Tommy Wiseau | Midnight Showings

prof wiseau 75The Room is not just a movie, it’s an event.

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The first time Tommy Wiseau’s film The Room screened theatrically in St. Louis was back in March 2010. It has been running consistently in town ever since (though generally only a time or two per month), building its audience along the way. I attended that first public screening here (it had screened for the press prior, but I avoided that showing), and the mostly full house was in quite a state of disarray. You see, The Room had been playing elsewhere in the country, most notably in Los Angeles (where it recently crossed its nine-year anniversary), for quite some time before it ever found its way here, and it had gathered quite a reputation. Among other things, it was known as a midnight movie, and was of the special breed where the audience participates in the proceedings of the film. And while the screening was a lot of fun, the fact that it hadn’t shown in St. Louis before really came through—everyone seemed to know that they were supposed to yell at the screen, but they didn’t seem to know what they were supposed to yell at the screen, so a great deal of the feedback was the audience shouting whatever stupid nonsense popped in their head at any given time. There is something to be said for that kind of anarchy in a movie theater, sure, but that’s not necessarily how The Room is supposed to go down.

Well, St. Louis, it’s time to get your shit together, as Tommy Wiseau himself is coming to the Tivoli’s July screenings of the film to do a Q&A and whatever else suits him; Greg Sestero, who plays the duplicitous Mark, will be in attendance, as well. I had the opportunity to speak with Wiseau over the phone in late June, and he seemed very enthusiastic about the prospect of coming.

I tried to gear most of my questions not toward what the experience of seeing The Room in the theater is like—probably most of you reading this article have a good idea of that by now anyway (if you don’t, it’s mostly cued shouting and plastic silverware throwing and spontaneous games of catch with a football)—but more what the experience of seeing The Room in the theater is like when Tommy is there with you. “Well, you should show up!” was his response regarding what to expect of his St. Louis appearance. “I always have a good time in the Q&A, to be honest with you… I never have a bad screening for the past nine years.” This topic was one we came back to several times over the course of the interview, with Wiseau elaborating slightly more with each return. When I first asked the question was when I got the “Well, you should show up!” line referenced above, but later he elaborated: “Well, it’s a basic Q&A; people ask the questions and I respond to them,” but even later he came back with, “My problem is to be nice; my job is to make people laugh. I think I do my job good.”

You can imagine that, if he’s been touring with The Room pretty extensively for the past three or so years, it can be hard for Wiseau to get much of anything else done. He hasn’t completed another feature film since The Room, for example, but to focus on that is to ignore the many projects he has going at any given time. “I am a multitasker, so I have no problem,” Wiseau explains when I ask him how he finds time in his busy touring schedule to work on the various adaptations of The Room into other art forms—he originally conceived the story as a novel, but has lately been working on making it into a Broadway play.

Aside from Room-related projects, Tommy just finished up season one of The Tommy Wi-Show, a video game-themed show just released on DVD through Studio 8. He explained some other projects he’s been working on. “We just completed our new toy. I don’t know if you know, Dogeee, it’s a talking dog. You can write this in the article: We will actually be releasing the Dogeee at the screening.” From here, Wiseau explained to me a bottle-throwing game he formulated while bored at an airport once. “We call it the ‘Empty Bottle Game’—the idea is somebody throws the bottle at you, and if you catch it 25 times, you can win something. I introduced this at an earlier screening, and people liked it. So we select from the audience three people, and this time we’ll have a Dogeee to win.” And yes, the talking dog is called “Dogeee”; since it’s hard to make spelling like that clear on a phone interview, Wiseau made a point to spell it out for me: “It’s ‘Dogeee’ with three e’s; D-O-G-E-E-E. Three e’s, okay?”

Aside from the nature of the tour and his appearances, I had one other burning question that I had always wanted to ask Wiseau if I got the opportunity to speak with him. I’m always been a big midnight movie nerd, but think The Room maybe fits in with the ’70s style of midnight movies more so than the modern way they’re handled. In the ’70s, it was more first-run stuff that maybe wouldn’t flourish in the harsh daylight, but these days, most movies you have the opportunity to see at midnight tend to be fairly recent, perhaps even mainstream movies that have particularly devoted followings; stuff like The Goonies or Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory or Rushmore. It’s hard to plan for this type of thing, though, midnight movie success.

“I always say that The Room is not just a movie, it’s an event,” he said. “I know people who see The Room once or twice, they might bring friends, they have a groovy time. It’s just a unique movie; something different.” I couldn’t agree more, especially about the fact that it’s an event. While I always encourage people to see movies in the theater whenever they can, it’s of particular importance with The Room, because if you watch it at home on DVD (or on its forthcoming Blu-ray), you won’t get the audience reaction and participation, and you certainly won’t get Wiseau himself. You should take his advice: Show up. | Pete Timmermann

Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero will be appearing at the midnight screenings of The Room at the Tivoli on July 20 and 21. Tickets are $15, and can be purchased in advance at the Tivoli box office. Call 314-995-6270 or visit landmarktheatres.com for more information.

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