James Franco’s The Disaster Artist had its world premiere at SXSW last night and despite its “work-in-progress” disclaimer, the pic received a standing ovation from the crowd at the Paramount Theater. It also become one of the buzziest titles of the Austin fest at its halfway point. Warner Bros/New Line has rights to the pic, but no release date is set, and along with the chatter among festgoers today has come talk on the ground that smaller distributors might take over the pic, which plays more like a specialty title.
The Disaster Artist is a scripted take on the making of The Room — no, not the Brie Larson starrer but rather an odd 2003 film self-funded by the mysterious and eccentric Tommy Wiseau. He directed, produced, financed and co-starred in the movie, a romantic drama that was self-released in just one theater in Southern California. Critically it was a dud, but it since has achieved so-bad-it’s-good cult status for its hole-filled plot and poor production values. Fourteen years later, Room continues to play as a midnight title at specialty venues in Hollywood.
Franco, who directed, produced and stars as Wiseau in the film, was introduced to the project through the novel The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, from actor Greg Sestero, who co-starred in the original, and journalist Tom Bissell. “I was a late comer to The Room phenomena. I read the book first, and I just thought it was incredible,” Franco told the audience after the screening, even breaking out his Wiseau accent during his remarks (the Room filmmaker was born in Poland but spent his early days in France). “I love Hollywood stories, and here was a Hollywood story that was about outsiders trying to make it in, but it was also like incredibly insane in a lot of ways.”
He brought the project to fellow producer Seth Rogen, who was in the middle of filming The Interview at the time.
“This is the good thing to come out of The Interview,” Rogen quipped.
Dave Franco also co-stars alongside his brother in what is a buddy comedy about two outsiders who, when the world rejects them, set out to make their own movie — a movie so awful with its unintentionally hilarious moments, confusing plot and terrible acting.
The group insisted that the focus of the film wasn’t to make fun of Wiseau’s movie, which was aptly referred to as the “Citizen Kane of bad movies.”
“We loved The Room — it would’ve been easy to make a movie that was just making fun of The Room … but we love it; I’ve seen it more then I’ve seen Network,” Rogen said. “There are lot of of movies you can say are easy to make fun of, but they are not movies you’ve watched for a decade.” He added that what was great about the film was “the earnestness of a guy who put himself out there.”
Wiseau was present at the screening — it was his first time seeing the film. The crowd was all over it, and roared in laughter as Franco re-created the exact scenes from the original. “I hope he liked it,” said Rogen. It was hard to say as Wiseau had on his signature sunglasses the whole time, but he was taking pictures with fans and even got onstage at one point.
The new pic also features A-list cameos from the likes of Sharon Stone, Bryan Cranston, J.J. Abrams, Melanie Griffith, Zac Efron, Judd Apatow and others.