No matter the publicity, the stories, or number of screenings, Greg Sestero still appreciates "The Room."
Originally called "the 'Citizen Kane' of bad movies" upon its release in 2003, "The Room" has achieved cult status over the last 15 years thanks to audiences lining up for midnight screenings.
Written by, directed by and starring the enigmatic Tommy Wiseau, the movie co-stars Sestero as Mark, the best friend to Wiseau's character, Johnny. The film was intended to be a heart-breaking story of how Johnny's life falls apart when he discovers his girlfriend, Lisa (Juliette Danielle), has cheated on him with Mark.
"The Room" tanked in its initial two-week run, making just $1,800 at the box office against its $6 million budget (funded by Wiseau himself). But the movie took on a second life through interactive, midnight showings, and it all got a boost in popularity after Sestero wrote a book about filming "The Room." In 2017, that book, "The Disaster Artist," became a Golden Globe-nominated affair starring James and Dave Franco as Wiseau and Sestero, respectively.
"'The Room' is this flood — you tame it for a little bit, then it comes back," Sestero said. "It's one of those things you have to embrace."
Sestero will join audiences for a live screening of "The Room" at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 2, at Manship Theatre. The event will feature an Q&A with Sestero as well as readings of scenes with randomly selected audience members. A meet and greet with Sestero starts at 6 p.m. Tickets are $24.99 at manshiptheatre.org.
Given the movie's reputation, one might think Sestero doesn't want to discuss "The Room" anymore. However, the actor welcomes the topic and viewing it with fans and newcomers.
"Meeting people who are excited to meet you is something I don't take for granted," Sestero said. "You've gotta appreciate the fact that you're a part of something that people still want to come and see. 'The Room' has given me a platform and a chance to make stuff, and I'm continuing to pursue that."
Sestero compared the live screenings to revisiting an old college campus, where he ducks in to say, "Hi, Mark," to a mentor or professor. Those screenings, where audience members recite dialogue with the movie and yell at the screen, are part of the fun in watching "The Room."
"It's one of those movies that's a communal experience," Sestero said. "You've gotta experience it that way. There's something about 'The Room' that brings people alive, and it's this experience that the audience thought could never exist."
At the time of filming "The Room," it was Sestero's biggest acting gig. Quickly, however, Sestero and the crew went from excitement to just trying to survive the production.
"I was thinking, 'Let's just get it done,'" Sestero said. "It's a movie I didn't think anybody would see. We really had no chance, if you're looking at it logically. At the premiere, people saw it, and they couldn't stop laughing. To me, I thought that was a good reaction. I mean, the worst thing you can do is put your audience to sleep."
What made "The Room" special was Wiseau. Sestero called the actor, writer and director "the special effect," "the tornado that runs through the movie."
"You pull Tommy out of it, and 'The Room' is another D-grade soap opera," Sestero said. "The movie is the perfect storm in the choices that are made. It's uniquely entertaining, and you can't recreate it."
Since "The Room," Sestero and Wiseau have maintained a friendship and collaborated on multiple projects. Recently, the duo wrapped up a shark movie, "Big Shark," as well as a 2017 two-part noir called "Best F(r)iends." In the latter project, Sestero said Wiseau had become more professional and found his persona. Lions Gate Films even distributed "Best F(r)iends," and with it came glowing reviews compared to "The Room."
Still, screenings of that 2003 so-bad-it's-good cult classic keep audiences coming.
"It's one of those movies," Sestero said of "The Room." "As a filmmaker, writer and creator, we all try to create stuff that works. There's something about 'The Room' that people got. It's an amazing thing. It's a miracle how people saw this film and want to keep seeing it."
'The Room' Live! With Greg Sestero
7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 2
Manship Theatre, 100 Lafayette St.