I remember the first time I saw the majesty that was Tommy Wiseau’s The Room. My friend’s and I had gather at an ex’s apartment, my best friend had bought the Rifftrax for the film (if you don’t know what that is, please look them up it’s a video “commentary” by those who made Mystery Science Theater 3000 and its amazing) and we sat down on a cold Saturday night to watch it. We were rather boring 20 year olds, I must say. What greeted our eyes was nothing short than horrifyingly hysterical. For the entire time the film was playing we could hardly stop laughing. What stemmed from this viewing was countless trips to the Oaks Theatre in Oakmont, Pa, just outside of Pittsburgh for countless views of The Room, during which we threw spoons and bottles, cried out famous lines and had a truly wonderful experience.
When I first heard that the secondary male lead in the film, the handsome, Greg Sestero was writing a book about his experience in the The Room, I was understandably ecstatic. Such an outrageously odd and bizarre film had to have had just an equally odd and bizarre story behind it. For about a year I waited in rapt anticipation for its release. When it did finally come I out I immediately purchased a digital copy and began to dive into a world that was so much different from what I expected.
To start off the book is not just about the making of the titular movie. Chapters alternate from the making of the film as well as Sestero’s attempts at starting an acting carrier as well as his friendship with the film’s mysterious creator, Tommy Wiseau. When I first discovered that this was how the rest of the book would go I was kinda disappointed. I mean actor biographies don’t interest me at all. I mean if I’m gonna read a biography I want it to be about someone who actually made a difference in the world in some negative or positive respect, not of someone who’s major contribution was to imitate life for viewing on a screen. However after the first two chapters I was surprised to find myself completely engrossed in the story of a young actor (Sestero) going against his mother’s wishes and striving to become an actor. What it eventually became was not a story of success at all either, it’s the story of a failed actor in Hollywood, a fact of life there that is too often ignored, or when it is acknowledged, made fun of. While the chapters that are about the making of the film are extremely funny, they are tempered by Sestero’s story of eventual mediocrity. What is great about this is that Sestero completely acknowledges this and he seems to be completely accepting of this fact. This gave me a lot of respect for him because he turned his failure into something amazing through this book. It actually becomes inspirational towards the end because despite his failing Sestero obviously does not regret his actions as they helped him to become the person he is today.
Along with Sestero’s story we get to learn a lot about Tommy Wiseau himself, his is just as inspirational as Sestero’s. It is revealed that Wiseau was born in Eastern Europe during the Stalin Era and was able to be one of the lucky few to make it to the USA, although he does have a brief terrible stint in France. Here in the USA he strives to become an actor and despite his distressing inability to act at all, he manages to make his own movie, although he does become a successful clothes retailer which in the end helps him to fund his film. Throughout the book you learn his rather odd behaviors, such as ordering hot water at restaurants and spying on his actors while filming. Despite all this, Sestero tells a tale of a man who follows his dream to such a die-hard degree that he actually pulls it off. While his film never becomes the thought provoking drama that movies such as Rebel without a Cause or The Talented Mr. Ripley as he intended it to be, his own film becomes just as famous in some respects.
One of the things I loved about this book is how it was written. It’s written in such a way that it’s almost like you’re talking with Sestero himself. This is definetly a credit to both Sestero and Tom Bissell, the co-writer of the book. Also, I enjoyed his explanations of how a movie set is set up as well as the mini backgrounds he gives about the people he interacts with throughout his tale. His description of living as an out of work actor in Los Angeles is also very believable. You can almost see yourself in his shoes looking for a part time job, just so you can afford to eat every day. The aspects of his relationship with Tommy Wiseau is also very heart wrenching to some degree. You can obviously tell that he genuinely cares about Mr. Wiseau and that he is happy for him. This actually surprised me, as I expected the book to be a criticism of Wiseau. I’m actually happy that this genuine care is what is presented in the story and not the negativity that we see in a lot of Tell All books. It endears you more to the people involved and adds an aura of believability that you can’t get in other Tell All books where the authors try to distance themselves from others to such a degree that you have to wonder how much of the truth they’re stretching.
I also enjoyed the trivia you learn about the making of the film, such as the fact that certain takes took literally hours to shoot, along with explanations with the obvious problems that occur throughout the film as well. There were numerous times were I found myself giggling to myself while reading these scenes, which is welcome as most books take a lot to make me openly laugh. I also enjoyed many of the pictures that were in the book that showed scenes from the making of the movie as well as from points in Sestero’s and Wiseau’s friendship.
I eagerly suggest this book to any and all fans of The Room as well as anyone interested in biographies as well as books about the making of famous films. Be ready for a wild ride.