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Film / The Disaster Artist

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"Anything for my princess..."

Tommy: This town, Greg. [...] It don't want me.
Greg: Wish we could just make our own movie.

The Disaster Artist is a 2017 biopic dramedy film directed by and starring James Franco, adapting the 2013 memoir of the same name written by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell.

The film chronicles the Odd Friendship between Sestero (Dave Franco) and his eccentric, enigmatic acting classmate Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) as the two pursue careers in Hollywood, eventually coming together for the frighteningly difficult production of Wiseau's dream project, an independent film titled The Room.

Other cast members include Josh Hutcherson as Philip Haldiman (Denny), Ari Graynor as Juliette Danielle (Lisa), Jacki Weaver as Carolyn Minnott (Claudette), Zac Efron as Dan Janjigian (Chris-R), and Seth Rogen as script supervisor Sandy Schklair, with cameos including Sharon Stone, Bryan Cranston, and Hannibal Buress.

Previews: Teaser, Trailer 1, Trailer 2.

Compare Ed Wood, another biopic about another legendarily bad director.

Tropes related to this movie include:

  • 20 Minutes into the Past: The film was released in 2017 and is set from 1998 to 2003.
  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality: The Stinger. Tommy Wiseau meets ... Tommy Wiseau.
  • Acting in the Dark: Hilariously invoked. Nobody knows what the movie is about because Tommy never explains it to them.
  • Actor Allusion: Tommy is quite fond of James Dean even somewhat paying homage to Rebel Without a Cause in the infamous "You're tearing me apart, Lisa!" scene. James Franco actually played Dean in the 2001 Biopic James Dean.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: During the screening of The Room, everyone involved (save Tommy) finds themselves laughing at scenes they'd risked their careers working on.
  • Adaptational Jerkass: The film's changes to the account given in the book have a net effect of making Tommy a bit nicer, but a few alterations make him look less sympathetic.
    • Greg shaving his beard wasn't a Sadistic Choice that Tommy forced him to make over his potential guest spot on a sitcom (Sestero was going to shave it after production wrapped so nobody would recognize him, and Tommy's insistence on shaving it for the film upset him because it would ruin this plan) and is mainly here to give Greg more leverage against Tommy when Greg finally blows up at him.
    • The movie implies that Greg's girlfriend broke up with him because of his association with Tommy. In reality, Greg's small successes in the industry before The Room played a role in their breakup; The Room itself had nothing to do with it.
    • In the film, Tommy is just as callous with Carolyn Minnott (Claudette) as he is with everyone else, and accuses her of napping on the job when the heat on set causes her to faint. According to the book, the fainting episode occurred, but Tommy was quick to have Minnott taken to the ER—although Greg believes Tommy did this to avoid being sued, not out of kindness or morality.
    • Tommy never gets his sympathetic background that explains a lot of his bizarre quirks and why he wanted to make The Room (though even when recounting Tommy's background in the book, Greg is openly skeptical about much of it). In the book, Greg speculates that it's because for Tommy, America (and Hollywood) symbolized success and escape from a third-world Commie Land hellhole where he was nearly killed several times, as well as no longer being treated like garbage for being an immigrant. This is present to a lesser extent in the film, but it's more seen as a "trying to make it big, like everyone else in Hollywood" affair.
  • Adaptational Nationality: Greg's French heritage is written out of the film, when in the book he showed a lot of pride in this. His mother also shows no hint of being a French immigrant. It's also never explicitly mentioned that Markus, the boy Tommy hires to film all the on-set crew under the guise of a making-of documentary, is Czech.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy:
    • Tommy is portrayed as nicer than in the book due to certain real-life incidents being downplayed, altered, or downright absent, such as the real Tommy recording all Greg's phone calls (and the calls of everyone else to and from his home), his emotional and economic manipulation of Greg is cut out, opening and reading through all Greg's mail behind his back, losing a cinematographer after he was caught lying to him about installing a generator, and making the actress who played Lisa cry at one point due to his verbal abuse (the abuse is depicted, but she does not get as upset about it). They also leave out the cast and crew explicitly speculating that Tommy is or was involved in organized crime and that the film might even be a money-laundering scheme. Granted, in a case like the last one, this trope would only apply (to the point of Adaptational Heroism, for that matter) if that was true (which Sestero at least personally doubts).
    • Greg Sestero's mother is merely an understandably concerned parent. In the book, she raises many of the same concerns, but in a much less sympathetic way, insinuating that Greg has no talent and at one point even pestering Greg's big-time acting agent until she unilaterally discontinues their business relationship. Her first encounter with Tommy in the film was also much less antagonistic than in the book, where she reportedly said to him "Don't rape my son" as they left.
    • The film depicts Greg joining The Room in a more positive and altruistic light—he wants to help Tommy make his dream come true. In the book, Greg had already formed a less positive impression of Tommy and is mainly in the project for the money after his own acting prospects had fizzled out. Additionally, in an incident omitted from the film, Tommy decided apropos of nothing to make Greg the leading man instead of the actor he had already hired, and Greg was complicit in the ridiculous lies Tommy used to string the other guy along.
