In 2003, first-time filmmaker Tommy Wiseau released his sole feature, The Room, a film often heralded as the worst movie of all time. Written by, starring, executive produced and directed by Mr. Wiseau, The Room has gone on to become a cult classic. In 2004, he released a documentary called Homeless In America, and is now working on several projects including a vampire movie and a TV sitcom called The Neighbors, as well as a Broadway show, novel, Blu-ray and 3-D version of The Room. This weekend, the Royal Cinema on College Street will screen The Room three times, with Q&A sessions featuring Mr. Wiseau and his Room co-star Greg Sestero. Fans and the curious can catch the action on Saturday at 9:15 p.m. and midnight, and Sunday at 9:15 p.m.
It's been eight years since you released your first and only feature film, The Room . Shot down by critics but embraced by many fans, it's become a cult classic of rep cinemas. Are you surprised by its success?
Yes, very surprised. It's become a cultural thing that audiences seem to embrace. It isn't cookie-cutter Hollywood. You can laugh, you can cry, you can yell and throw things, so long as nobody gets hurt. Not many films allow this interaction, which is why it's best to see it in the theatre.
The Room has been screened regularly in Toronto since 2009, often showing to sold-out audiences at midnight viewings. Can Toronto fans expect anything special at your multiple screenings this weekend?
I'll be giving a pre-show Q & A alongside my co-star Greg Sestero. Canada, and specifically Toronto, has always been warm to my film, so I'm looking forward to meeting the audience and having some fun taking pictures and watching the film together.
So it doesn't bother you when the audience heckles the dialogue, tosses around footballs mid-movie or throws spoons at the screen?
Not at all. It's a compliment. I'm pro freedom. You can make fun of the movie, that's fine. I didn't say you have to love it or even like it. But be honest with yourself: If even one per cent of the film affects you in a positive way, I did my job as a filmmaker. There are messages that appear in the film, like, two is better than three, that resonate with the audience. It's about relationships and love. There are many obstacles in the film, which is why you need to see it at least three times to unlock the deeper meanings.
Is there a sequel in the works?
No, but I do have 600 pages I am going to publish as a novel, most of which didn't even make it into the film. I'm also working on turning it into a Broadway show. It was originally conceived of as a stage show. But then I did intense research and concluded that the number of people who go to play theatre is much less compared to the number that go see films. So I made it into a movie.
Film critics and journalists have called The Room "the worst film ever made." Does this hurt you?
I'm pro freedom, so they decide whether or not they like it. They don't have to see it, but I will tell them one thing: You're missing something in your life if you haven't seen The Room. But some people don't like it. I myself don't like all movies. But often with something different, you need time to accept it. That's why I encourage you to see it several times. You can be critical but you can't discredit it. If you're a sincere person saying something negative, there's nothing wrong with that. I embrace it. Say what you feel.
How did you get into acting?
I started in San Francisco. It happened by accident. Originally I wanted to be a rock star. I just like music. I like to sing and play guitar.
So did you grow up in San Francisco?
No, I grew up in Louisiana, New Orleans.
You don't sound American. Your accent is vaguely European.
Is it? I don't know. It's a mix of places, I guess: Cajun, French, Creole - I don't care.
Besides writing, directing, executive producing and starring in The Room , you also self-financed it, raising $6-million. With no previous film experience, how did you raise so much money?
In America, if you work hard, you can raise the money.
But how did you actually do it?
By working hard.
I work hard and I can't raise $6-million.
Maybe you're in the wrong profession. There are so many obstacles but it's achievable.
The film's script supervisor, Sandy Schklair, is now saying he actually directed the film, not you. Is he lying?
He was hired as a script supervisor, and that's it. He quit before the picture was finished, and then eight years later he comes forth with this statement. Look, I am a simple guy. I always say, if you're so smart and talented, go make a movie yourself. But if you want some credit after eight years, it's laughable. So move on. Next question.
What do you say to those who question your sincerity? That you actually meant The Room to be a serious drama; that Tommy Wiseau isn't coming clean on his intentions and that isn't being forthright about his past, his finances and his accent.
No problem. These are good questions. Thank you for asking. Let me first say that it's not a drama. We called it "black comedy." Black comedy, you're making fun of things. I encourage people to see it. There's nothing wrong with not liking it. Anything else?
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Special to The Globe and Mail