×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

James Franco’s ‘Disaster Artist’ Production Crew Lovingly Worked to Recreate ‘The Room’

Tommy Wiseau’s film “The Room,” released in 2003, depicts a bizarre love triangle involving a banker named Johnny (Wiseau), his fiancée, Lisa (Juliette Danielle), and his best friend Mark (Greg Sestero). Wiseau wrote, produced and directed what everyone acknowledged was a melodramatic mess with shoddy production values. Nonetheless, the film developed a cult following, with fans laughing at its unintentional humor.

That was the material mined by James Franco for “The Disaster Artist” (out Dec.1 from A24). He directed and stars as Wiseau/Johnny, with his brother, Dave Franco, playing Greg Sestero/Mark and Ari Graynor as Juliette Danielle/Lisa. The film tells the story of how Wiseau made what he thought was a masterpiece.

The crew behind the new film, which lovingly parodies the old one, set out to do good work on behalf of bad work, which adds to the laugh factor.

“He inhabited Tommy so fully,” costume designer Brenda Abbandandolo says of Franco. “He directed in character. Even when I would go to dress him every morning, before he put his costume on, he was talking to me as Tommy.”

Franco shot much of “The Disaster Artist” at Occidental Studios in Los Angeles, where production designer Chris L. Spellman built sets, including Johnny and Lisa’s San Francisco apartment — re-creations of key scenes from “The Room.”

“We replicated pretty much everything that was part of ‘The Room’ as thoroughly and consistently as possible,” Spellman says, noting he incorporated all the flaws of the original sets (such as sloped floors and windows that didn’t fit the apartment). “It’s tough to tell a union carpenter, who has learned how to level things and measure twice, cut once, and keep everything plumb, to build things that are not quite plumb and a bit too high on the left.”

Spellman filled the wonky sets with items “Room” fans will recognize, including the film’s signature spoon artwork, which Spellman hired a graphic designer to make.

Abbandandolo tried to “channel Tommy’s uniqueness” when costuming Franco. “I could tell immediately when he put something on if it was going to work or if it didn’t, because I could see him unconsciously responding to it,” she says.

Wiseau, whose look is best described as ’80s rocker-meets-Euro guy, according to Abbandandolo, goes on a fashion journey in “The Disaster Artist”: “He starts very dark. In the opening scene, he’s got on that gothic pirate shirt and that sort of band jacket with all the frogging and accoutrement on the front. He’s very ornamental.”

By the time he’s making “The Room” in “The Disaster Artist,” Wiseau is wearing a white tank top and cargo pants. “He’s a lot more pared down because he went through this introspective phase of finding himself,” the costume designer explains, “so we shed a lot of external
 persona.”

Popular on Variety

More Artisans

  • First still from the set of

    How the 'Jojo Rabbit' Production Team Created a Child's View of Nazi Germany

    When picturing Nazi Germany during World War II, most people think of black-and-white or sepia-toned images of drab cities. For the cinematographer and production designer of “Jojo Rabbit,” a film set squarely in that time and place, it became clear that the color palette of the era was far more varied than they could have [...]

  • National Theatre Live Midsummer's Night Dream

    National Theatre Live Marks Decade of Stage-to-Screen With Immersive ‘Midsummer’

    National Theatre Live has filmed nearly eight dozen theatrical productions over the last decade, bringing theater to the cinema using top technologies and talents in the videography space. This month, on the eve of its 10th anniversary, its production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is challenging the technical producers and crew with an immersive stage [...]

  • 180423_A24_Day_03B_0897.jpg

    How Bright Bulbs Enabled 'The Lighthouse's' Tough Black-and-White Shoot

    Early in development on “The Lighthouse,” writer-director Robert Eggers asked cinematographer Jarin Blaschke if he thought they could capture the look they were going for digitally. Blaschke answered no: Digital wouldn’t let them achieve the texture they had in mind — “what we photography nerds would call ‘micro-contrast.’ [The look] was never going to be [...]

  • Advanced Imaging Society Honors 10 Women

    AIS Honors 10 Women in Tech

    Celebrating 10 years of achievement in entertainment technology, the Advanced Imaging Society today named 10 female industry innovators who will receive the organization’s 2019 Distinguished Leadership Awards at the its 10th annual Entertainment Technology Awards ceremony on October 28 in Beverly Hills. The individuals were selected by an awards committee for being significant “entertainment industry [...]

  • Will Smith Gemini Man Special Effects

    How the 'Gemini Man' VFX Team Digitally Created a Younger Version of Will Smith

    More human than human — yes, that’s a “Blade Runner” reference — yet it sounds like an unattainable standard when it comes to creating believable, photorealistic, digital human characters. But the visual effects team on Ang Lee’s “Gemini Man” set its sights on something even more difficult: creating a digital version of young Will Smith [...]

  • Jest to Impress Cartoon Network Virtual

    New In-House VR Program Helps Cartoon Network Artists Add a Virtual Dimension

    Teams of animators and artists from across Cartoon Network’s numerous properties are getting the chance to expand into virtual reality storytelling via the company’s pilot program, Journeys VR. The work of the first three teams — including experiences based on action, nature and comedy — was unveiled to global audiences Oct. 1 on Steam and [...]

  • Frozen 2

    How the 'Frozen II' Artists Created Believable Emotion Through Animation

    “The more believable you can make the character [look], the more people believe how [it’s] feeling,” says Tony Smeed, who, with Becky Bresee, shared the challenge of heading animation on Disney’s highly anticipated “Frozen II.” “Emotion comes from inside and manifests itself into actions and facial expressions. Anything beyond that is movement for the sake [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content