  • Adaptation Deviation:
    • The film ends with the remark that no one knows Tommy's real age. In the book, Greg discovers Tommy's real age, but doesn't reveal it.
    • In real life, Greg invokedad-libbed the mention of Guerrero Street (the location of Tommy's San Francisco apartment) as a way to rib the highly secretive Tommy, who was furious about this but was forced to keep the line as it was their only viable take. In the film, it's written in as part of the script.
    • Although Greg had his frustrations with the production of the film and Tommy himself, he never called him out during the middle of filming, let alone during the scene where they toss the football in the park (it's Tommy who lost his cool when filming that scene because he couldn't catch Greg's throws and Greg said a couple of words in French at one point). However, Greg did blow up at Tommy at one point ... which is where the unusually well-acted "Leave your stupid comments in your pocket" quotation comes from.
    • The real Greg Sestero was never offered a part by Bryan Cranston, only for Tommy to ruin it by having him shave his beard. While the beard-shaving incident did happen, it was more of an annoyance than anything (Sestero was hoping to shave it off after production so as to not be recognized), though Tommy did screw with another cast member's schedule in real life, which isn't shown in the film; Kyle Vogt (Peter) had to leave for another commitment and had warned Tommy of this plenty of time in advance, yet Tommy still failed to shoot all his scenes in time.
    • Greg getting the part in Retro Puppet Master is never brought up, with Tommy's jealousy of him transferred to Amber being around Greg. Greg, however, indeed wound up doing The Room out of desperation after parts dried up, as depicted in the film. In addition, Tommy only began his attempts at modelling after seeing Greg get SAG status from his Retro Puppet Master role.
    • Greg was already fairly jaded and not much of a smiler by the time he and Tommy met — most of his desperation and naïveté were covered before he ever attended Jean Shelton's class.
    • The first screening of The Room really did break out in laughing at how horrible the entire movie was, but was nowhere near approving, mirthful, or unified. Most people just walked out, and it took months for The Room to gain a reputation for being So Bad, It's Good. Also, Tommy managed to take everything in stride by being completely oblivious to the fact his film was a stinker. He did, however, claim The Room was a 'Black Comedy' after it was clear no one was watching his drama movie for the drama.invoked
    • Apparently Tommy started humping Lisa's red dress after he shot himself in the mouth.
      Tommy: Why you cut, Sandy, this is great! This real acting!
    • Tommy's condo is presented as far cleaner and organized than it really was when Greg first went there, with features like the Zodiac Killer sign being drawn in the dust-heavy disused car next to Tommy's car space, the elevator creaking, and the condo itself being covered in red with ruined floors, zebraskin rugs, dozens of Disney toys and Dalmatian figures, and a mangled mannequin in the corner.
    • In the movie, Greg and Tommy move down to Los Angeles together on a random whim and start splitting the apartment. In fact, Greg had already started making plans to move down there, resulting in Tommy offering his apartment in the area for free. Tommy stayed back in San Francisco for a while at first, but eventually moved back in full time.
    • The movie presents Tommy's decision to make the film after a conversation with Greg on the rooftop. In fact, Tommy was inspired to create The Room after seeing The Talented Mr. Ripley in theaters. The only mention of that in the movie is a one-off remark by Tommy about naming Mark "after Mark Damon".
    • While the movie presents The Room as being planned as a film from the beginning, Tommy actually wrote it at first as a possible stage play.
    • Greg's car was a 1991 Chevrolet Lumina in the book, which was the first generation of that model. The movie also shows him in a Lumina but it's a newer second-generation model, which was introduced for the 1995 model year.
    • Sandy Schklair, reportedly, wasn't present for the sex scenes as he predicted that Tommy's behavior would make it a nightmare to shoot (he was right). He intentionally scheduled the filming to be some of the last scenes they shot, and quit the day before they had to do it.
    • In the book, Tommy's reaction to the audience's mockery at the premiere is left up to the imagination, as Greg loses sight of Tommy when the lights go down. In the movie, his increasingly distressed reactions – his initial satisfaction at the audience's rapt attention then turning to confusion, panic, humiliation, and despair – are given great focus, and likewise the entire scene afterwards where he flees the venue and repairs his friendship with Greg during a heartfelt retrospective on the bizarre, beautiful monster they created is not described in the book.
  • Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole: In the scenes of showings of The Room in the epilogue, audiences can be seen tossing plastic spoons. The spoon photo which inspires this practice was explained in the book, but was never addressed in this movie. A viewer who's never seen The Room or read The Disaster Artist will just wonder what those people are throwing, and why.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Safowa Bright, the costume designer, is named Safoya in the film, though the name "Safowa" is still seen during the screening of The Room.
  • Adaptation Title Change: Subverted. The film's title was originally changed to The Masterpiece before it went with the original name.
  • Adapted Out: For the film, key people who were featured in the book either had their personality traits given to other characters or were removed altogether:
    • "Don", the actor originally cast to play Mark, is not shown in the movie, and thus Tommy's deceitful gambit to replace him with Greg (something Greg himself was complicit in) is not shown either. Instead, Greg's decision to act in the movie becomes a straightforward gesture to help out a friend.
