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Hollywood Reporter

James Franco: ‘I am not trying to make fun of Tommy Wiseau’

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Noel de Souza in conversation with James Franco

BASED ON A true story of friendship and passion, The Disaster Artist recounts the journey of two young men who dream of ‘making it big’ in Hollywood. Tommy Wiseau (played by James Franco), an eccentric young man with deep pockets, longs to produce and direct films, and Greg (Dave Franco) wants to make it as an actor. Tommy Wiseau’s 2003 film The Room, has been described by many critics as one of the worst movies ever made in Hollywood and has gained cult film status as a curiosity.

James Franco has also directed and produced the film. He won a Golden Globe award for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy for this film.

What did you know about Tommy Wiseau before you started this film?

Not much. There was a billboard on Highland Avenue advertising The Room; it was up there from 2003 to 2008, which must have cost him hundreds or thousands of dollars, then he spent like $6 million making the movie that looks like it costs $60. That is all I really knew. There used to be The Room parties but I was never a part of them. Then I read the book, The Room; it is so bizarre, it is so weird, and you know people have been going to see it for the last 14 years essentially to laugh at it, but I think that there is another element which is really interesting. He tried so hard and it was very personal to him, it was a statement of how he felt about the world and how it had betrayed him. And the character commits suicide in the end. It was meant to be a very serious film but people are laughing at it instead.

So, why did you make the film?

After I read the book, I could see the person behind it, and, kind of in a strange way, how deep it was and that was my way into my movie. I am not trying to make fun of him, but rather, to show him in a sympathetic light and to show that he has artistic tendencies. He is no different than I am except that he has zero self-awareness, but essentially, we had the same hero James Dean when we were starting out. And partly it is genetics, the talent question aside. He thinks he looks like James Dean and I played James Dean.

How did you embody the character of Tommy?

I prepared to play Tommy the same way that I prepared to play James Dean. I would listen to recordings of his voice, endlessly in my car. Every morning I would watch his movies to get his behaviour and I would talk to people who knew him to know his life. But in order not to make him a caricature or a hollow shell, I had to wed that to his inner life.

What was it like directing your brother?

Obviously, I love my brother a lot, I’d asked him to work with me several times. He was doing really weird projects, and I was doing literary adaptations and I had asked him to be in a few of them. And he was just not interested. And I can understand this. He is seven years younger than me, he came to Los Angeles to attend university and by that time I was already established, I had done Freaks and Geeks (1999) and had won a Golden Globe for James Dean (2002). So when he was going out to be an actor, the very first thing people would talk about was ‘Oh, you’re James Franco’s brother,’ so I can understand him wanting to separate himself from me for awhile and establish his own career. But when I read the book I knew that he had the right dynamics to play the part and it was a good experience working with him. We’ve started a production company together and he’s the brother who loves to say ‘no’ to things. He’s very discerning. In the past, I was the guy who just loved to do more and more, and so we are a pretty good mix, he holds me back.