The Room‘s Greg Sestero and Tommy Wiseau reunite onscreen in Best F(r)iends. Ahead of its release, Sestero (who wrote and produced the film) discusses what inspired him, why he asked Wiseau to star in it and what it was like working with him, what he wants audiences to get from Best F(r)iends, and his plans for the future.
For the past eight years Luna Cinemas have been hosting screenings of what is often described as the best, worst film of all time—The Room.
Released in 2003, it was screened for two weeks in a limited number of Californian theatres and made a meagre AU$2400.
The plot generally follows Johnny, an all-American man betrayed by those he loves most, but is largely nonsensical. Sub-plots arise in one scene but are never mentioned again. There are numerous discomforting, unnecessarily protracted sex scenes. And the acting is nauseating.
But it has garnered a cult following, and the utter ineptitude of its production is a part of its enduring appeal.
Central to its intrigue is the enigma Tommy Wiseau—who wrote, directed, produced and starred in the film. Nobody knows his age, where he was born, or how he financed the eight-and-a-half-million-dollar (AU) film.
Insight was offered by Greg Sestero—Wiseau’s friend, who co-starred in his film—in his book The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made. Sestero chronicled the calamitous production of The Room, and, when it was adapted into the James Franco starring film, the popularity of Wiseau’s disasterpiece reached incomprehensible new heights.
Fifteen years after The Room‘s release, Wieseau and Sestero reunite on screen in Best F(r)iends—which Sestero wrote and produced.Sestero says the concept for this film came to him two years ago, after he saw a rough cut of The Disaster Artist—the film adaptation of his book.
“Tommy just wanted to be taken seriously as an actor. He saw himself as somebody who could be a Johnny Depp or a [Marlon] Brando; and I was like, you know what, nobody’s really put him in a part where he could do that, it’s always been a part where you laugh at him. So, I thought it would be interesting to put him in a movie where he complements himself.”
In Best F(r)iends, Wiseau plays the peculiar mortician Harvey Lewis, who forms an unlikely business partnership with drifter Jon Kortina (Sestero).
“[Harvey Lewis] was like a version of Tommy I pictured existing in 50s America, with a classic sensibility and a dark, conflicted past. It was like the Americanised version of Tommy. You still didn’t quite understand what he did but you rooted for him.”
Interestingly, the film is inspired by true events. After production of The Room in 2003, Sestero and Wiseau took a road trip up the Californian coast where Wiseau became fearful that Sestero was going to murder him.
“There was this hotel up there, and there was one room left, and I didn’t think we’d get it if they saw Tommy walk in with the crazy hair—they probably thought we’d be doing drugs. So, I told him to meet me around back. He thought I was trying to have him not be seen by cameras or people, so he thought I was trying to set him up—to try and kill him or something. And I was like, uh no, I just want to go to bed.”
In the film, paranoia develops and the pair are forced to come to terms with the fragility of friendship and loyalty.
Indeed, instances in the film seem to address Sestero and Wiseau’s real-life relationship as much as their characters’ relationship.
Sestero said that some of this was intentional and some if it was subconscious, and that the title for this film came from Werner Herzog’s documentary, Mein liebster Feind (My Best Fiend):
“My Best Fiend is [Herzog’s] exploration of his friendship with Klaus Kinski, and I thought a little bit, like, playing on the real-life aspect but then having it also be totally fictional.”
Although the The Room and Best F(r)iends aren’t connected by narrative, thematic parallels between them—like the worth of friendship and the strength of loyalty—are hard to ignore.If it seems like Best F(r)iends is peppered with references and call-backs to The Room, this was not intentional:
“I didn’t really want to recreate The Room or, you know, try to bring it into this film at all,” Sestero says.
“It was really about trying to make something new. So, there is none [of that] in the script. But when we were shooting, there were a few situations where they kind of just popped in.”
This was a result of Wiseau being given the opportunity to play with a few scenes.
“As long as it was in the spirit of what we were trying to say, it was fine. But he worked hard to try and do all the lines properly.”
For those who have read Sestero’s book or seen the film adaptation, Wiseau is depicted as somewhat difficult to work for and with; on the set of Best F(r)iends, Sestero said this was not the case:
“It was a lot better. I think it worked to our advantage that, [for this film], he was [only] an actor, and that he was working with people that were rooting for him—I think that was a huge change from The Room.
“He was a lot easier to collaborate with, he wanted to learn his lines, he wanted to do it justice.”
At the end of Best F(r)iends, a cliff-hanger reveals that this is only volume one of the narrative. Sestero said that he realised during the editing process that there was too much material to condense into a single film.
“I realised you needed to let each part breathe, and I saw things in part two that I didn’t see before, and so we crafted [each] into their own film.”
Thankfully, audiences won’t have to wait very long for Volume Two, with its release anticipated for November of this year.
In his book, Sestero wrote that The Room “is a drama that is also a comedy that is also an existential cry for help that is finally a testament to human endurance.” He calls Best F(r)iends “a celebration of creative survival.”
Sestero says that he’s found writing and producing the most enjoyable part of the filmmaking process, but that he will continue to act if there are roles that grab him.
Next, he plans to make a horror movie, and hasn’t ruled out working with Wiseau on it.
And in the years to come, he anticipates that his friendship with Wiseau will continue to evolve.
For those unaware and not a part of the cult following, Sestero says this film is still accessible if you’re open minded, but that it will be more charming if you’re familiar with the previous material.
Although it was not his intention to create a trilogy, it occurred to Sestero that there is value in watching The Room, The Disaster Artist and Best F(r)iends, in that order:
“I didn’t think of it really, but that’s sort of the ideal—you can see the evolution of 20 years.
“I think it’s awesome. Twenty years of friendship, and trying to create, and being in this business, and dealing with all the rejection. [These] three pieces of work, that you can sit through in one night, is very, very cool. It’s a great reward to survive this long and have something like this to show for it.”
Fans of The Room will be wary of Best F(r)iends, but Sestero wants it to do its own thing.
“I think it’s whatever the audience wants to make of it,” he says.
“I want [the audience] to enjoy it, and have an original experience, but [to] be surprised too. The Room’s audience has been so loyal for years now, I just want to give them a new what-the-fuck-experience that they leave feeling excited by.”
Best F(r)iends is screening exclusively at Luna Cinemas now.
Read our review of Best F(r)iends here.
Read our review of the cinematic experience that is The Room here.