    • Graham Futerfas, the second director of photography and the only person to call Tommy out on his bullshit directly (namely in regards to his lying about calling about a much-needed generator) was not seen or even mentioned, possibly due to trying to keep Wiseau in the mostly sympathetic light the film cast him in.
    • Greg Ellery, who played replacement character Steven after the original actor, Kyle Vogt, who played Peter, had to leave due to previous commitments, also does not appear. Plus, he had both his appearance and his fate passed on to Kyle, who unlike in the book, was invited to the premiere (Tommy did not invite him due to his leaving for his other work, which he knew about and was repeatedly reminded of, being viewed as a "betrayal" of him).
    • Greg Sestero's father, Richard, is never mentioned, even though he supported his son's dream of becoming an actor, unlike his wife.
    • Juliette Danielle wasn't the original choice for Lisa. She was going to play Michelle until the previous actress jumped ship.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Tommy's sexuality is a big question mark the film teases but never answers, just like so many other Wiseau mysteries:
    • Tommy's dating history is a complete mystery, and he never expresses interest in or attraction to any woman.
    • When Tommy invites Greg to room with him, he suggests that they both sleep in the same bed. When Greg winces, Tommy says he was just kidding.
    • Tommy's nickname for Greg is "Baby Face."
    • When Greg's mother questions Tommy, she pointedly asks why an older man would want to befriend and move in with her teenage son, clearly suspecting that Tommy is trying to take advantage of Greg; Tommy seems to realize this and finds it funny.
    • Tommy becomes jealous when Greg begins talking to Amber and insists that they immediately leave the bar.
    • When Greg announces that he's moving in with Amber, Tommy throws a childish tantrum in the street.
    • Tommy writes a sex scene for himself and Juliette Danielle, but seems only interested in the scene making the film marketable. During filming, he expresses disgust at the actress' minor physical flaws and seems to think that his own naked ass is what makes the scene sexy. Whether this is his sexuality or just his vanity is unclear.
    • During the lovemaking scene, Tommy seems to be completely unfamiliar with how to have sex with a woman. The crew remark at how he's thrusting at Juliette's navel.
    • When the cast members try to deconstruct whom each character represents in Tommy's real life, Robyn Paris suspects that Lisa represents "the world" rather than a previous girlfriend.
  • Anachronism Stew: A modern Jack in the Box restaurant sign can briefly be seen as Greg is driving before he comes across a billboard promoting The Room. Said logo was introduced in 2009, six years later.
  • Analogy Backfire/Dramatically Missing the Point: Tommy defends the abuse he gives his actors by comparing it favorably to Alfred Hitchcock throwing live birds at Tippi Hedren when making The Birds. He fails to realize, however, that (A) Hitchcock did this for one scene to get a specific reaction, not for the entire movie; (B) just being an asshole and screaming at everyone isn't the same as Enforced Method Acting; and (C) as Greg points out, people talk about what Hitchcock did because it was cruel, not because it was admirable.invoked
  • Anatomically Impossible Sex: Sandy points out that Tommy is simulating sex with Juliette's belly button. Tommy doesn't care. Juliette can't even clue him in on how ridiculous it looks.
  • And I'm the Queen of Sheba: When Tommy meets Greg's mom, she asks him how old he is. When he says he's Greg's age (nineteen), she sarcastically replies, "Yeah, I just turned fourteen." Tommy's response? "Wow, happy birthday."
  • Arbitrarily Large Bank Account: Wiseau himself. The bank teller even tells Sandy that Wiseau's bank account is like a bottomless pit. To the surprise of everyone, his checks all cleared and he has multiple apartments in at least two different cities (both of which have high real estate prices). This is despite him having no day job, no obvious family connections (to anyone), and few apparent skills. Wiseau rarely flaunts his wealth (mostly when things go pear-shaped on the set of The Room), lives modestly, and offers Greg Sestero the lion's share of his own home rent-free.
  • Arc Words: Tommy saying he wants his own planet. When he first tells Greg, it's a silly, almost childlike ambition that Greg humors him about. Later, when the shit starts to hit the fan during production of The Room, Tommy screams "You're on Tommy's planet now!"
  • As Himself: Bryan Cranston makes an appearance, offering Greg a minor role on Malcolm in the Middle. The film also opens with celebrity The Room fans J. J. Abrams, Ike Barinholtz, Kristen Bell, Lizzy Caplan, Keegan-Michael Key, Danny McBride, Adam Scott, and Kevin Smith talking about the legacy of the film.
  • Bad "Bad Acting": Required when you're starring in a movie about a movie with infamously bad acting. Some have even joked that James Franco's performance was too good for Tommy's performance when filming The Room. There's also an early moment where Sestero performs a scene from Waiting for Godot in his acting class; he is petrified with stage fright, and his partner is wooden as a board.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Tommy gets this during his second acting class where his teacher bluntly tells him that, based on how he looks, he is only suited to be cast as villains, much to the amusement of everyone else in the class. He takes this particularly hard, insisting that he is the hero and they are collectively the villain and storms out of the room.
  • Beauty Inversion: The handsome James Franco takes pains to look paler and more aged to play Wiseau. It helps that Wiseau himself wouldn't be bad-looking if he had a less creepy style and personality.
