James Franco’s “The Disaster Artist” has been racking up strong box office and rapturous reviews since its limited release Dec. 1 (it went wide Dec. 8), but few know that the popular Earwolf podcast “How Did This Get Made?,” hosted by Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael and Jason Mantzoukas, played a seminal role in getting the film to the big screen.
The latest podcast revisits “Artist’s” origin story, Tommy Wiseau’s “The Room,” which many have named as the worst movie ever made, but which took off as a cult hit in L.A. and spread globally over the early 2000s. James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Ari Graynor, writers Michael H. Webber and Scott Neustadter, “The Room’s” Greg Sestero, and Wiseau visit the “HDTGM” studio, and the episode also includes the 2011 “HDTGM” episode (#23) on “The Room” with Steve Heisler from The AV Club and “Room” multihyphenate Sestero (earwolf.com/show/how-did-this-get-made).
Scheer, Mantzoukas and Raphael all co-star in “The Disaster Artist.”
“How Did This Get Made’s” premise is pretty simple: Scheer, his wife, Raphael, and Mantzoukas — all writers-actors-comedians whom many know from “The League” and “Grace and Frankie,” among many projects — take a notorious film and discuss. Usually with a special guest. The results are hilarious — Nick Kroll imitating Cher in “Burlesque,” Scott Aukerman on all the “Sharknados,” Mantzoukas on just about anything — making it one of the most popular podcasts out there. Their live shows in L.A. and New York are also sell-outs.
But “The Room” is special.
“I won’t take too much credit,” says Scheer, a self-described “Room” fanatic. “But we got really lucky when we started doing the podcast when we got Greg Sestero, the star of ‘The Room’ and the line producer.”
“I’ve seen it twice,” says Mantzoukas, noting that he had heard about the midnight screenings and seen the famous billboard in Hollywood and knew it was part of the conversation but was not an aficionado like Scheer. “We’d been hearing about for so long in the lead-up … but I was so unprepared for how amazing it was going to be. ‘The Room’ and ‘Hamilton’ are the only things in my life that I have been so overhyped for and when I saw them was, ‘Yup, yes, this is amazing.’”
Sestero told them that he was writing a book about the making of the film. “When he came on the show, he was in the process of starting his journey with writing the book. The stories he told us were the first time these stories really came out in public,” says Scheer. “In hearing them, my appreciation for ‘The Room’ grew exponentially.”
The podcast was growing at the point, which “opened up a lot of doors for Greg,” Scheer says. And once the book came out Webber and Neustadter used it, but they told Scheer that they used the podcast as an inspiration because they wanted to hear more.
“There weren’t that many places that they could go to hear more about the behind-the-scenes stories,” says Scheer, “to fill in some blanks,” mostly with the relationship between Wiseau and Sestero.
Scheer remembers getting a phone call from Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s production company asking him to do a table read of the “The Disaster Artist.” “I thought they clearly brought me in just because they knew we did the movie on the podcast.
“Franco had perfected his Tommy before the table read, by the way,” Scheer says. “We did the table read in a movie theater setting and as soon as he opened his mouth, we were like “fuck, this movie’s going to be great.”
Scheer recently found out that Franco didn’t even know “HDTGM” did “The Room” on the podcast. Franco told him that he recently started listening to the podcast.
“I thought Jason, June and I were in it because it was a fun nod to the podcast. But it was totally organic because he was a fan of what we had done.
“Ultimately what the disaster artist does really well, it focuses on the relationship between Tommy and Greg,” says Scheer, “and I think that started to come through when we were doing the podcast. He started to talk about throwing the football and they were in the acting class together. I think it was those little elements that they were mining from the show.”
Mantzoukas says, “I thought it was going to be really cool, but James and Seth and Evan and the writers took this thing that could have been a story about a fringe person, about a cult movie, and it could have been really small but it’s this wonderfully heartfelt portrait of an outsider whose dream is realized.”
Maybe it’s the “Ed Wood” for a podcast generation.