On the phone from San Diego, where he's signing autographs at Comic-con, Tommy Wiseau, Director of 2003 cult hit The Room, chats about the making of a phenomenon, where you go from there, and why you can't have a drama without comedy.
Toronto's finally getting an official screening of The Room this Friday. How did this come together?
Long story short, we've had a tremendous response from Canada. I guess we had some fans there already and received dozens of emails. People tried to organize screenings and we have like six to eight people trying to organize this.
I'd like to emphasize to you that I wanted people to see The Room for the first time on the big screen in 35mm film. It makes a huge difference when you compare to DVD format.
Suddenly somebody contacted us and suddenly we're in Toronto. We are very happy and it seems to me like you guys are doing a very good job. We have a lot of requests for interviews. You guys like to write, I guess.
What factors do you believe helped make this film into the cult hit that it is?
To me it's positive response. As a filmmaker and an actor my job is to react towards people, but I want a reaction from them. As a director it's my job to provoke and when people decided the Room be called a phenomenon, or whatever you call it, it's fine with me.
I am thrilled by it if you ask me. I think, actually, it's a hundred compliments should you go to the movie because audiences decided, you know, [cult's] what they wanted to call it. And, it's fine by me.
How did your screenings evolve in LA?
That was six years ago and we created audience reaction we were going to different cities in the USA and getting the same reaction.
With the Los Angeles screenings we have them once a month for the past six years and, of course, we have a story behind it so if you'd like to hear, I can explain it to you.
Long story short is the reason it's a midnight screening is because we have an issue with the fire marshal, long story short.
We had issues related to the number of people attending the screening. There were too many. People were sitting on the floors. Let me give you the little background to understand the story.
When I first created The Room and we released it in theatres for two weeks and we submitted it to the Academy Awards. Long story short, they didn't want anything.
After two weeks, after four weeks or so, I got dozens of emails and people were camping outside the theatres and they were demanding to see The Room and wanted me to go there and it was crazy. Long story short, our contract with the theatre was over and people were insisting to see The Room again. Long story short again, we got in trouble with the fire marshals.
Again, a long story short, I said, "let's go back to Laemmle and we'll have midnight screenings". And we've been doing this for the past six years. And now we have five screenings. I'm very happy about that.
Can you address the issue of the films classification as black-comedy?
I want to talk to you as a director right now. Any project that I was involved with - you have to understand - that I believe, and my background is acting, directing, whatever, The more colours you have in a project, the better it is.
People sometimes say to me: "The Room is melodrama black comedy", whatever. Yes, it is black-comedy, somewhat, because you do have some comical approach.
So to respond to your question, black-comedy - the comedy was there from the beginning. You see, when people sometimes misquote me, I don't know if they understand what I'm saying. You cannot have the drama without comedy.
This is the grey area because it's a very subjective definition of what is black-comedy. One time, let me tell you a little story, one guy said, "oh, you have a black-comedy, how many black people do you have?" That's not what it is. But it's not melodrama. The Room is not melodrama. The Room is melodrama combined with comedy, so, in America, we call it black-comedy.
But the comedy, let me stress that, was in the beginning. You have to prepare. It's a certain way talking or dialect, accent, there's a lot of different aspects. I could write a book about it.
So people, I don't know you - Paul, right? I don't know your background, but it seems like you understand what I'm saying.
You can just say, "this is what it is", but the bottom line is The Room cannot exist without comedy, if you ask me.
People will go in tomorrow and get different things out of this?
Absolutely. This is the grey area. Big writers or directors I was talking to, I'm not dropping any names, but I'm just telling you - they had similar concepts to what I have, and the definition - it's a grey area that you cannot define 100 per cent. You have to think about the same time, the provocation of the audience.
Without comedy, you will not have it. The more colours you have, and you know what I mean by colours, right?
By colours I mean, not just environment, but language, different colours, different aspects - it's detail oriented work that you have to think about. It's the same as a musical where you have so many different elements to put into it. You probably have a good reaction the more colours you have.
Do you have a favourite scene?
Yeah, the roof scene and also the destruction of the apartment.
Have you ever thought of having a sequel?
The Room is The Room and I'm not into any sequel. Except, my idea is to actually put The Room on Broadway and that's the idea in my head right now. Originally The Room was supposed to be a play, but I did research in America and we actually don't have a lot of people going to theatres. You have limitations, so I said, "you know what, we have to make it a movie." We shot it with both cameras [digital and 35mm].
Shooting in two formats must have raised costs.
Thank you for saying that. A lot of people don't realize this. A double crew, etc. etc.
Did you fund this yourself?
I'll tell you one thing: I'm the filmmaker, producer, director, whatever you call me. This is a question I don't like to talk about. I'll tell you one thing - you have to pay people, raise money.
You keep many things private - like your background. What is your background? How did you get into film?
My background is acting. I'm an American and that will be it. That's the answer. You may not like it, Paul, but that's the answer.
We all have choices, you know. But my background, is acting and directing and also stage work. I have some background in business as well.
What are you working on right now?
We're working on the Neighbours sitcom. Go to theneighborssitcom.com. That's basically what we want to do. It's a TV show - it's a sitcom. Are you familiar with Homeless in America? It's a documentary.
It's a totally different subject. It's just about homelessness in America, I'm proud of this project but it's a totally different subject.
What would you say to someone going and experiencing The Room for the first time? If you were there, what would you say to the audience?
I always say the same thing. And I will say to Canada, you can laugh, you can cry, you can express yourself, but please don't hurt each other. So the idea behind it is you can say whatever you want, and I encourage people to yell and scream - whatever.
That's what The Room is about. It's about the expression, you know.
The Room screens at the Royal, 608 College St., tomorrow (Jul 24) at 11:30 pm.