  • Berserk Button: Under normal circumstances, Tommy Wiseau comes across as a generous, if intense and very strange, man who would give the shirt off his back (and most of his apartment space) to a friend in need. However, he gets extremely upset if you ask about his mysterious past. He also has a bit of a Hair-Trigger Temper when things don't go his way.
  • Big Eater: Tommy is often seen eating from multiple plates of food at restaurants, usually pizza.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Tommy is distraught that people find his film horrible, but Greg insists that despite the movie's abysmal quality, it still makes people laugh and brings them happiness. Upon Greg's encouragement, he and Tommy return to the theater to thunderous applause, even if it was for all the wrong reasons. On the upside, the two become friends again and the movie ultimately profits after gaining a cult following.
  • Blatant Lies: Tommy doesn't even try to come up with plausible explanations for his past. He says he's Greg's age (he's clearly much older) and that he comes from New Orleans (his accent is ambiguous, but certainly not Cajun).
  • Break the Cutie: The good-hearted, naïve Greg is all smiles and humors Tommy throughout the whole ordeal of making the movie, but after costing him a potentially career-making guest spot on a well-regarded sitcom, abusing the whole cast and crew, going twenty days over-schedule with the shoot and indirectly convincing his girlfriend to leave him, he's understandably pissed. When Tommy makes him shoot a new scene in which he more or less congratulates himself for being the best thing that ever came into Greg's life, Greg finally loses patience and chews him out on-camera before quitting.
  • Brutal Honesty: This was the attitude of both the male acting teacher and the agent in the restaurant in dealing with Tommy, albeit the latter was a Jerkass to boot. Tommy also seems to think he has this attitude, but he takes it poorly when it's directed at him.
  • …But He Sounds Handsome: "So there this guy, Johnny. A true American hero. To be played by me. He has it all: good look, many friends..."
  • The Cameo:
    • Judd Apatow plays a nameless Hollywood producer Tommy harasses at a restaurant.
    • The real Tommy Wiseau appears as a partygoer called Henry in the stinger ... and ends up earning Franco!Tommy's ire when he tries to act buddy-buddy with him.
  • Captain Obvious: At the premiere, both Sandy and Tommy point out to the people next to them that Tommy got two logos for Wiseau Films. Sandy is unimpressed while Tommy is extremely self-impressed, and Greg tells him he noticed.
  • Caption Humor: The captions showing the time frame of the shoot starts at "Day 1 of 40" and eventually get to "Day 58 of 40."
  • Celebrity Paradox:
  • Central Theme: The Power of Friendship. The entire movie is about how Greg and Tommy's relationship reaches a breaking point while trying to film The Room and whether it's worth salvaging.
  • Character Exaggeration:
    • This fictionalized Tommy Wiseau is exaggerated from the one Sestero describes in the book; his English is even more broken and his lack of common sense goes a bit further, such as having Johnny do the "hump the dress" bit after shooting himself. It should be noted that this is an exaggeration of the real Wiseau's behavior, but not by much; if they're taking him up to eleven, the genuine article was already a ten. The film also shows that it is exaggerating nothing about The Room itself: there's a lengthy montage at the end comparing The Disaster Artist's near-perfect portrayal of the scenes as they exist in The Room.
    • Dan Janjigian and his Method Actinginvoked are also very slightly exaggerated from the book's portrayal.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Tommy's actions come across as utterly bizarre, such as insisting he have his own private bathroom on set (which consists of a toilet behind a curtain) when there are perfectly good toilets on set and using a set of an alleyway instead of a conveniently placed and identical actual alleyway. After he makes his limo driver drive past the premiere crowd and circle around for another pass because "there's not enough people" and "movie stars always arrive last", Sandy notes at the premiere that by that point, it would be weird if Tommy didn't do something weird.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: It's implied that several of the crew members at the premiere aren't just laughing at how bad the movie is so much as thrilled at their abusive former boss making an idiot out of himself and eventually killing himself on screen.
  • Composite Character:
    • Sandy Schklair is combined with Byron, a stagehand whom Greg came to call the "director of yelling", who started doing Sandy's job once Sandy started phoning it in and, eventually, quit when a better opportunity came up. Sandy is seen working and commenting on the suicide and sex scenes, when according to the book the real Schklair had left the production before those scenes were filmed. He's even at the premiere of the movie, whereas the book says explicitly that he wasn't invited.
    • Kyle Vogt (Peter) is merged with his replacement Greg Ellery (Steven). Kyle is present for the entire film, when in reality, he had already left before the birthday party scene was filmed, and Ellery had to replace him.
    • Greg Sestero's schedule conflict is also a nod to Kyle Vogt's in the book. The difference being that Greg was forced to stay on The Room while Kyle managed to get out.
    • And in the same vein as those two, director of photography Raphael Smadja is combined with his replacement, Graham Futerfas, who was himself replaced by the film's actual credited DP, Todd Barron. Unlike the above two, Raphael leaving the production and being replaced (directly by Todd in the film's case) is retained. Since the events of Graham's tenure were essentially a repeat of Raphael's (with the notable exception of Graham directly calling out Tommy's lying when he quit; this is replaced by Raphael calling out Tommy on his treatment of the cast and crew and threatening to quit, but deciding against it), it makes sense to leave him out for narrative purposes.
