Fifteen years ago, the world was introduced to the best friendship of Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero with the premiere of Wiseau’s directorial hallmark “The Room.” The film, which is considered the “’Citizen Kane of bad movies’,” became a cult hit, spawning midnight screenings across the nation and now worldwide where fans quote iconic lines like “Oh hi, Mark” and “You’re tearing me apart, Lisa” as they watch the film onscreen—in between throwing plastic spoons.
In 2013, Sestero adapted the story of their journey to Hollywood and the making of “The Room” in his non-fiction book “The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made.” James Franco brought the autobiographical work to the screen in last year’s “The Disaster Artist,” which earned Franco a Golden Globe Award for his performance as Wiseau.
Reuniting for the first time since “The Room,” Wiseau and Sestero talk with Variety about their new project, “Best F(r)iends,” which Sestero wrote and stars in with Wiseau.
“Best F(r)iends” is split into two volumes. Part 1 is in theaters now and Part 2 debuts in June.
Why do you think people love to see you two together onscreen? What is it about your friendship that viewers are so entranced by?
Greg Sestero: I mean, it’s baffling, really. Maybe it’s just being such opposites but also having a connection, which I think is interesting onscreen. A lot of times, if you want to do a movie like this, you have to cast opposites that are intentional and try to fit into that mold. But because Tommy and I have known each other so long and it’s organic, I think that’s a lot more interesting. It’s not like you’re bringing in actors and trying to fake a chemistry. It exists.
Tommy Wiseau: I think maybe people like because the truth prevails, you know. Working intensively, my skill as an actor at the same time. At the same time, Greg is my best friend, and I think that the people appreciate sincerity. I don’t support his book [The Disaster Artist] 100 percent. However, I support him as my friend as well as what he’s doing, and he showed the world that he can make movie, too.
What do you enjoy most about working together?
Sestero: I think getting to the set and getting everything scheduled is the scary part. But once we’re there and we’re working, I think the unpredictability of it and the humor that comes with each scene that Tommy wants to try his way and do something different. You just don’t know what a day is going to bring. You know there’s something special there, especially with this movie. I hadn’t worked with Tommy since “The Room.” And “The Room” I didn’t really get when we were making it. I just thought: “What the hell is this gonna be?” But with this movie, there was a clear intention that I really wanted to achieve of a coherent performance in which Tommy told a story.
Wiseau: Well, you know, we’ve known each other awhile and also, I believe that we have a good chemistry, as you notice. So, I think he knows a lot about acting. And it’s not easy just to do acting. People think that you just say stuff. There’s more to it. You need feelings for it, a lot of preparation. No, you have to sacrifice. You’re shooting 12 hours, 10 hours, you know. Your body’s feeling burnt. But you enjoy it. I enjoy it.
Why did you decide to make this film now, 15 years after “The Room?” Had you wanted to work on something together before but couldn’t find the right project?
Sestero: Yeah, I mean he had asked me for a long time to work together on things. I felt like “The Room”—it was what it was. I kind of wanted to move away and try to do something very different. But then working on “The Disaster Artist” and then getting to see a rough cut of that movie, I realized that there was more to it than just “The Room.” And really the big problem was that Tommy for so long wanted to be taken seriously as an actor. He wanted someone to take a chance on him. And I realized I’ve never done that. And this was a great time for me to give that a shot, because I’d done “The Disaster Artist” and had known what it’s like to complete a project. And I thought that this would be the right time to try to make something and like I said, not try to recapture “The Room,” but go out and try to make something and see what happens. But most importantly, put your heart into it.
Wiseau: Well, it’s not as much a question to find project. Long story short, I just want to show that I can do acting stuff. I have experience acting. What people don’t realize is all these untrue statements about me is not right. So, that’s the reason we did this. And then Greg come up with this idea about the movie “Best F(r)iends.” Greg called me one day and said: “Do you want to do my project? My movie?” I said: “Great.” He said: “It’ll be our movie.” I said: “That’s even better.” So, you know, I said: “Let’s just do it.” I don’t know how people like it or if they don’t like it, whatever. I just want to show Hollywood I can do it.
So, Greg, your first idea for “Best F(r)iends” then came after you saw the rough cut of “The Disaster Artist?”
