At Deadline’s 7th annual The Contenders awards-season event, James Franco appeared in front of a packed house of AMPAS and key guild voters at the DGA Theater to talk about how he decided he had to star in and direct The Disaster Artist. The film tells the tale of the making of Hollywood dreamer Tommy Wiseau’s dreadful movie The Rooma wannabe serious drama that turned into a certified cult comedy classic on the midnight show circuit — certainly not by original intention.

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Franco joined me onstage to talk about how, no matter how awful Wiseau’s Room was, it still let him explore the artistic process in the movie — no matter how twisted it was in this case. He hilariously recounts how he approached Wiseau to discuss casting the film and how he sheepishly got around Wiseau’s request to cast Johnny Depp in the lead role. He also explains how his own Golden Globe-winning performance as James Dean turned Tommy around and led to Franco not only directing, but also starring in this acclaimed comedy, which opens today via A24.

Earlier this week, Franco won the Best Actor prize at the Gotham Awards and is considered a strong contender as the season rolls on.

Check out our conversation above.