes documentary and a reading of The Room’s first draft.

Sestero tells me he enjoys the appreciative audiences at these intimate events, and I ask him if he ever gets any really weird questions. “The whole experience has been weird, so it’s par for the course,” he replies.

An Evening with Greg Sestero runs at the Princess Cinemas on Thursday, Dec. 14.

Photo by Corben Grant.