  • Compressed Adaptation:
    • Though the film adds some scenes not present in the memoir (an invented physical fight between Greg and Tommy as well as the actual premiere of the film), a few plot points had to be adapted out for length:
      • Greg's French background and Tommy's coinciding hatred of all things French is adapted out, with his real-life French mother an American in the film (she's played by Megan Mullally, an American woman of Irish, Scandinavian and English descent). Additionally, Greg did land a few roles and small parts (his most prominent one helped by his skills with French), but the film omits his other projects, brushing off his modelling work with one line and his lead role in Retro Puppet Master, to streamline his decision to joining Tommy's production.
      • There were far, far, far more ridiculous antics that went on during the production of The Room, including several walkouts and turnovers as well as Mark's original actor (who Tommy conspired to remove from the role so Greg could portray him), but filming them all would require another adaptation in itself (as well as likely making Tommy beyond sympathy or redemption), so the film chooses a few key scenes to establish Tommy's belligerent incompetence.
      • In the book, Greg proposes a backstory for Tommy that may or may not be what happened to him in real life, one that's interwoven in flashbacks between antics on The Room in its final days. The film omits this entirely and chooses not to theorize on Tommy's past. The film also omits a strange and possibly suicidal episode that Tommy went through while he and Greg were estranged.
    • The road trip to James Dean's death site happened after Tommy and Greg knew each other for a few weeks in the book. Here, it happens after one practice session.
  • Conversational Troping: Being a movie about the making of a movie, this happens several times.
    • Aborted Arc: The revelation that Claudette has breast cancer goes nowhere. The actress herself asks if comes back up and Tommy insists it's a Plot Twist somehow.
    • Full-Name Basis: It's questioned why "Chris-R" must be called that rather than simply "Chris" but Tommy refuses to change it.
    • Idealized Sex: At least for Tommy, he passionately believed that his butt needed to be seen on camera during the sex scene, which was ironically not only Nausea Fuel for almost everyone on set (and the audience when they see the movie) but they still noticed he was at the wrong angle and "having sex with her belly button."invoked
  • Cringe Comedy:
    • In-Universe. Juliette Danielle buries her face in her hands while watching her sex scene with Tommy, occasionally looking up to say, "Oh my God, it's still going."
    • The film itself veers into this at times. Try not to cringe whenever Tommy makes a scene in a public setting, fumbles his way through directing or dances like a madman in a club.
    • Best exemplified in the auditions for Lisa, where Tommy makes a series of increasingly horrifically stupid and sexist suggestions.
  • Damned by Faint Praise: This effect is clear when Greg and the crew members applaud Tommy enthusiastically when he gets his first scene right after what seems like endless takes.
  • Dead Artists Are Better: Tommy holds a number of deceased film stars, as well as Tennessee Williams, in high regard (and believes he'll be as great as they were). Greg has similar regard for James Dean.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Sandy, mostly in response to Tommy's off-kilter antics.
    Sandy: If you're gonna writhe around with the dress, maybe do it before you shoot yourself in the head and blow your brains out.
  • Decomposite Character: Jean Shelton's comments (especially "What are you trying to do?") were given to the teachers at the second acting school Tommy attends, and one noted as a shoddy "tourist trap" in the book.
  • Demoted to Extra: Todd Barron, who was the director of photography for one-third of The Room's production and the one to get credited as such, appears only very briefly in the film as a second-unit photographer, as the film's version of Raphael Smadja stays on board until principal photography is over rather than quitting a third of the way through.
  • Description Cut: Greg and Amber tell Tommy that Greg is moving out, and they think it went pretty well. And cut to outside, where Tommy's throwing a mailbox and shouting like a lunatic (in a manner reminiscent of The Room's famous scene where he throws the TV).
  • Despair Event Horizon: At the premiere, Tommy is forced to listen to everybody in the theater laugh their asses off at the ridiculousness of The Room. As the laughs start getting louder, Tommy just slumps down in his seat when he realizes what's happening.
  • Determinator: Tommy actively seeks to be hired by an agent and goes to the length of interrupting a producer's dinner to audition to him in the middle of the restaurant.
    Producer: It's not gonna happen for you. [...] Not in a million years.
    Tommy: ... But after that?
  • Epic Fail: The production is made of this. The first scene Tommy shoots where he's on camera, wherein he forgets his self-written dialogue sixty-six times, is just the greatest offender.
  • Erotic Eating: During the Terrible Interviewers Montage, Tommy asks an actress to simulate different ways of licking an ice cream. Her response is to ask if they were casting for an adult movie.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Tommy absolutely butchering the "Stella!" scene from A Streetcar Named Desire in Greg's acting class, complete with him climbing up the wall for no reason and then writhing violently on the floor. Everything you need to know about Tommy — his love of classic movie stars like Brando and James Dean, his bizarre appearance, behavior, and voice, his total obstinacy to logic and the rules of the material world, his delusions of brilliance and sheer lack of talent — are right there on display for all to see.
  • Fan Disservice: James Franco may be better-looking than Tommy Wiseau, but we still didn't need to see his rear end.
  • Fanservice: Invoked. Tommy claims that his showing his ass will help to sell the movie. It got the opposite effect.
