2 Dec 2023

Greg Sestero on friendship, creativity and why The Room is so fun to watch

From Saturday Morning, 10:09 am on 2 December 2023
Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero

 Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero in a scene from 'The Room.' Photo: Greg Sestero / Facebook

A soulmate is someone who pushes you to discover your own potential, says actor and filmmaker Greg Sestero.

For him, that's Tommy Wiseau, the "eccentric" friend who directed him in a 2003 film widely regarded as one of the worst ever made – The Room.

Although participating in Wiseau's self-funded romantic drama eventually gave Sestero confidence in his own creative voice, at the time he didn't believe the film had artistic value.

In turn, Sestero says Wiseau wasn't convinced about The Disaster Artist – his 2013 memoir about working on The Room that was later adapted into an award-winning film by James Franco.

Although the two friends weren't big fans of each other's projects, they've ended up meshed together in a "beautiful" way, Sestero says.

"I think Tommy and I pushed each other to places we would have never gone had we never met each other," he tells Susie Ferguson.

American actor Greg Sestero

American actor Greg Sestero Photo: IMDb

Sestero was a 19-year-old in a San Francisco acting class when he witnessed Tommy Wiseau earnestly perform a Shakespearean sonnet.

"Everyone in the class was sort of very confused –  like what is this accent? What is this guy trying to do? And when the teacher proceeded to try to help him, he started arguing with the teacher [about] how he knew more about acting and emotion."

While his classmates were giggling at Wiseau, Sestero was enthralled.

"I said 'this is the most entertaining experience I've ever had in an acting class'. This guy just has something that I want to be around. I thought it was really unique ...So I approached him to do a scene together and we struck up a very kind of odd friendship."

"I never questioned him ... I was drawn to the weirdness, the certifiable uniqueness that he had."

He and Wiseau became friends and he then received an offer:  "Class is over. What you like to do now?' ... You want to move to Los Angeles, I have apartment. You can rent.'

Sestero ended up subletting Wiseau's one-bedroom Hollywood apartment and auditioning a lot. While he was away filming a feature film in Romania, Wiseau moved into the apartment.

Living together highlighted how different the two men were, Sestero says: "I'm up early, he goes to bed late. The small apartment was separated by his black curtains. It had a very vampire-dark feeling to it."

Once he even discovered Wiseau hanging upside down in a door frame like a bat.

"I'm very open-minded so I just accepted that's his way of doing the morning routine, stretching."

When Wiseau wrote a film called The Room, including a role for Sestero as his best friend 'Mark', Sestero had no idea his friend could access $6 million to make the film.

"It seemed like money was no option. He just was willing to put everything into this movie until it found an audience."

While Sestero supported his friend to get The Room made just how he wanted, he saw the project as a favour to a friend rather than something that would go on his resume.

"I was 24 ... I had auditioned for movies like Terminator 3 and Dawson's Creek and all these things that were cool at the time.

"You wanted to fit in and I was making this movie called The Room with a friend that I didn't think anybody would ever see."

In 2013, three weeks after his book The Disaster Artist was published, Sestero got a call from actor-director James Franco.

"He had never seen The Room but he was so enthralled with this story. He loves Hollywood stories and he said 'This is the most insane Hollywood story that I've ever come across'.

"I remember feeling that validation that I wasn't so crazy [thinking] that big things like that could happen."

Actor and filmmaker Tommy Wiseau in a scene from the 2003 film The Room

Actor and filmmaker Tommy Wiseau in a scene from the 2003 film The Room Photo: YouTube screenshot

Sestero says if not for his "extremely rare, unique friendship" with Wiseau, he would never moved to LA and found his way creatively.

"I've written a book, I've never written screenplays, I've gone out and made some of my own films. And now I'm making a UFO abduction movie (Forbidden Sky) ... All that is because of the life lessons I've learned, I've discovered the confidence to go out there and write and direct and produce."

"Very extreme" is how Sestero describes his and Wiseau's relationship.

"We're so different and we just had this deep, deep connection of what we wanted to be and what we wanted to do. And I think we pushed each other to places we would have never gone had we never met each other ... I think we pushed each other to find our mission and our goal in a way that we would not have had."

A relationship between two soulmates isn't always "glowy and beautiful and sunny", he says.

"You're being pushed to do things you don't want to do or maybe face. And I think that's what we did for each other. We brought out something that really changed our lives.

"We're not gonna go hang out on a beach in Hawaii and surf, it's a very different connection. But we still talk often 25 years later. And I think sometimes actions speak louder than words. There's still a bond."

Twenty years on, Sestero is very happy that Wiseau stuck so fast to his vision for The Room because that's what makes the film so exciting to watch.

"[The Room] makes every wrong artistic decision and that invigorates people because they're seeing something that's breaking the rules and they're having so much fun watching it."

Sestero has watched the film with an audience around 13 times now.

"When you see it in a cinema, there is not one moment of tranquillity. It is non-stop reactions, [there is] laughter through every line throughout the entire film. I've never seen a movie get that much energy out of a crowd."

Sestero has been appearing at theatres in Auckland and Wellington to mark the 20th anniversary of The Room.

Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero

Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero Photo: Greg Sestero / Facebook