Who is Tommy Wiseau? 5 things we know about the bizarre “The Room” writer, director, and star
If you’ve seen 2003 so-bad-it’s-good cult classic The Room, you’ve probably already gathered a few things about its star (and writer, and director, and producer) Tommy Wiseau. He’s clearly eccentric, for starters. He has a distinctive laugh. He’s a big fan of wearing sunglasses. He has a hard-to-place accent. Beyond that, he’s kind of a mystery. And as reporters and fans have found in their quest to learn more about the bizarre filmmaker in the nearly 15 years since The Room debuted, that’s kind of Tommy Wiseau’s thing.
Wiseau and his movie are back in the spotlight with the release of The Disaster Artist(now in limited release!), a movie based on Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell’s book about the making of The Room. As James Franco — who stars as Wiseau, and directed the film — has been making the media rounds, Wiseau himself has sometimes been joining him. And with those rare appearances and the renewed interest in the famously guarded cult hero, we’re learning a few more — admittedly vague — details.
1Tommy Wiseau may have grown up near New Orleans
Getting a straight answer from Wiseau about the general region he’s from is nearly impossible. Or, at least, it was nearly impossible until Wiseau appeared with Franco on Jimmy Kimmel Live this week:
"I’m originally from Europe, but I’m, right now, American like everybody else. Long story short, I used to grow up in New Orleans, Louisiana, Wiseau told Kimmel. “So, people ask me, ‘Where you come from?’ Right? So, what’d you wanna do? Which country do you pick? Um, you know, I pick New Orleans.
In an interview with The New York Times published this week, Wiseau said his place of origin was “a personal question.” Other attempts to nail down his heritage found he may have been born in Poland, though he previously said he was born in France.
2He’s 62, maybe
IMDB says Wiseau was born in 1955, which likely came from documentary filmmaker Rick Harper’s research. Wiseau has been known to deflect the age question. Sestero never knew for sure but guessed that Wiseau was in his early 50s when The Room was being made. During Wiseau’s recent late night appearance, Kimmel asked him with a slight smirk if he was, “What, 36? 37?” Wiseau replied, “Whatever it is!”
3He has a unique sense of style
Wiseau’s jet black long hair, aforementioned sunglasses, and penchant for multiple belts are legendary. When midnight screening of The Room sell out across the country (and they still do), fans often dress up like the movie’s star. Franco does a pretty spot-on approximation of Wiseau’s half-Fabio half-Dracula look in The Disaster Artist, and from the Kimmel appearance (and others), we know that signature style is still alive and well.
4He has a thing about…water?
According to a 2014 interview with Wiseau in the now-defunct Gawker, water is a recurring theme in his life and his work. Wiseau was doing press in the wake of The Disaster Artist‘s book release, and to promote a TV project he was working on at the time. The book says Wiseau always orders a cup of hot water at restaurants and the interview references at least two times water came up as a point of tension on sets.
5He likes the way he’s portrayed in The Disaster Artist
Franco already nabbed a Best Actor trophy at last week’s Gotham Awards for his Disaster Artist role, and Wiseau says he supports the movie and has seen it three times so far. While he maintains the book was only 40% true (though he’d previously said it was 50% true), he told Kimmel the new movie is 99.9% true. That .1 percent Franco didn’t get right? “James, I think you should look at lighting in beginning of film. I think a little off,” Franco imitated Wiseau telling him about his one complaint. “What I realized is that he was wearing the glasses. He wears those when he watches movies.”