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The Disaster Artist: History vs. Hollywood

Starring James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Alison Brie

James Franco
Born: April 19, 1978
Palo Alto, California, USA
Tommy Wiseau
Born: October 3, 1955
Birthplace: PoznaƄ, Poland
Dave Franco
Born: June 12, 1985
Palo Alto, California, USA
Greg Sestero
Born: July 15, 1978
Birthplace: Walnut Creek, California, USA
Seth Rogen
Born: April 15, 1982
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Sandy Schklair
Josh Hutcherson
Born: October 12, 1992
Union, Kentucky, USA
Philip Haldiman
Born: September 25, 1977
Birthplace: Phoenix, Arizona, USA
Zac Efron
Born: October 18, 1987
San Luis Obispo, California, USA
Dan Janjigian
Born: April 30, 1972
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, USA
Ari Graynor
Born: April 27, 1983
Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Juliette Danielle
Born: December 8, 1980
Birthplace: Fort Smith, Arkansas, USA
Jacki Weaver
Born: May 25, 1947
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Carolyn Minnott
Nathan Fielder
Born: May 12, 1983
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Kyle Vogt
June Diane Raphael
Born: January 4, 1980
Rockville Centre, Long Island, New York, USA
Robyn Paris
Birthplace: Greensboro, North Carolina, USA
Sharon Stone
Born: March 10, 1958
Meadville, Pennsylvania, USA
Iris Burton
Born: September 4, 1930
Birthplace: Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA
Death: April 5, 2008, Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California, USA (pneumonia)

Questioning the Story:

Where and when was Tommy Wiseau born?

In the 2016 Room documentary titled Room Full of Spoons, Rick Harper claims that he investigated Wiseau's origins and believes him to be Polish, born in the city of Poznań. Our own investigation into Wiseau's birth yielded the same conclusion. We obtained his Petition for Naturalization, dated September 5, 1984. It states that Thomas Pierre Wiseau was born in Poland on October 3, 1955. At the time of the petition, he was living in an apartment in San Francisco.

Tommy himself long claimed that he was an All-American guy from New Orleans. However, in a 2017 interview with The New York Times, he finally revealed the true story, sort of. "It's not important, and No. 2, it's a personal question," he said. "Long story short, I grew up in Europe a long time ago, but I'm American and very proud of it."

James Franco (left) as Tommy Wiseau in The Disaster Artist movie and a headshot of the real Wiseau (right) in the early 2000s.

Did Greg Sestero really meet Tommy in an acting class?

Yes. "I decided to take an acting class in San Franciso," says Greg Sestero. "Everybody was kinda quiet and it was in the basement. And then he walks on stage. Everyone just got really quiet, and we all thought, either this guy is gonna kill it, or it's gonna be, Tommy, basically." The teacher stopped him early and they got into an argument that resulted in Tommy trying to correct the teacher. "Everyone in the class is just shakin' their head, their all shakin', thinking, 'Man, this is weird.' And I thought, you know, 'Screw this, I gotta meet this guy.' I just gotta go and just find out who he is." The Disaster Artist true story reveals that, like in the movie, Greg approached Tommy and asked him if he'd like to do a scene together. -FACT Liverpool

Did Greg Sestero's mother really ask Tommy Wiseau how old he was?

Yes. The scene where Greg's mom approaches the car is based in fact. In answering how accurate is The Disaster Artist, we learned that she asked Tommy his age, what he did for work, and what his interest was in her son. She told him to please not hurt her son and to not have sex with him. -FACT Liverpool

Dave Franco in The Disaster Artist and the real Greg Sestero in the 2003 cult classic The Room.

Was Tommy Wiseau's movie The Room really based on a novel he had written?

Yes. The Room was based on a 540-page unpublished novel Wiseau had written.

The Disaster Artist book by Greg Sestero was the basis for the James Franco movie.
How did Tommy Wiseau get the money to make The Room?

Still to this day, it is not known exactly how Wiseau came up with The Room's $6 million budget. After coming to the U.S., he worked a variety of jobs, including restaurant busboy, hospital employee, and operator of retail stores called Street Fashions USA, where he claims to have designed leather jackets and sold defective blue jeans at marked-down prices. He stated that Street Fashions was connected with Levis. A search for the company on Google simply takes you to his own website where he sells t-shirts and merchandise almost entirely related to The Room. Eventually, Wiseau is said to have gotten into real estate, purchasing and renting large retail spaces in the vicinity of San Franciso and Los Angeles.

In friend Greg Sestero's book The Disaster Artist, the author finds it impossible to believe that Wiseau amassed such a large amount of money that quickly from the various jobs he had worked. He writes that numerous people involved in the making of The Room believed that the $6 million production was linked to a money-laundering scheme for the mob. Sestero himself doesn't believe the money-laundering theory to be true.

Did James Franco stay in character on set, even while he was directing?

Yes. "My brother was pretty much in character the entire movie," said Dave Franco at an SXSW Q&A with the actors. "He also directed me as Tommy Wiseau."

"So there were scenes where you were playing Tommy directing the movie as Tommy, directing the movie as Tommy," adds Seth Rogen, who plays Sandy Schklair in the film.

How old was Tommy Wiseau when he made The Room?

