Thomas Pierre Wiseau (born Tomasz Wieczorkiewicz on October 3, 1955) is a Polish-American actor and filmmaker who is perhaps one of the most enigmatic people in Hollywood.
We only know his birth name, birthdate, and birthplace now thanks to Canadian documentarian Rick Harper, his 2016 film Room Full of Spoons and the lawsuit that Wiseau filed, supposedly in defense of his privacy, and which spectacularly backfired, forcing Wiseau to pay Harper about C$700,000.note By means unknown, he made his way to California and sought to join the ranks of the Hollywood elite. The problem was that he proved to be completely unsuited for acting, but he nevertheless persisted in his quest for international fame.
And that fame came in the form of the 2003 film The Room. With incomprehensible dialogue, plot threads that appear and then disappear, and actors with varying degrees of enthusiasm, it was a movie that had no business being shown to an audience. And yet, by the grace of the right Colbert Bumps, it became one of the most celebrated films of its time (albeit for none of the reasons that Wiseau intended).
Much of the Troubled Production preceding the release of The Room — as well as key details about Wiseau's personal life — is recounted in the 2013 book The Disaster Artist by the movie's co-star (and Wiseau's close friend), Greg Sestero. In the film adaptation of the book, Wiseau is portrayed by James Franco.
To recap, a filmmaker whose looks are most charitably described as "homely" and whose level of filmmaking knowledge makes Ed Wood look like Federico Fellini somehow managed to independently produce and star in a film that still plays in screenings to packed houses over a decade and a half later and became the subject of a Golden Globe-winning biopic.
He would later be forced by aliens to play video games in the web series The Tommy Wi-Show, direct, produce, write and star in the hulu series The Neighbors, and play the villain Linton Kitano in Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance. In October 2016, it was announced that he and Greg would star in a comedy thriller film called Best F(r)iends, with the release of Part 1 on March 30, 2018 and Part 2 on May 18, 2018. In early 2019, at a screening for The Room, a trailer was released for a new film project, titled Big Shark, which is about a shark attack in New Orleans. And this project appears to be genuine; according to Wiseau, the purpose of the teaser is to help Wiseau secure more funding. The film was supposed to come out in September 2019, but was delayed.
Surprisingly, Wiseau may also be One of Us. He's expressed interest in directing a major Hollywood blockbuster, notably throwing his hat into the ring to direct the initially-planned sequel to Fant4stic before it was removed from 20th Century Fox's filming schedule. More recently, he's offered to play in or direct movies based on DC Comics, Star Wars and Marvel Comics, even making an audition tape for playing The Joker.
Tropes associated with this creator
- Achievements in Ignorance: Quite possibly the single most Giftedly Bad filmmaker since Ed Wood. And yet his creation still plays to packed audiences that most filmmakers could only dream of.
- Also, people tend to forget that, for someone who seems to struggle with basic aspects of human communication, Tommy was already a multimillionaire—somehow—before shooting The Room, so this trope surely had to be involved somewhere.
- Ambiguously Human: He sometimes jokes that he's a vampire. Considering how many vampire tropes he fits—an unusual accent, a mysterious background, Vague Age, strange diet, a surprisingly large bank account, wearing sunglasses constantly, chalk-white skin, and according to Greg Sestero, can put himself to sleep and then wake up on command—some people actually believe it.
- Berserk Button: He hates it when people try to uncover his mysterious past, going so far as suing people for revealing it. He liked the film version of The Disaster Artist far more than he liked the book, since the film focused solely on his filmmaking and kept his backstory an enigma, while the book compiled every bit of Tommy's life story Greg could recall. How he forgave Greg for writing it we can only guess—the book includes a scene of Tommy's berserk button being hit hard upon basically discovering that Greg's friends knew of Tommy's existence.
- Cold Ham: His acting style is simultaneously overblown and nonchalant, somehow.
- Cloud Cuckoolander: No one interprets life and emotion the way Tommy Wiseau does. It's a huge part of his charm.
- Doing It for the Art: Where to begin? He financed The Room out of his own pocket—all six million misplaced dollars of the budget—bought and shot it with digital HD and film cameras simultaneouslynote , had an exact copy built of the alleyway between buildings he already owned because he didn't like the way the real alleyway looked...In short, Wiseau was going to make his movie, his way, and by God, he succeeded. As Greg and the rest of the crew discovered while working with him, Tommy is actually independently wealthy—enough to comfortably finance the entire movie—and became a filmmaker just because he loves movies that much.
- Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Despite his desire to be a leading man, he's seemingly cultivated this for years, keeping his naturally brown and curly hair sleek, jet-black and of ghostly length.
- Funny Foreigner: His oddness is quite independent of his nationality, but his accent and language skills add to the impression.
- Giftedly Bad: He's been dubbed "The Ed Wood of the 21st Century" for a reason.