  • Fantasy-Forbidding Father: A Gender-Inverted Trope as it's Greg's mother, as in the book and life.
  • The Film of the Book: For The Disaster Artist, which itself is a book of a film.invoked
  • Foregone Conclusion: The Room was made and it was terrible, but it managed to bring people joy and give Tommy and Greg a whole plethora of fans.
  • Friendship Moment: Tommy inviting Greg on stage after the movie's premiere.
  • Gangsta Style: As in The Room, Chris-R is holding his gun sideways when threatening Denny.
  • Giftedly Bad: Tommy in a nutshell — he insists that he could be a great actor if just given a chance, but nobody wants to hire him because he can't act to save his life, refuses to acknowledge the existence of his thick accent, and is frequently inappropriate even when he tries (for instance, reciting Shakespeare badly, and loudly, in a high-end restaurant to a short-fused producer in the middle of having his dinner). Compounding things is that he seems to have never heard of stars like James Dean before Greg mentions him, and behind his back some of the crew wonder if he has ever even seen a movie before in his life (he has, of course, and he saw at least one with Greg in the film, but his film literacy is rather eclectic). He also refuses to play to his strengths and become a quirky character actor, seeing himself only as the hero. Both he and Greg (who has some talent, though lacks the drive and passion to bring it out fully) are also told repeatedly that even if they do have the ability, it's still at least a Million to One Chance that they will succeed, yet Tommy refuses to face reality on this point.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: The film primarily blames Wiseau and Sestero's estrangement on Wiseau feeling more and more jealous of Sestero's relative success in life. At one point, Wiseau reacts like a jilted lover when Sestero tells him he is moving in with his girlfriend Amber. This was the case in real life, especially when Greg got SAG-AFTRA status.
  • Gretzky Has the Ball: When they play football in the park, Tommy simulates a field goal but calls it a touchdown. Greg decides to run with it.
  • Her Code Name Was "Mary Sue": As in Real Life, Wiseau's movie feels Sueish; the actors even openly speculate that all the characters are based on his own real-life relationships. Robyn, Michelle's actress, speculates Lisa is a personification of how the world has treated Tommy.
  • Heroic BSoD: During the auditions for Lisa, Tommy tells one woman that they will have to make out.invoked Her response is a bug-eyed, horrified shriek that gets louder and louder...
  • High Hopes, Zero Talent: Averted. Tommy is Giftedly Bad, never notices how bad of an actor he is, and never tries to improve, refusing to face reality.
  • Hope Spot: Despite Tommy's eccentricities and some of his questionable creative choices, things don't go too badly at the start of shooting, with the Denny and Chris-R scene and Mark's rooftop confrontation with Peter seemingly going pretty well. Then Tommy shoots his first scene, namely the "I did not hit her" sequence, and things go swiftly downhill from there. And continue to do so throughout the rest of the shoot.
  • Hypocritical Humor: In The Stinger, Tommy wonders what strange friends Greg has when meeting the real Tommy Wiseau.
  • Important Haircut: When Greg asks to delay production so he can keep his beard on, Tommy mentions that the shaving was important for the character's big entrance at the beginning of the third act.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Many of Wiseau's directing decisions run on this. Why did Tommy build an exact replica set of a nearby alleyway when they could just film in the actual alleyway? "Because, it's real Hollywood movie." Given that he'd made a deal with the film crew to shoot as much of the scenes as possible within their studio, he probably took it too literally.
  • It Will Never Catch On: Well, The Room certainly didn't catch on in the way that anyone expected it to, but mid-production, Sandy comments that he's relieved that the film is apparently doomed to remain obscure.
  • Jerkass: Tommy. Even though the movie portrays him as still human, he can be seen as a self-obsessed eccentric.
  • Lighter and Softer: Than the book.
    • Greg was already pretty fed up by Tommy even before The Room started.
    • Tommy wrote The Room while in a borderline suicidal funk.
    • By the time The Room started, Greg's relationship with his girlfriend had already deteriorated.
  • Loony Fan: Tommy Wiseau is clearly this for his deceased movie idols.
  • Making the Masterpiece: Technically an inversion, since it dramatizes the production of a movie widely recognized as So Bad, It's Good.invoked
  • Manchild: Tommy is this to the nth degree. He collects random knickknacks, throws tantrums when he doesn't get his way, is jealous when his best friend finds a life outside of himself, and has No Indoor Voice nor subtlety in creative writing.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Deconstructed. Greg is charmed by Tommy's devil-may-care attitude and resourcefulness, but once Tommy convinces Greg to come with him to Hollywood, Tommy is revealed to be lacking the skills and knowledge to get any further. His flamboyance and assertiveness are shown to impress nobody in an industry where a professional attitude means everything.
  • Meta Casting: Bryan Cranston was explicitly cast in a cameo As Himself to play with the idea of the movie also being a Period Piece. Due to Pop-Cultural Osmosis, Cranston is best known for his leading role as Villain Protagonist Walter White in Breaking Bad. When this movie was taking place, Bryan Cranston was best known in the public as the father, Hal, in sitcom Malcolm in the Middle.