Sestero: It was James Franco’s performance. It was the ending of the movie, and kind of seeing us—we’re still friends after all these years. And I thought about how I’ve been trying to write on TV shows, and I said: “Why don’t we visit some of your true experiences and see if something interesting might come about?” Because I always felt Tommy had something interesting to offer as an actor, but he’d never really been given a chance and had kind of been taken as a joke. He’d been put in these kind of spoof things. I thought: “Let’s try to tackle what’s great about his persona and use it to his advantage.”
And from the start you planned on you and Tommy starring in it?
Sestero: When I wrote it, I didn’t have a picture of myself in that part. I was thinking of a type. And then Tommy’s like: “What? No way. You have to be in it. Are you kidding?” or something like that. I thought: “Well, yeah, of course it makes a lot more sense.” But initially, I was just thinking of kind of a thriller. But then it all made sense that he and I would do it together.
Wiseau: That was a choice when he created “Best F(r)iends.” I give him a lot of freedom as my friend. I try to not influence his creative process. I always say to everyone who’s listening to me that the more creative process you have, the better you are. But the most creative, what I meant by this, is that people give you your freedom.
And for the title, you said at the premiere that you thought of the parentheses when you were on an edible. Was that true?
Sestero: Yeah. But it was also the Werner Herzog documentary “My Best Fiend” that popped into my head. The edible was probably playing with me a little bit. But I notice a lot of times, your first instincts are your strongest ones. People were like: “Oh, just change it. Make it this. Make it that.” And Tommy’s like: “No, I think it’s original. I like it.” You know, a lot of times Tommy has a strange way of being right. So, I figured, what the hell? Let’s just stick to it.
It was fun seeing you guys make a few throwback references to “The Room.” Was that on purpose, or something you guys thought of on the day? Like with playing basketball and Tommy saying: “Oh, hi Jon?”
Sestero: That just came about on the spot. We were at the location just shooting hoops during lunch, and we ended up just capturing it. Tommy ad-libbed that line: “Oh, hi Jon.” It wasn’t even in the script. It wasn’t actually trying to capture “The Room” at all. Certain things just kind of found their way in. I felt like as long as they worked their way in without trying, I was okay with that.
How did you come to enlist Justin MacGregor to be the director on the project, instead of either of you, perhaps?
Sestero: He was a friend I met through a mutual friend. He had told me that he had seen “The Room” when he was 16 and was blown away by it. When I met with him, we both had a love of cinema and we both had this idea of making an indie art film in a noir setting with Tommy starring in it and making something really dark and different from “The Room.” So, we did some tests and some scenes, and he really got it. And I loved the way he worked with Tommy, the way he set up scenes. He was just really easy to work with. Because making a film is so difficult and there are so many parts that need to come together, and this was great because I knew that we could get it done.
Wiseau: Well, first of all, my background is acting more than directing. But second thing, Greg already hired somebody to direct it. He hired me as an actor. And if he asked me to direct, of course, I would do it. So, basically, I could do both if somebody asked me. It’s up to person who does the production. So, you have to give the space to the person. I don’t want to impose anything, you know what I’m saying?
Whose idea was it for Tommy to wear the glasses? And Tommy, are you a really a Rolling Stones fan since you had their logo emblazoned on your birthday cake in the movie?
Sestero: Tommy made most of his wardrobe choices himself. He started wearing those glasses and those shoes. Again, he dresses a lot like this character.
Wiseau: I suggest it because they have some issue with wardrobe. And I love Rolling Stones, you know. They are pioneers of rock ‘n’ roll in America. Definitely. But it was in the script.
Sestero: The Rolling Stones fits with the period of the story.
At what point did you realize the movie was going to be separated into two parts?
Sestero: They’re just totally different vibes. The way it was going, I really loved Part 2 and then having it come later in the film–I feel like it could be a lot to digest. I felt like it deserved its own ending, its own film. I think it’ll work well. Some people have seen an assembly cut of Part 2 and in some ways, they say it’s better than Part 1. So, we’ll see.
When you both hang out off-set, what do you do for fun?
Sestero: It’s just random. We’ve done so much traveling over the years. I think it’s blurred the lines between appearances and work vs. hanging out. I think the one thing we do now that I notice is different is we play basketball.
