Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero's friendship is not a typical Hollywood origin story. The two became infamous for a movie considered among the worst ever made, and after Sestero's autobiographical book, The Disaster Artist, was adapted into a big screen hit, the pair have become more famous than ever. The only thing as unlikely as their partnership, which they have shared with the whole world, is where it has led them.
Their latest chapter is the Sestero-penned Best F(r)iends. The two-part film--Volume One is now available on iTunes--is a surreal, unsettling, black comedy arthouse movie about a drifter who gets a job offer from a weird mortician with a strange collection. The two men become close, but experience some major trust issues after their unusual business brings them to some bizarre places. Sounds familiar, right?
For anyone simply expecting The Room part two, the new film will likely come as a surprise. "The movie was made with the hope and the intention that it would be a new ride and a new journey that fans and moviegoers could dig into," Sestero says. Unlike their first unforgettable movie, which was written, directed, and produced by Wiseau, Best F(r)iends is Sestero’s story, directed by Justin MacGregor. Also, it is definitely not a disaster. Some audience members will love it while others will be confused, but it’s a comedy that's weird by design. Despite its strange premise and bizarre characters--each of which plays to their strengths as performers--the film feels inspired by what we know of their actual relationship. Based on what we know from the The Disaster Artist and beyond, a direct line connects the beginnings of their friendship to many of the events of this film.
In a phone conversation with both actors, we discussed how this movie was shaped by who they were and who they have become during the spans of their career and friendship. At this point they both sound pretty comfortable with themselves and their careers. Even after 15 years together their partnership is buoyed by a genuine respect. Wiseau sums it up with casual wisdom: "friendship is friendship."
What it was like filming a movie together now when you have achieved a cult icon status?
Greg Sestero: This time around, it felt really natural. The Room wasn't really on my mind as we were making this film. I was very much into this bizarre world of creating something totally different. We were making it on the fly. It was personal, so I was more focused on trying to get this world and story told than thinking about the cult status of The Room. I know when I made The Room initially, obviously you don't know at the time what's going to happen or what you're making, and you're trying to assert yourself as an actor, so it definitely was a different feeling. But what was cool about doing it all these years later--we were just focused on making something, not trying to cater to fitting in to the legacy of The Room. We were trying to kind of break barriers, and go in a different direction.
Tommy Wiseau: Yeah. Same here. I think what I liked, the Best F(r)iends stand by itself, so you know, when you look at Disaster Artist, you see The Room, you see the Best F(r)iends, so all these three movies can stand by themselves. That's what I like. So definitely it was a challenge working with Greg and I think hopefully we will make more movies.
How would you say your working relationship has changed over the past 15 years?
TW: I don't see any change to be honest with you, because you know we have great respect. You know, what I do today; what I did 15 years ago, it's the same. I think 15 years ago we were friends traveling, now we travel slightly differently, but it's the same thing. Maybe the fans will change because you know people get crazy for The Room, but overall I don't see any change.
GS: In making Best F(r)iends I was a little bit more comfortable. A little bit more at ease I should say. I think once you've had a little bit of experience and you've gone through what it takes to make a film--I think the chemistry and the comedy, kind of the connection, was always there, but I think this time around I was able to enjoy it a little bit more. Especially with all the traveling and all the fun experiences Tommy and I have been through in front of an audience or on road trips. I think all of that was able to come to fruition in a way that I think was more watchable.
How was it different not being directed by Tommy? Not having Tommy do everything like he did with The Room?
GS: With The Room we worked together pretty closely in the sense we'd go to set together; we were very much involved in all the different aspects. And I think with Best F(r)iends we rehearsed every night on the phone going over each line of dialogue. Tommy had questions, he had suggestions. So we very much a kind of reversed these scenes and, because the way we know each other, a lot of that was very much like us directing these scenes. I think it was great that Tommy was able to focus on acting and have somebody be a neutral presence to see what was interesting and what could be tightened or improved. I thought the whole thing worked really well.
Tommy, did you prefer having somebody else direct, or was it a challenge to give up that kind of control?
TW: I'm not the control freak. I'm a professional actor. So any project that will come to me, especially with Greg, was a challenge for me because you know, any project is a challenge for actors. You have to understand the character, even those based on our lives and based on our trip, you know. I say for all the actors, typical actors want to work, and if you can be in good form that's your joy. It has nothing to do with control.
How much of the story for Best F(r)iends was influenced by your real life friendship?
GS: Yeah, there was a little trip Tommy and I took years ago up the California coast during which Tommy thought I was up to no good and their was some weird stuff going on, so that was definitely inspiration. When we first met--you saw this in The Disaster Artist--when I approached Tommy to do a scene together, his initial impression of me was that I was homeless, which I always thought was very funny. But at the same time it was in some ways true because I did need a place to stay. I was in a rut trying to go to LA and pursue what I wanted to. So I thought it'd be interesting to explore some of the untold parts of our friendship before and after Disaster Artist, just because there's been so many experiences to tie in. So yeah, there was definitely inspiration from real life experiences.
TW: What you see on Disaster Artist is a true story, but different events than what he presented the Best F(r)iends. So some of the trouble we have, James [Franco] did not capture. So it's not duplication, but maybe there's certain parallel what you as the audience see that--you know, I don't know. I'm just guessing at this point because, you know, friendship is friendship, but you know what I'm saying? So maybe you’re right, after all--there is certain parallel and in a sense feelings or emotion. And it says you as a friend, are you respectful towards your friend? Are you jealous? So what's the story with that? But the Best F(r)iends is slightly different because you know it's dealing with different subjects based on our trip and the real story too.
How do you hope fans of your works will react to this movie?
GS: One of the things I’ve learned is you can't really control what an audience is going to feel. I think it's fascinating to hear all kinds of responses. I think "surprise" is one that I hope people come away with. Obviously you want them to enjoy it and laugh, but really to just be ready to take a new adventure. You can't really ever recreate The Room. The Room was created with that intention, and that's why it is The Room. It's something that's totally different. I think it'd be great if all these years later fans could see this movie and feel like they took an original experience.
TW: If people get something unique from Best F(r)iends, it's great. And it also is the evidence for when two people get together again and do something for others, and that will be my joy, you know, and I don’t expect too much. That's how I am in life. But by the same token, if people enjoy and appreciate what Greg did and my performance, I will embrace it and that’s it.
Best F(r)iends: Volume One is available now on iTunes, and Volume Two premieres in Hollywood on September 28.