The Room has become a cult classic, leading it to be dubbed the Citizen Kane of bad movies. At the time of this article, it is currently the #1 best seller in Drama Movies on Amazon.
"He was at least in his late forties when he made the film but said he was in his twenties," says James Franco. If he was born in 1955, then Wiseau was approximately 47 when he made The Room. -TORYmax

Did the scene with Bryan Cranston really happen?

No. "I think Greg did get an offer on something," said James Franco during a SAG Film Society Q&A. "It was not Malcolm in the Middle. I loved the idea that we would have Bryan Cranston circa early 2000s, pre-Breaking Bad. ... That's why we used him."

Did The Room ever come out in theaters?

Yes. In researching The Disaster Artist true story, we learned that Tommy Wiseau paid to have The Room come out in theaters for two weeks so that he could qualify for the Academy Awards.

Did Tommy Wiseau really pay for billboards with his phone number on them to advertise The Room?

Yes. As we investigated to answer how accurate is The Disaster Artist, we discovered that, like in the movie, Wiseau paid for a billboard with his face on it and his phone number. If passersby called the number, Wiseau would answer and encourage them to go see his movie. -SAG Film Society

Like in The Disaster Artist movie (top), Tommy Wiseau really did pay for a billboard that included his phone number.

What does the real Tommy Wiseau think of the Disaster Artist movie?

In a sit-down interview with the Los Angeles Times, the real Wiseau told James Franco, "I think I had a great reaction, 99% approve." He said that he did not like the way James Franco throws the football in the movie. He also had commented that the lighting was "uneven" in certain parts of the film but later denied saying that. "I think you did good job, and I think I did good job too," Wiseau told Franco, referencing his own small part in the movie. "They did excellent job, so I don't have to complain, about anything actually," he added. -LA Times

James Franco said that Wiseau originally suggested that Johnny Depp play him in the movie. However, he then approved of Franco, saying that he was a fan of Franco's work as James Dean in the 2001 film James Dean.

The real Tommy Wiseau (right) says that his only complaint about the movie is the way James Franco throws the football.

Has The Room really become a cultural phenomenon?

Yes. Released in 2003, The Room was trashed by critics, with some going as far as to call it the worst movie ever made. However, it gradually gained a cult following, and much like The Rocky Horror Picture Show, it has inspired midnight screenings where the audience is encouraged to wear wigs, interact with the dialogue, and throw plastic cutlery and footballs around the theater. Fans have also created The Room t-shirts, the most popular of which is displayed below.

The Room Christmas T-Shirt is just one way fans have expressed their love for the movie.
During the showings, fans throw spoons when framed pictures of spoons are seen in the movie. When The Room was being filmed, someone suggested to Tommy Wiseau that they should have photos on the wall to make it look like someone actually lived in the apartment. Wiseau told them to just leave the pictures of the spoons in the frame because the audience would be focused on the characters and not the walls.

Does Tommy Wiseau have a cameo in The Disaster Artist?

Yes, the real Tommy Wiseau plays the character Henry in a scene in the movie. "His biggest stipulation in his contract was that he get a cameo in the movie," says James Franco, "and that he play opposite me." During a SAG Film Society Q&A for The Disaster Artist, James Franco said that prior to shooting the cameo, Wiseau sent him a photo of himself with a drawn on mustache, asking if he could have a mustache for the cameo. He offered to draw on a better mustache with a Sharpie, but Franco said that he would give him one for the scene.

Does James Franco wear prosthetics in the movie?

Yes. James Franco wore extensive prosthetics to look more like the older Wiseau. "I've got a lot of prosthetics on," says Franco of his character. "I've got cheeks, nose, chin, lazy eyelid, wig, contacts." -TORYmax

To look like Tommy Wiseau, James Franco wore a wig, contacts and facial prosthetics for The Disaster Artist movie. Above, makeup artists apply prosthetics to his face during the 2016 movie shoot.

Did Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero remain friends after making The Room?

Yes. During a Q&A, James Franco and Seth Rogen said that Tommy and Greg are still best friends and talk on the phone every day. James Franco actually had to change the ending of The Disaster Artist to reflect that, since it originally ended with Tommy and Greg on bad terms. With the release of The Disaster Artist, Greg Sestero was inspired to write another movie for himself and Tommy called Best F(r)iends. You can watch the Best F(r)iends trailer. -SAG Film Society

Did Tommy Wiseau act as a consultant on The Disaster Artist movie?

Not directly, at least not at first. James Franco said that he didn't meet Tommy Wiseau until they did their scene together. Prior to that, he had spoken to him only on the phone to get the life rights. Franco did watch lots of behind-the-scenes footage that had been shot on the set of Wiseau's movie The Room. "Tommy actually had somebody shoot like behind-the-scenes on The Room, like more footage than you would ever be able to watch in a lifetime I think," says Franco, "but I did watch everything that I could. ... I watched all of that, and you know, audio tapes I had of Tommy that I'd listen to in my car. ... It was Tommy talking to himself in the car, and it was actually really touching and moving, but as an actor it was gold." -LA Times

The Room poster replicated for The Disaster Artist (left) and the real poster for The Room (right).

Tommy Wiseau Interviews & Related Videos

Expand on what you know about The Disaster Artist true story by watching the Tommy Wiseau interviews and The Disaster Artist cast Q&A below. Also be sure to check out the shot-by-shot comparison video of The Room vs. The Disaster Artist.

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