Nineteen-year-old Greg Sestero met Tommy Wiseau at an acting school in San Francisco. Wiseau's scenes were rivetingly wrong, yet Sestero, hypnotized by such uninhibited acting, thought, "I have to do a scene with this guy." That impulse changed both of their lives. Wiseau seemed never to have read the rule book on interpersonal relationships (or the instructions on a bottle of black hair dye), yet he generously offered to put the aspiring actor up in his LA apartment. Sestero's nascent acting career first sizzled, then fizzled, resulting in Wiseau's last-second offer to Sestero of co-starring with him in The Room, a movie Wiseau wrote and planned to finance, produce, and direct - in the parking lot of a Hollywood equipment-rental shop.
Wiseau spent $6 million of his own money on his film, but despite the efforts of the disbelieving (and frequently fired) crew and embarrassed (and frequently fired) actors, the movie made no sense. Nevertheless, Wiseau rented a Hollywood billboard featuring his alarming headshot and staged a red carpet premiere. The Room made $1,800 at the box office and closed after two weeks. One reviewer said that watching The Room was like "getting stabbed in the head".
The Disaster Artist is Greg Sestero's laugh-out-loud funny account of how Tommy Wiseau defied every law of artistry, business, and friendship to make "the Citizen Kane of bad movies" (Entertainment Weekly), which is now an international phenomenon, with Wiseau himself beloved as an oddball celebrity. Written with award-winning journalist Tom Bissell, The Disaster Artist is an inspiring tour de force, an open-hearted portrait of an enigmatic man who will improbably capture your heart.
"This downright thrilling book is a lot like watching Tim Burton's Ed Wood: it's sometimes infuriating, often excruciating, usually very funny, and occasionally horribly uncomfortable, but it's also impossible to look away from." (Booklist, Starred Review)
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It Starts coming Together
Unfortunately, I wouldn't because most of my friends haven't seen "The Room," but for the few who have, definitely. I think this book is strongest for fans of "The Room".
I have no earthly clue, it's a memoir describing the creation of a cult classic that jumps between its production and the events leading up to it. I literally can't think of a single book I've read or listened to like this one.
His imitation of Tommy Wisseau is phenomenal. He could start a TPW animated show playing Tommy and I'd watch it.
"Can you really trust anyone?"
I reiterate that this book is definitely for those who've seen "The Room" and love its wonderful absurdity. I think that may be a prerequisite to reading this.
As Funny As The Room, and Surprisingly Touching
Hearing Greg Sestero detail his relationship with Tommy Wiseau is fascinating. It seems less a friendship than an experience, and he shares it in full bloom with the help of Tom Bissell. I expected a funny, behind-the-scenes look at The Room, but I got a second hand biography that was both nuanced and engaging.
Greg pulls no punches in regard to Tommy's perceived strangeness or his uglier qualities. At the same time, he humanizes Tommy Wiseau in a way I've never heard anyone come close to accomplishing before. I empathized with Greg throughout, and enjoyed the story of his attempted career as well as his history with Tommy, but more surprising was that I found myself empathizing with Tommy. Three steps out of phase with everyone in the world and still so determined to make himself a part of it, make his mark. How deeply he is affected by the concept of the American dream, and a glimpse into what might have been parts of his past.
It was heartfelt and, as it was his own story, deeply personal. He didn't flinch away from performing really awkward and emotional content that would have been so much easier to just leave on a page. And he does the best, most accurate, most blinding Tommy Wiseau impression I've ever heard.
This was a great book for downtime, especially unwinding. It's never too emotionally intense, and while I always wanted to hear more, it was relaxed enough that I didn't feel the need to gobble it up all at once.
The Disaster Artist is so much more than I expected, and I was pleasantly surprised. It's easy to see a phenomenon like The Room and Wiseau himself and forget that there are real people behind it; Greg Sestero's obvious kindness and however much Bissell's ghostwriting contributed made them all real. A must-read for people interested in the industry, especially when it comes to indie, b-movie, so-bad-it's-good cult films. Thanks for the experience, Greg!
- Trixie Pareidolia