A sit down with Greg Sestero, star of the cult classic The Room

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By Evelyn Heis & Ben Carpenter, Film & Television Co-Deputy Editor & Editor

At some point in your life, you will have heard about the notoriously bad film, The Room (2003). Directed by and starring Tommy Wiseau, The Room is one of the early 2000s most infamous cult films, quite literally known as the ‘Citizen Kane of bad movies’, as the best worst film of all time. Almost twenty years after its original release, Bristol Bad Film Club decided to resurrect The Room and bring it back to the big screen, hosting a two-day premiere at the Watershed on the 29th of April. This late-night show was an experience that was almost as eccentric as the film itself. And that’s saying something.

Greg Sestero & Tommy Wiseau / Courtesy of Haley Jones & Greg Sestero

The room in which we lost our The Room virginity to was one that was bustling with long-term and die-hard fans, the vibrancy and energy of the crowd creating an immersive, receptive experience that, without a shadow of a doubt, has to be the best way to watch this film. As fans cyclically threw spoons at the screen, shouted ‘Meanwhile in San Francisco’ and quoted the hilariously dry dialogue, ‘You’re tearing me apart, Lisa!’, there could not have been a better setting to watch The Room than that room in the Watershed, sitting amidst a crowd of devout Wiseau fans.

Not only did we have the pleasure of watching The Room in such a lively and dynamic setting, (despite taking a few blows to the head- courtesy of the spoons) we were also privileged enough to be able to interview Greg Sestero, the famous girlfriend-stealing, best-friend lead, Mark. Bristol Bad Film Club invited Sestero to partake in the annual premiere of The Room, this year being the first since the pandemic, in which he also announced and premiered his upcoming film Miracle Valley (2021).

Courtesy of Haley Jones & Greg Sestero

Evelyn & Ben: In the 20 years since you have collaborated in The Room, how have your feelings changed towards it?

Greg: I would say that for me, having made other films now, what you strive for is to try and make something that’s timeless. When it first came out, I showed it to my family and my friends and thought ‘this is a huge pile of crap and no one is going to see it’. And then, people started discussing it, and viewings just started getting stronger; and then it started showing in New York and in London. I went to a screening in New York where about 1200 people showed up and it was the first time this particular theatre had sold out since the re-release of Star Wars. That’s how much interest this movie had.

There’s something people love about it and that was why I wrote the book The Disaster Artist. I knew that the story that I experienced would make a great film and that was what I had in mind when I wrote the book. 20 years later I can just sit back and admire what it’s done. It’s hard to make a movie as it is and I’ve been lucky enough to be in a few great things. Regardless of the ridiculous sex scenes, the no plot and people saying it’s the worst movie of all time, it has clearly stood the test of time and that is the biggest goal as an artist. I don’t watch the film, I’ve seen it maybe 6 times but I have come to admire its staying power. It’s the fans that keep this film alive, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

Courtesy of Haley Jones & Greg Sestero

E & B: Going into the making and participating in The Room, did you have any idea what the project would be like?

Greg: Yeah, so I was roommates with Tommy Wiseau during college and when he shared the draft with me I thought “this is insane” because all of the characters spoke just like him, which was hilarious. I was never originally going to do it and, at the time, I had been auditioning for things and had already done a few projects. But I did say to him, “I’ll help you make this movie but I’m not going to be in it”. And he was like “your loss, whatever” and so they had the role of Mark cast.

And then, the night before filming Tommy was giving me a ride back to my apartment, when he turns and says “If you don’t make this movie it will be the biggest mistake of your life”. I remember all of these ideas were running through my mind and I thought to myself, “should I just do it? No one is going to see it.” But then, Tommy says if I do it, he’ll get me a new car. And I was like “oh now I HAVE to do it”. I didn’t think it would get made, often it’s even hard for studio movies to get made. I tried to give Tommy some ideas early on and he said “don’t change anything”, and so we were saying dialogue that human beings would never say. I just figured “do this, get a break, move on”. But I never expected anything from it or anything remotely big.

E & B: What are the biggest lessons you’ve taken away from The Room that you’ve applied to other projects?

Greg: It’s all about collaboration; to be passionate and have a vision but also know how to collaborate. You have to have a team behind you and on The Room we had a team but they weren’t being utilised properly and so we were all following one man's lead, a man who saw life in a way that none of us understood. As a result, we didn’t really feel passion for it. So for me, you need to have a good group of people behind you, have fun whilst you’re making it and work hard and make sure everybody has a voice. You have to value everyone’s opinion as certain people see things you don’t and often people have great ideas on things you hadn’t even thought of.

Courtesy of Haley Jones & Greg Sestero

E & B: Applying your experience and things you’ve learnt from other projects, how involved were you in the process of adapting your novel ‘The Disaster Artist’ and bringing your memoir to life on film?

Greg: We had a conference call with James Franco about 3 weeks after the book had come out and he was just fascinated by the story and had never seen The Room. We talked about the vision of it and got to hang out on set and talk to the production designer about what our lives were like at that point. And it was so exciting to go to set and hang out with people like Brian Cranston and Sharon Stone, all of these people you grew up watching, it was like really expensive therapy. I felt like I could finally move on from the whole experience as this part of my life had now been immortalised. It was a really fascinating experience and the response to the film was amazing.

E & B: What would you say inspired your most recent project, Miracle Valley (2021)?

Greg: I have always been really intrigued by cults. How does one start? For example, The Room, that’s very much a cult film and it started gaining popularity through word of mouth, through people connecting with something and wanting to talk about it. I think cults are fascinating. When you talk to people who have joined a cult and then the cult has fallen apart later in life they don’t know why. Something has obviously brought these people together. And so I decided I was going to make a horror movie about cults.

I was looking at films like The Hills Have Eyes (1977) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), these cult-based horror films. And after being involved with something like The Room which attracts a cult following, the way to go was to make a horror movie. You can take risks with horror, you can make it black, and you can create tension.

Courtesy of Haley Jones & Greg Sestero

I decided I was going to do something very different and so I decided to move to the middle of Arizona, live there and write a film. I decided I was going to make it and star in it too and so I spent months living in the southwest. I came across this story about a cult there, where there was this church in the middle of the valley that was all destroyed. Locals said there was a cult there in the 1960s where a preacher there believed he could bring people back from the dead based on their blood type. I thought, “now this is a good start”. I thought this was a chance to tell a story that is a homage to 70s horror.

In a very Tommy Wiseau fashion, Greg Sestero has directed, produced and starred in his own film. Miracle Valley will officially premiere this August, although this project is certainly not his last. In conversation with the Film & TV team, Sestero revealed another film in the works, whose shooting will start later in the year and will revolve around UFOs.

Featured Image: Ben Carpenter/Epigram


For more screenings from The Bristol Bad Film Club, check out Watershed’s website

AUTHOR

Evelyn Heis

Columnist for the Film&Tv section of the Epigram.