  • Method Acting: invokedChris-R's actor can be seen remaining in character until his scenes have finally been completed. Of course, he plays such a convincing thug that he truly terrifies Denny's actor during their scene together.
  • Misaimed Fandom: invokedTommy and Greg bond by sharing their favorite movies and actors with each other, and specifically bring up James Dean and his ability to convey raw emotion. In response to Tommy's talk about wanting to be like him, Greg points out that he died young in a car crash. At several points in the movie, Tommy tries to emulate what he thinks makes a "real Hollywood movie" rather than understanding how Hollywood movies are made. The biggest example is where he talks of Alfred Hitchcock harassing his actors and thinks being a Prima Donna Director is what makes good movies, missing that Hitchcock was trying to get an appropriate performance from his actors within the context of the movie. Tommy was just yelling and screaming at everyone.
  • Movie-Making Mess: Part of the amusement value from this story is the fact that Tommy seemed to have more than enough money to fund a respectable independent film, as they had an experienced crew and filmed on soundstages with green screen, and it's said that when all was done the movie cost $6 million (even micro-budget movies would love to work with six hundred thousand). The movie looks like it had invokedNo Budget because of a lot of absurd creative decisions, from using both film and digital HD cameras simultaneously, buying the equipment rather than renting it and filming on sound stages with green screen instead of actual locations. Tommy suddenly gets cheap halfway through filming, refusing to pay for air conditioning or even bottled water, which is mentioned to be illegal.
  • Mysterious Past: Three major questions about Tommy Wiseau — what country he's from, how old he is, and how he made his money — are asked several times in the movie, and never answered.
  • Naked People Are Funny: Played straight at first when Tommy shows up to an open set nearly naked, then becomes subverted when he starts humiliating Juliette and rages at the crew for making fun of him behind his back.
  • Nice Guy: Greg Sestero is a very kind and loyal friend. He is the only one to befriend an obviously lonely Tommy, sticks with him through thick and thin in their attempt to get famous in LA, and is 100% behind what is obviously a total disaster of a film out of the sheer idealism of trying to help a friend realize his dream. He sticks around The Room, even as Tommy abuses everyone, because he believes in the film.
  • Nice to the Waiter: The producer whom Tommy approaches in the restaurant is an inversion. After Tommy is kicked out, he snaps at the maître d' for not acting faster.
  • Nipple and Dimed: Unlike the movie, Juliette Danielle's breasts are covered by a Modesty Bedsheet during the filming of her sex scene. Tommy also wears a sock on his crotch.
  • No Indoor Voice: Tommy likes to read out lines in public places. This helps Greg get over his stage-fright, but also gets him kicked out of a restaurant later on.
  • No Sympathy: With no water or air conditioning on set, Greg and the actors naturally complain to Tommy about the stressful working conditions, to no avail. Carolyn then passes out from the heat, and Tommy just walks out of the room.
  • "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer: The film demonstrates how it didn't exaggerate any of The Room itself by showing side-by-side comparisons at the end.
  • Ominously Open Door: Greg stops in his tracks when he comes home to his and Tommy's apartment and sees door ajar. He rushes in but can't find Tommy who went to the rooftop.
  • Only Sane Man: Sandy Schklair is the only one to point out loud the obvious mistakes the movie's Wiseau makes during filming.
  • Overly Long Gag: "I did not hit her. It's not true. It's bullshit. I did not hit her. I did not. Oh hi Mark." (Take 67.)
  • Parody Retcon: invokedTommy claims that he always intended The Room to be a comedy after the laughter-filled premiere and his Despair Event Horizon. Truth in Television as the real Tommy belatedly claimed that it was intended as a Black Comedy even though Greg assures that he had taken it very seriously as a straightforward romantic drama.
  • Pointy-Haired Boss: Everyone that Tommy hires for his film is infinitely more qualified and rational than he, but he's the one in charge, and they just go along with whatever he wants whenever he isn't being too much of a Jerkass.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: The movie primarily focuses on Tommy and Greg's relationship and either truncates, excludes or invents certain details to translate better to the screen. Rather than getting a decent start and then fizzling out, Greg is just as starved for work as Tommy. He stays on the movie purely to support his friend rather than because he could really use the money, allowing him to have a Second-Act Breakup with Tommy which by all accounts never happened, as well as the fact that he was credited as line producer despite never holding that position. The in-universe film ending also implies that The Room's So Bad, It's Goodinvoked reputation and both Greg and Tommy fully embracing it began at its premiere, whereas the book simply ends with a Foregone Conclusion as the lights go down just as the movie is starting.
  • Prima Donna Director: Tommy insists that all the greats were this way to justify his horrible behaviour on set, such as publicly berating his leading lady for her skin. The book makes it clear that he simply has a short fuse, while the film implies that Greg spending time with his girlfriend triggers Tommy's mood swings.
  • Race Lift: In real life, Bill Meurer, the owner of Birns & Sawyer, is white. He is played by black actor Hannibal Buress in the movie.
  • Rage Breaking Point: When Tommy writes a new scene for him and Greg for no other reason than to pat himself on the back for being such a good friend (shortly after forcing Greg to give up a television role and driving away his girlfriend), Greg finally gets fed up and presses all Tommy's berserk buttons while calling him out on all his bullshit.