Wiseau: Yeah, we play basketball. I have my own hoop in my house, so we play in my house or we go to a court, whatever.
And looking back on “The Disaster Artist,” how much did you think that James and Dave [Franco] got your friendship down? How accurate was it for you to watch?
Sestero: I thought they did a really great job. Their chemistry together working as brothers was really noticeable that they had the right dynamic. They took it seriously. They appreciated the story. So, yeah, when I watched it, I found it touching and funny. I thought they hit all the right notes. And James’ performance was my favorite from last year. It was one of those things where it could’ve easily gone the other way where it would’ve been more cartoon-y, but he really created Tommy in a way that I even loved to watch.
Wiseau: Yeah. I approve 99.9 percent. One little story. I don’t know if you remember the scene when James Franco play me and he comes out to the crew and to the entire place. I paraphrase, but he says: “I know everything, what you guys talking behind my back, etc.” This scene is exactly what happened on the set of “The Room.” 100 percent. What I discovered on the filming of “The Room” is that people were being completely disrespectful. I didn’t realize. I thought: “Okay. I go to Hollywood just to make movie and that’s it.” But, I didn’t know that people could be so vicious. Since the release of “The Disaster Artist,” I feel very openly about it. Because I want to be example for filmmakers as well as for people generally speaking that you will find sometimes bad apples within your own company or production, which will be laid down against you. And the people who really–they have no business to criticize someone like that. That’s why I think James, David [Dave Franco], Seth Rogen, and others, the entire team of “Disaster Artist” did a good job. Because you see, they could go with a parody of “The Room.” And they did it very seriously, which I enjoyed. Because you see people embraced it.
How would you say your life has changed since “The Disaster Artist?” Do you feel like you’re better understood after people have seen the movie?
Wiseau: I think people maybe, wherever I go, I feel much more respectful approach. And I think they understand me better, probably. Especially public. And I think the media, in general, were very kind to “The Room.” I appreciate. I’m a spoiled kid, you know. But at the same token, I’m very respectful towards everybody. That’s why I put out there.
In “The Disaster Artist,” it’s portrayed sometimes you have a difficult time learning lines. Do you think that’s an accurate portrayal?
Wiseau: That’s very inaccurate. That’s an incorrect statement because, you see, they don’t understand process of directing, producing, and working on the production that you pay people. You’re paying people to understand the word “appreciation.” So, that’s inaccurate, but also I think it’s funny to say that.
At the Golden Globes last year, it was exciting to see you go onstage with James [Franco]. But then he basically told you to stand aside. What was your reaction in that moment?
Wiseau: Well, normal reaction, normal person, as you probably know, is that the person would be upset. I was not so much upset. I was just a little surprised. Because I just want to say a couple words. I just wanted to say: “If a lot of people loved each other, the world would be a better place to live. I’m an American. I’m very proud of it. See ‘The Room.’ Have fun.” That’s all I wanted to say. And some people became chicken, and they were chicken. That’s all I can say in this nice way. So, I rest my case.
Do you think we’ll see you work on another project together in the future? Maybe in another 15 years?
Sestero: Yeah, maybe we should just do this every 15 years, make a “Kill Bill”-inspired Volume 1, Volume 2 movie. Make them wait, and then give them a bunch of stuff. I don’t know. Like I said, I was passionate about this project. I feel like we really went for it and we gave the fans something that’ll surprise them and hopefully in a good way. It takes a lot to build that up and make a movie. So, that’s what I’d love to do from here on out is make more films. But hopefully, the audience enjoys these.
Wiseau: I don’t think so. We’ll probably do something this year. You will have a surprise coming soon. Let me tell you–about Greg, we’ve been working on a horror movie this year, and we’re working on a trailer that will hopefully be released before September. It’ll be a shocker for everybody again, I think. So, I don’t think you have to wait 15 years.
What can you tease about Part 2 of “Best F(r)iends,” since Part 1 literally ends on a cliffhanger?
Sestero: Yeah, really. It’s not what you expect and it’s probably even more bizarre than Part 1.
Wiseau: Just a note about “Best F(r)iends.” I really enjoy it. And final note, we want to put “The Room” on Mars someday.
“Best F(r)iends” Part 1 is in theaters now. Part 2 debuts June 1 and 4.