Update: At 19 o’clock The Cedar Lee Theater will host a special screening of the cult classic on Saturday, January 21st Room for the film’s 20th anniversary. As tickets for this screening are sold out, the theater has added a second screening to be held at 9.30pm on the same day. Actor Greg Sestero, who stars in the film and wrote a memoir about his experience, will attend both screenings.
Original post 01/05/2023: When actor and writer Greg Sestero originally signed on to help his friend Tommy Wiseau make his film Room, the 2003 film about the love triangle that develops between a banker (Wiseaux) and his fiancee (Juliette Daniel) and best friend (Sestero), he had no idea it would become a cult classic. Now, 20 years later, the strange film continues to intrigue.
For the 20th anniversary of the film, Greg Sestero will appear at 7:00pm on Saturday, January 21st at the Cedar Lee Theater to show a behind-the-scenes feature and answer questions.
While in Texas scouting locations for an upcoming UFO movie he’s directing, Sestero spoke by phone about the event at the Cedar Lee Theater and the film’s legacy as one of the worst movies ever made.
You knew Tommy Wiseau before he was in the movies. How did you first meet?
We met in 1998 at an acting course in San Francisco. I watched him perform Shakespeare. I was so entertained. I told him, “So many people in the class are trying so hard to be perfect.” There was something invigorating about watching him perform, so I approached him about becoming partners. We are opposites in every way imaginable, but we just connected because we shared a goal of wanting to act.
You had some acting and writing experience before working on the film. What was it like for you to participate in such an amateur production?
He redefined the term “production”. They had a team working on it Terminator 3 and real movies. But this one was launched in such a way that every day was a surprise. New cast members and new crew members appeared regularly. Every day you didn’t know what was going to happen. I acted in several horror films and wrote sequels for them Alone at home. I was really interested in the storytelling and the acting. Room more trying to help a friend make his film. He really wanted me to act in the film, but my head was elsewhere. It was one of those last-minute decisions, and I said I would do it, thinking no one would see the film. I was just trying to help Tommy finish the movie. I know how hard it is to do something. It was an amazing trip, everything that came out of it.
You have done more than acting. Tell us about other roles you’ve played.
I came in as an assistant, then a casting director, then a producer, then a prop finder. Then I ordered dinner for everyone. I wore four or five hats. This is what I ended up doing. I just did everything. It was a great learning experience. I learned how to communicate and make sure everyone gets on the phone. For me it did Room so interesting that one man had a clear vision but no one else understood it. This is a movie that makes sense in one person’s mind, but not in someone else’s. It was interesting to watch. I was at the right age when I was ready to go along for the ride. It was a great experience. You think you’re making a movie that no one will ever see, and six or seven years later it’s being shown all over the world. You say, “What?” This happens infrequently. It’s quite the reverse experience of success.
The film was initially shown in only a few California theaters and became a box office bomb. It then took on new life as a cult classic. At what point did you know it had happened?
I think it was at the Ziegfeld Theater in New York. There were several articles about the film Entertainment Weekly and on CNN. It was a sold out movie theater and I think it was the first time a movie did that after a re-release of the movie Star Wars. I thought there was something interesting here. This gave me the idea to start writing a book.
What was it like putting this book together? Did you keep a diary while filming?
These memories were so surreal, but they were quite fresh. I’ve also been behind the scenes and we’ll be showing some of these clips at Cedar Lee so you get a full look at the making of Room.
What are you up to A disaster artist2017 biographical comedy-drama about Room?
I liked it. It was really cool to see this story come out and make a good movie about it. It brought so many new people into the story.
How well does James Franco capture Tommy?
Yes, he studied all the tapes and watched the movie over and over again and was just very connected to the story.
Let’s talk a little more about the upcoming event at the Cedar Lee Theater.
We will have a behind-the-scenes film showing scenes from the making of the film. Some people will go on stage and read the original script. We have art and t-shirts. I haven’t been to Cleveland in about five years and I’m looking forward to going back. It’s a great city.
You were busy after Room. Tell us about some of the projects you’ve completed since the release of this film?
My movie Valley of miracles was released on Tubi, but will be released on Prime this year. I was also in The Ghosts of Bligh Manor. I made a couple of fun films with these Australian directors. One is called Christmas ribbons, which is a found footage horror film that also airs on Prime. I write and do forbidden sky a UFO abduction film based in New Mexico and tied to the events of Roswell. It is based on a radio show Coast to Coast AM with Art Bell. I read and researched the story.
It’s been twenty years, what’s this about Room what keeps people coming back to it?
I would say it is unlike any other movie you can find. It’s made by someone who had a vision and made it happen, and there was no one to say no. With movies, you put your vision out there, and whether it clicks or not, there’s something about it Room it brings people back and it’s one of those things that people never forget. New people keep discovering it.
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