Alison Brie and Ari Graynor defend "The Room" as a very unique piece of art
No doubt about it, The Room is one of the best-worst movies — if not the best-worst movie — EVER. Whoever you are, whatever your taste in movies, you probably have ~opinions~ about The Room. And The Disaster Artist stars Alison Brie and Ari Graynor are, of course, no exceptions. (Stars, they’re just like us.)
The Disaster Artist is about the making of The Room, the legendary cult hit from Tommy Wiseau — who appeared as Johnny in the film, one third of a love triangle that also included his BFF Mark (Greg Sestero) and “future wife” Lisa (Juliette Danielle). The dramedy (now in limited theaters) stars James Franco as Wiseau/Johnny, Dave Franco as Greg/Mark, Graynor as Juliette/Lisa, and Brie as Greg’s girlfriend Amber. Got all that?
GREAT, because there’s much more where that came from. Without further ado, Brie and Graynor spill about The Disaster Artist and The Room — the latter of which is at its heart, as Brie puts it, a “crazy psychological study of one man’s mind: what he thinks is normal, what he thinks is romantic, what he thinks male friendships look like.” Yeah, you’re in for a treat.
HelloGiggles: Had you seen The Room before working on The Disaster Artist, been to midnight screenings, anything like that?
Ari Graynor: I had heard about it over the years from various people that I had worked with. I feel like Justin Long used to talk about it and Jonah Hill and Michael Cera but I had never [seen it]. It’s hard to understand what the big deal is when people are talking about it. You’re kinda like, “What? I don’t really get it.” I had seen some clips over the years and I was always intrigued, but it’s a hard thing to get your hands on. I mean, not hard but in this day and age when everything is immediately at your fingertips and you can go online and see something immediately, you have to work a little bit to see this.
I think [that’s] the thing that also makes people feel so connected and have such ownership over it, when you have to do a little leg work to get there. But it wasn’t until James reached out to me [about how] they were making this movie [that I saw it]…. I watched it for the first time alone in my apartment, which is not the ideal way to see this movie. Paul Scheer says that watching The Room is like going on an iowaska, a trip, that you should do it in a group, with a leader, where people can guide you through an experience within a community.
I was screaming at the television by myself, clutching for imaginary friends sitting next to me, and going through my phone trying to think of who in there I knew had seen it so I could text and be like, “Oh my God, I can’t believe this is happening.” I knew I wanted to be a part of The Disaster Artist immediately.
Alison Brie: I had never seen it. I had never gone to midnight screenings… [Note: She does have a bizarre connection to The Room, which you can read about here.] David signed on to do this movie with his brother. David read the book and we, together, listened to the audio book that is narrated by Greg Sestero. After all of this, finally, Dave was like, “You need to see The Room.” Even before I really knew that I was going to be involved in this movie, our movie, I was like, “Yeah. I am ready to see it.” The book, The Disaster Artist, is so great, and so interesting. I actually loved that I got to watch The Room after knowing all about the behind-the-scenes drama, and all about Greg and and Tommy and their relationship and everything like that. I think it made watching it for the first time much more interesting.
HG: Ari, what made you want to be a part of The Disaster Artist after watching The Room?
AG: It was a lot of things. I had done a movie with James years ago — like maybe eight or nine years ago — and I’ve done three movies with Seth…and I just love those guys. They’re some of the kindest, most creative, smart, funny people — potentially in the world. So, any opportunity to work with them I will jump at. Then, the story of The Disaster Artist — both in the book and the script — is such an unbelievably and surprisingly relatable story, and very universal. It takes this specific story and this very kooky guy and tells a story about friendship, about having big dreams and trying to make them happen and creative expression.
That’s obviously something that resonates, the experience that anytime you do something you don’t know how it’s going to turn out. You make something that people don’t think is good or don’t like, that’s the biggest fear. Then, the biggest hope, of course, is that people love it and respond to it. I think [the story of The Room] is so wild because it’s kind of both. It’s the thing that everyone did think was terrible and laughed at and loved and has become a huge hit, [but that’s] different from their intentions maybe, which is just a really interesting question about creativity and what you put in the world.
HG: What excited you about playing Juliette?
AG: We spoke on the phone before we started shooting and she was just such a kind, sweet, caring person who has since left Los Angeles and really sort of moved on with her life and separated from The Room. Although, [I’ve heard] she still sells paintings of spoons and goes to the occasional screening. Greg and Tommy are still very actively involved with The Room. Obviously, Greg wrote the book and Tommy goes to all the screenings — and is Tommy, and all that.
I think when she was a part of making The Room, she was super young, she’d just come to L.A. and I wanted to give her as much integrity and humor and kindness and hope and sweetness that I felt from her when I spoke with her in the context of this story, where she was just a really hard worker who had big hopes and dreams. I wanted to try to bring that into the character that I was creating as much as I could.
HG: Alison, what excited you about playing Amber?
AB: I think more than anything I was excited to be a part of the project of with my husband [Note: The pair weren’t married at the time of filming], my brother-in-law, all these other great people that they got to be in it. And the story itself was so fascinating and fun. I think I could just relate to Amber, because I feel like Amber’s stance is the normal reaction to hearing a lot of this stuff.
Like, “Why are you still hanging out with this person? What is this movie? Do you ever think maybe it’s not going to be great?” I can certainly relate to feeling that way. Even about my own projects, working early in my career. Conversations I’ve had with friends or with boyfriends throughout my life who are also actors — kind of where you just delve into this stuff you’re working on, and sometimes you’re quite skeptical about if it’s going to go well.
HG: Did you speak with the real Amber at all? Do you think she has any regrets about suggesting Greg separate himself from The Room, since the film has gone on to be this cult success? Or, maybe she doesn’t because it’s just one of those things you can’t really predict?
AB: I was not able to speak with the real Amber. Greg has not really been in touch with her in many years. I think it is a realistic reaction to hearing about the torment that Tommy put these people through in the moment. And when you read the book, there is a lot more detail about her relationship with Greg and its demise over the course of him shooting this movie. And you realize that Tommy is the kind of person who needs to be the most important person in his friend’s life.
This project took on such a life of its own. That Greg was not able to sustain a relationship outside of The Room, outside of his relationship with Tommy, while they were making it, I would think it’s not unfounded that she would question that. Especially given that Greg was pretty miserable by the end of the shooting process.
HG: Ari, have you seen The Room since wrapping The Disaster Artist and if so, how do you feel about it now?
AG: It’s funny, I have not watched it in its entirety since we did this. But I think the reason why The Room has been such a touchstone for people and has become this cult hit and this very special thing is because unconsciously people recognize it as a piece of art. It is Tommy’s very personal and singular expression of himself and how he sees the world. I think you recognize that when you watch it, which is what kind of hooks you in.
There are a lot of bad movies out there but a lot of them, and most of them, are soulless. They sort of feel like, “Oh, what if we did this funny thing, or we took this setup?” There’s such heart and soul in The Room and I think — especially after making The Disaster Artist, and recognizing how much it is a piece of art — then when you watch it again, you feel that but you feel it in a more conscious way.