Tommy Wiseau may be among the strangest directors in history. He makes many public appearances but is downright impenetrable. Having actually seen him, I still cannot understand him. What motivates him? How did he raise money for his movie? He steadfastly refused to answer such questions. Luckily, he was able to shoot down others with a sort of direct approach that is rarely seen.
I should explain. Wiseau came to a local independent theater to a screening of his film The Room and to do a Q and A. The event sold out very quickly – the line went far beyond the doors and people came dressed up as characters. Wiseau showed up a few minutes late, and have a hard time getting into the door. Everyone wanted to do something with him. He went outside to throw footballs around. He signed autographs (including some on boxes of plastic spoons). He took questions.
But he gave no insight into himself. The man has succeeded in doing what most Hollywood insiders and players only dream of – he has turned himself into an industry. Even when he makes public appearances, he is doing so on his terms, with a persona that probably does not resemble his real persona at all. Those fans he likes (including, apparently, me, who was invited onstage for a hug after asking about his sitcom The Neighbors) are treated very well. Those who waste his time are shut down. One other audience member asked about his take on the the Lost series finale. “That’s a stupid question” was the only reply.
How many other celebrities are able to command such a response from audiences? Yes, others would probably have to deal with such an audience. Yes, they probably have to deal with questions that no one should have to answer. But how many can shut down such responses? How many dictate when they will act like a Hollywood celebrity and when they are merely a private citizen? How many can be public but not have their personal lives invaded?
I know that this may not be any sort of formal interview. It is not; I simply did not have the chance to ask him more than my one question. By the way, the answer I received was how the neighbors was a sitcom that he was trying to get picked up by Adult Swim. They would only air one episode – he wanted at least ten. He was thus trying to encourage the audience to bombard the network to request the show. He also answered questions about his appearance on Tim And Eric Awesome Show- Great Job!, stating he was disappointed that he was not allowed to direct his segment but still liked working on it. He also answered such mundane questions as to how many belts he was wearing (answer: four) and what happened with Claudette’s (a character in the film) breast cancer. Wiseau claimed he wanted to touch many facets of real life experiences people have and condense them into The Room. Of course, in the film, the cancer is never brought up again. Yet how many Hollywood directors who command $20 million salaries do the exact same thing and are lauded for it, even if their films fail to address the same themes? Perhaps that is why (in other question) Wiseau refused to name the filmmakers that inspired him. How can they inspire him, when they are undeservedly celebrated?
Either way, Wiseau ultimately claims that The Room is meant to mean different things to different people and that someone could watch the film “100 times” before understanding it fully. Maybe that is true. It is also true that the film commands a love I have never seen for a film. The spoons that are thrown at the screen are not done in a derisive manner. They represent a sort of orgasmic response to the film – a love of it in the purest form possible. Everyone mocks, cajoles, and laughs at the film. Yet at the end, they were on their feet, applauding it. Each person will no doubt remember it, long after their memories of seeing Avatar have faded. I have also said before Besides, who among the people watching the film will be inspired to try the same thing for themselves? We even saw such a thing at the screening – two people, without looking at the screen managing to reenact a scene from the film. Maybe they will be inspired to do such a thing with their own material.
In terms of inspiration and audience response, Wiseau may be among the greatest independent filmmaker of all time.