In 'Disaster Artist,' James Franco And Seth Rogen Honor A Hilariously Bad Cult Hit

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

In 2003, an obscure, independent film called "The Room" opened in movie theaters here in LA. It was intended to be a serious melodrama about friendship, love, betrayal. Instead, it was shockingly bad - a baffling storyline, uncomfortably long romantic scenes and the acting. "The Room" was a cinematic disaster - a hilarious cinematic disaster.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE ROOM")

TOMMY WISEAU: (As Johnny) Oh, hi, Mark. God.

You betrayed me. You're not good. You're just a chicken - cheep, cheep, cheep, cheep, cheep, cheep, cheep.

You are tearing me apart, Lisa.

GREENE: OK. That is the voice of the romantic lead, Tommy Wiseau. He also directed and produced and wrote "The Room." And it turns out Wiseau, with his hulking physique and his long mane of jet-black hair and his indistinguishable accent, well, he inadvertently sparked a cult phenomenon. So when comedy duo James Franco and Seth Rogen heard about it, they knew they had to make a movie about the movie.

SETH ROGEN: I think consistently very few things are funnier than a bunch of people really trying hard and treating something with very high stakes that is ultimately incredibly dumb.

GREENE: Their new film is called "The Disaster Artist," and it's based on a tell-all book co-authored by one of "The Room's" stars. Now, James Franco, he kind of became obsessed with "The Room." It was partly the cult-like quality of this thing. Over the years, people have flocked to midnight screenings. There have been roaring sold-out crowds.

JAMES FRANCO: It's an event. It's an event.

GREENE: It's an event.

ROGEN: Yeah. It's like the modern, like - it's like a "Rocky Horror Picture Show" type thing, yeah.

GREENE: Well, Seth Rogen, can you - I'm wondering if you're going to be the voice of reason here. This is seen as such a horrible movie. Like, did you see the Hollywood story and the appeal that James was seeing?

ROGEN: At first, I think my instinct was that maybe, like...

FRANCO: James is too excited.

ROGEN: No, it - well, I wanted to make sure that - to me, what became the most entertaining idea, honestly, is we put a huge amount of thought into it (laughter).

FRANCO: Yeah.

GREENE: And James Franco sure did put a lot of thought into it, and I want to make sure you're following us here. In the new movie, James Franco is playing this eccentric dude who's making a bad movie. Seth Rogen is playing his script supervisor. And if these guys were trying to recreate this disaster, well, I think they kind of nailed it.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE DISASTER ARTIST")

FRANCO: (As Tommy Wiseau) Let's go. Let's go, Sandy. Come on.

ROGEN: (As Sandy Schklair) All right, let's roll, set, ready and action.

FRANCO: (As Tommy Wiseau) What line? What is the line?

ROGEN: (As Sandy Schklair) I did not hit her. It's not true.

GREENE: All right, and here's where it gets even wackier. James Franco directs this new movie as well, and he was driving everyone absolutely crazy on set because he refused to break out of character.

FRANCO: He could not be in the same room with me.

ROGEN: No, I couldn't deal with it.

FRANCO: (Laughter) Like...

ROGEN: I just couldn't stop laughing because it was, like, you looked insane. You were - it was just crazy. Like...

GREENE: Why were you so determined to stay in that character, James?

FRANCO: I think it really helped the vibe on set, you know, because, like...

ROGEN: Yeah, it did. It made it so weird, but it also gave everyone a taste of what it would feel like to work on a movie directed by Tommy (laughter).

GREENE: I just - for people who don't know this whole cult classic, I want to just play a quick scene. This is from the real movie "The Room," and it's a mundane scene where Tommy is going to buy a dozen red roses.

ROGEN: Oh, God.

FRANCO: The most famous scene.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE ROOM")

WISEAU: (As Johnny) Hi.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: (As character) Can I help you?

WISEAU: (As Johnny) Yeah. Can I have a dozen red roses, please?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: (As character) Oh, hi, Johnny. I didn't know it was you. Here you go.

WISEAU: (As Johnny) That's me. How much is it?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: (As character) It'll be $18.

WISEAU: (As Johnny) Here you go. Keep the change. Hi, doggie.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: (As character) You're my favorite customer.

WISEAU: (As Johnny) Thanks a lot. Bye.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: (As character) Bye-bye.

GREENE: Oh, wow. So that's Tommy playing Johnny, his character.

(LAUGHTER)

ROGEN: It's like each line systemically makes no sense.

(LAUGHTER)

ROGEN: Like, nothing anyone is saying pertains to anything else. It makes no sense.

GREENE: Let me just ask you guys this - I - this is really bad acting we just heard.

ROGEN: Yes.

GREENE: You guys presumably spend a lot of your life trying to be good actors. So...

ROGEN: I try really hard.

(LAUGHTER)

GREENE: How hard is it to try to act badly?

FRANCO: When you're playing parts that are bad - like, recreating really bad scenes, but they're very specific scenes...

ROGEN: Yeah.

FRANCO: ...And so in fact, the way to do it was to put as much care into accurately capturing - down to, like, the blink and the, you know, the head movement.

GREENE: So it takes good acting to totally, accurately recreate something like bad acting.

FRANCO: Yes, for sure.

GREENE: I mean, this - your movie is coming out in, you know, at a very particular moment in time in Hollywood. I mean, there's rightly all this attention on sexual harassment and worse. And, I mean, when you watch the original "Room," it's hard not to think that this guy was a total misogynist in many ways.

ROGEN: Oh, yeah. The movie is incredibly misogynistic.

FRANCO: Yeah.

ROGEN: And that is - that's a - I mean, yeah - and we don't shy away from portraying how that created a toxic work environment and how nightmarish it would have been and is on a lot of sets. I mean, I think we show it in its incredibly raw form. I think Tommy wasn't sexually interested in the women that he was degrading, but I think it was more just a power maneuver for him. Yeah, I mean, I think that it is a - I mean, we didn't know it at the time, but it is a very, like, real portrayal of the type of things that happen on a lot of movie sets I think.

GREENE: I just think about you guys - I mean, probably at some point in your lives, you could relate to struggling filmmakers, struggling actors. Is that the touchstone of what you wanted to do here? You know, say what you want to about this guy, he had a vision, and all these years later, like, for better or for worse, he's still out there.

FRANCO: There are a lot of things that we were going for, and a large chunk of this story is the struggle of - everybody that wants to be an artist, it's a universal struggle. I know what it was like to, you know, come to Hollywood, have these dreams, believe that, you know, movies and acting would, you know, save me and fulfill me and just wanting to do it with every fiber of my being and, like, devoting all of my life and time to that. I understand that feeling. And so part of it was a portrait of that, a portrait of a dreamer albeit through a weird, you know, wacky lens of Tommy Wiseau. I think people really somehow are getting in touch with the passion that is underneath it. The fact that Tommy put his heart and soul into it, that I think is the secret sauce animating all of this and keeping it alive.

ROGEN: Yeah.

GREENE: Seth Rogen and James Franco - their new movie is "The Disaster Artist." Guys, thanks a lot. It's been great talking to you.

ROGEN: Thank you.

FRANCO: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MLADEN MILICEVI'S "THE ROOM")

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