  • Real Footage Re-creation: The film recreates several shots from The Room from a behind-the-camera perspective.
  • Real-Person Cameo: Tommy Wiseau appears in The Stinger in a Paper-Thin Disguise.
  • Real-Person Epilogue: The film ends with clips of Wiseau after The Room became famous, as well as a side-by-side comparison of famous The Room scenes and their reenactments in this film.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: The producer in the restaurant verbally eviscerates Tommy for embarrassing him, briefly crushing his dream in the process.
  • Rule of Symbolism: After falling out with Tommy, Greg plays Biff in a production of Death of a Salesman. Biff spends most of the play trying to convince his father Willy to give up his deluded ambitions, but Willy constantly misinterprets or disregards his warnings and continues down his destructive path. A fitting parallel to Greg's own relationship with Tommy.
  • Sarcasm-Blind: When Tommy first picks up Greg from his mother's house in 1998, after she asks him to confirm that he is Greg's age (nineteen years old) and he, of course, can't, she says:
    Mrs. Sestero: Yeah. I just turned fourteen.
  • Satellite Love Interest: Greg's girlfriend Amber doesn't have much screentime, and mainly serves as a source of conflict between him and Tommy.
  • The Scream: One of the unfortunate auditioners for Lisa snaps into a horrified shriek when Tommy tells her they'll have to make out as part of her audition.
  • Shout-Out: Made part of the plot, too, since both Tommy and Greg have high benchmarks to which they are trying to achieve in Hollywood. Here's a longer list.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Somewhere in the middle for the most part until the end where it becomes more idealistic and heartwarming.
  • So Bad, It's Goodinvoked: The ultimate reception that The Room receives. After getting over the initial shock of the movie being a laughingstock, Tommy embraces it for what it is and receives a standing ovation.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: During the inaugural screening of The Room, the soundtrack clashes with Tommy's demeanor. He goes from feeling humiliated during the scene with upbeat music to feeling proud by the Downer Ending, which uses angst-ridden music.
  • Start My Own: If no one will give Tommy and Greg a role, they'll just make their own movie! Surely that'll solve all their struggles!
  • Stating the Simple Solution:
    Sandy: This set of the alleyway looks exactly like the real alleyway.
    Tommy: That's right! That's what we do in Hollywood movie, right?
    Sandy: Well, why don't we just shoot it in the real alleyway?
    Tommy: [After a Beat] Because, it's real Hollywood movie!
  • Stepford Smiler: Greg in the scene where Mark is clean-shaven. He'd lost the chance to work with Bryan Cranston and his girlfriend was clearly planning to break up with him. It's little wonder that he can't give a proper "cheep-cheep".
  • The Stinger: A post-credits scene features a Real-Person Cameo by Tommy Wiseau himself.
  • Stylistic Suck: The text graphics in the posters and trailers are intentionally cheaply made, just like The Room's own cheap text graphics.
  • Sure, Let's Go with That: After everyone at the premiere laughs through his tragic love story, Tommy thanks them for enjoying his comedy. "Exactly how I planned it."invoked
  • Take That!: The producer Tommy accosts is bashing The Phantom Menace while eating.
  • Tantrum Throwing: Tommy picks up a newspaper box and throws it into the street, then takes some newspapers from a different box and throws them into the street, after Greg tells him he's moving out.
  • Terrible Interviewees Montage: Inverted: The interviewers are terrible, giving vague or ridiculous acting directions to the poor auditioners. Greg seems to be having fun, though.
  • There Is Only One Bed: Tommy tries this on Greg, who expresses reluctance, if not downright balking at the idea. He laughs it off and claims that he was joking.
  • Time Skip: The movie skips eight months ahead from production in October 2002 to the movie's premiere on June 27, 2003.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: When Tommy is eating something, it's almost always pizza, and when he's drinking something, it's almost always Red Bull.
  • Tranquil Fury: Greg as he's being forced to shave his beard for the "football in tuxedos" scene, which costs him a once-in-a-lifetime spot on Malcolm in the Middle.
  • Troubled Productioninvoked: A film production of an infamous one, The Room itself.
  • Undying Loyalty: Greg to Tommy. He gives up a potential Star-Making Roleinvoked in a TV show to help his friend make his dream, even if it's obvious it's terrible.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Tommy views everyone around him as this when they don't bend to his will. The reality is the exact opposite as Tommy is shown to be unappreciative of the cast and crew's efforts. For instance, he states that Greg is the only one who cares about this movie shortly after making them go through 67 takes of the same shot. He also gets defensive when they tell him they need water while filming in sweltering conditions. If anything, they're being waaay more patient than most cast and crew members would be under those conditions.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: Though Tommy claims he is from New Orleans, few people believe him. He gets especially uncomfortable when they say he sounds more eastern European. Most notably, during an audition where the casting director thinks the accent is an acting choice, on another reading Tommy tries to hide it but becomes even more difficult to understand.
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!
    • The default attitude of the film crew throughout The Room's production.
    • Greg's reaction to the famous billboard advertising the movie.
    • Greg says this after Tommy tells him that he's spent $5 million on production.
  • You No Take Candle: Tommy's English language skills are portrayed this way. He is actually not that bad in real life.