- Hidden Depths: Clearly this guy is so wacky that he became a movie director because he couldn't hold down any other job, right? Wrong. Greg and many of the other crew were dumbfounded to learn that Tommy is not just comfortably well-off, he's loaded, and funded the movie out of his own pocket through a substantial fortune he amassed over the years in real estate, so he clearly has some talent in entrepreneurship to compensate for that which he lacks in filmmaking talent. Then, there is his He Really Can Act moment when he cameoed in The Disaster Artist
- Immigrant Patriotism: He loves America, to the point where he actively avoided revealing where he was originally from, only stating that he was from Europe in 2017; it took a lawsuit in order to confirm that he hails from Poland. It doesn't matter to him because he's American now.
- Mad Artist: Quite possibly cinema's greatest living example.
- Multiple-Choice Past: What was his life like before coming to America and getting involved in the film industry? How did he become wealthy? The rare times he’s spoken about it contradict each other, so who knows what’s true?
- Mysterious Past: It took an independent documentary and a lawsuit to even confirm his birthdate and real name. He refuses to answer questions about his past or any aspects of his personal life, to the point that Franco expressed genuine surprise upon hearing Tommy admit the rather obvious tidbit that he's originally from Europe.
- Non-Specifically Foreign: Wiseau attempted to enforce this with his 2017 confirmation that he was European without listing a specific country, aided by his nigh-untraceable accent. It wasn't until 3 years and a court loss later that his Polish heritage was finally confirmed.
- Older Than They Look: Wiseau claimed for a long time that he was born in 1968, plausibly enough that nobody suspected otherwise. Greg Sestero discovered his real age, but decided to keep it a secret—only after Wiseau lost the lawsuit was it publicly confirmed he was born in 1955.
- Ragin' Cajun: He has roots in New Orleans and, for at least as long as Greg Sestero has known him, has often attempted to pass off his inscrutable accent as Cajun, to the point of including the phrase "ragin' Cajun" in one of the blurbs on the original poster of The Room. While picking up English as a third language in New Orleans can be considered a piece of the puzzle for his odd accent, he doesn't sound remotely Cajun.
- Reality Is Unrealistic: You'd never in a million years buy this guy as a character if he wasn't a real person. If you've heard a strange story about him, not only is it most likely true, Sestero can probably give you details that are even weirder.
- Reclusive Artist: He is a very reclusive person. Virtually nothing is known about him, even to those who know him personally. Sestero, the one person who he did confide his life story to, stated it was the most tragic life story he had ever heard.
- Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense: Tommy's poor budgetary decisions during the production of The Room are the stuff of legend, providing a $6 million budget, most of which was needlessly squandered, entirely out of his own pocket—without creating any serious threat to his own personal finances. Nobody's quite sure how he got all that money, either. Some people have speculated that he's somehow connected to organized crime, or even that the entire movie was just a giant money-laundering scheme, but Sestero has dismissed these theories, on the very reasonable grounds that no significantly wealthy crime syndicate in the world would trust this guy to take care of their finances.
- Shrouded in Myth: Part of what makes Tommy such a cult figure is the fact he's possibly the single most mysterious man in all Hollywood. Almost nothing is known about his past in any concrete detail, which he refuses to divulge and reacts poorly when others attempt to do so, and it took a lawsuit against people researching his past (which backfired spectacularly) to even confirm his birth name, birth place, and age.
- The Spook: Formerly. The book The Disaster Artist revealed a great deal of his life story, while losing the suit against Rick Harper revealed those personal details Sestero had been tactful enough to exclude. One thing that remains ambiguous is how he made enough of a fortune to finance The Room on his own.
- Streisand Effect: He sued Canadian filmmaker Rick Harper in 2016 for supposedly violating his privacy in the documentary The Room Full of Spoons. He lost the suit in 2020, which led to his birthdate, birthplace and original name to be revealed, officially confirming some of the speculations.
- Sunglasses at Night: You will seldom see him without his Cool Shades.
- What, Exactly, Is His Job?: Tommy was independently wealthy and financed the production of The Room entirely out of his own pocket—nobody, including Greg Sestero, is quite sure how he made so much money despite his sheer lack of talent in seemingly every other field. Sestero has claimed that Wiseau either made his money flipping houses in San Francisco or that he won a settlement after getting into a car accident with a Hollywood producer.
- He's also a proprietor of a small chain of clothing stores called Street Fashions USA which sells off-brand knockoffs and factory closeouts... thus, his big wealth shouldn't be that much of a mystery.
- What the Hell Is That Accent?: He grew up in Poland, spent several years in France, and learned English in New Orleans; his accent is a combination of all three, enabling him to conceal his Polish origins for many years. When unwilling to admit he's from Europe, he tries to pass his accent off as Cajun.