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It’s been 15 years since Tommy Wiseau stormed the gates of Hollywood with The Room, the disasterpiece-turned-cult-classic that he wrote, produced, directed, and starred in alongside his real-life best friend, Greg Sestero. The so-called “Citizen Kane of bad movies” has only grown in popularity since then, continuing to play in sold-out theaters around the world and stoking fans’ desire for another Wiseau/Sestero collaboration. Those fans finally got their wish earlier this year when Best F(r)iends—the black comedy/drama written and produced by Sestero and starring him and Wiseau—was released in two separate volumes, the first of which hits digital retailers on Sept. 25.
The duo learned several valuable lessons while making the new films, in terms of both artistry and frugality. “We didn’t use two different formats, especially 35mm film!” Wiseau says with a laugh during a phone call in early September. He’s referring to his decision to shoot The Room on 35mm film and high-definition video at the same time, just one factor that led to him sinking $6 million into the movie. (He later scrapped the HD video.) But over the course of his battle for Hollywood acceptance, Wiseau’s learned more than just how to cut costs. “I would say we need the vision. So whatever people say to you is secondary. But if you have charisma and the passion, you can always accomplish,” he says.
Sestero agrees. “I just saw the power of what can happen if you just go out there and make something your passion,” he says. “I know Tommy and I have been a part of The Room for quite a while, but I also knew we had more to offer than that. And I think what’s great about the industry now is you can get your movie made and get it seen, I think, easier than what it used to be back in the day.”
Best F(r)iends marks Sestero’s debut as a writer and producer, and it follows the unlikely friendship and subsequent misadventures of Jon (Sestero), a Los Angeles vagrant, and Harvey (Wiseau), a mortician who’s hiding some unsavory details about his past. Sestero says the script was inspired by a road trip he and Wiseau took near northern California’s Bodega Bay in 2003. He doesn’t elaborate, but given some of the film’s plot points—selling gold fillings that Harvey’s collected from corpses over the years, Harvey’s concerning preoccupation with “the Black Dahlia”—perhaps that’s for the best.
Based purely on its two co-stars, Best F(r)iends was guaranteed to attract devotees of The Room, but Sestero also saw the film as an opportunity to highlight Wiseau’s dramatic acting skills. “I met Tommy in an acting class 20 years ago actually, which is crazy to say. But from the moment I saw him in that class, I thought, ‘Tommy, put him in the right role and he could really do something unique,’” Sestero says. “And I really felt, apart from The Room, that Tommy the actor hasn’t been really given a role that could really show what he can do. So this time around I thought, ‘It’s a great chance just to allow him to focus on acting.’”
For the auteur Wiseau, the opportunity to focus solely on acting was a turning point. “I was very surprised, but at the same token, I said, ‘Why not? Sure, let’s just do it.’ Because I do everything for acting,” he says. “And people did not realize I have background, I’m like a stage actor, you know? I did A Streetcar Named Desire, for example, I did Indians and other plays. But it was very cool to work with Greg, and we’ve been friends for many years, so it was no question of saying no.”
That’s not to say Wiseau didn’t play an active role in shaping his character, or that he shied away from offering his input during multiple scenes. “I think that I have a good chemistry with Greg, number one. Number two, you know, he asked me for it,” Wiseau says. “We have so many shoots of a clown for example. I don’t know, Greg, you wanna share the story about clown?”
Sestero laughs and recalls visiting an actual morgue around 3am one day during filming. (Wiseau provided most of his own wardrobe for those scenes.) “There was a scene that involved a clown that was in Tommy’s mortuary that got up. And this actor, in particular, Tommy thought it would be a good idea if the guy approached him and reached for him and then it was a cut,” Sestero explains. “But this guy, the actor who played the clown, full-on attacked Tommy and started choking him! It was the funniest thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life.”
Wiseau remains diplomatic about his on-set brush with danger. “I’m not here to criticize anyone. I would say actors always do good job, but he goes too much in a—and he did it twice, not once! He did it twice!” he exclaims. “The guy was very good guy who played clown, but he was too into like [theater practitioner Sanford] Meisner and others that he didn’t realize that he can actually hurt a person, you know? So I was like, ‘Oh my God, what is he doing?’ But that was a shocker. One of many stories.”
Speaking of stories: Best F(r)iends hit theaters just months after The Disaster Artist—the film adaptation of Sestero’s 2013 memoir of the same name starring the Franco brothers—debuted to widespread acclaim and eventually scored a Golden Globe for best actor – musical or comedy. Interest in the Wiseau/Sestero duo was at an all-time high, but Sestero says the timing was unintentional, as production on Best F(r)iends began in 2016.
“I had no idea, two years ago when we were making these, how [The Disaster Artist] was all gonna come together,” he says. “But I think, as you said, it is really good timing, ‘cause people have been introduced to this story. They kind of want to see what we can do now.” Wiseau sounds even more optimistic about the timing: “Is this a miracle? Is it coincidence? Is it planning? Whatever it is, I think it’s pretty good destiny. And we want to make more movies anyway.”
After 15 years, Wiseau and Sestero have solidified their status as Hollywood antiheroes, enduring tireless scorn in order to cultivate a loyal following. Now they get to enjoy the fruits of their labor, and they’re only interested in doing things their way from this point forward. “When you see your vision or your friend’s vision—in this case Greg, or my vision with The Room or whatever we did in the past 15 years—you realize that a certain trust exists,” Wiseau says.
That trust doesn’t come easy in the fickle entertainment industry, and after getting their hands dirty and playing by their own rules, the two best friends want to continue following their instincts. After all, they have a pretty strong track record.
“Through The Room I learned a lot as well, because initially a lot of people didn’t get it, or they’d make fun of me, or they’d say—they’d have all these comments,” Sestero says. “Then all of a sudden, people started loving The Room, and it’s still selling out across the world. And a lot of it goes to show, we don’t really know how an audience is gonna respond to things, and I think it was a testament to being original. And that taught me a lot as well—go out and try to make your own stuff because you don’t know how people are gonna respond to it.”
Bryan Rolli is a reporter who specializes in streaming entertainment. He writes about music and film for Forbes, Billboard, and the Austin American-Statesman. He met Flavor Flav in two separate Las Vegas bowling alleys and still can’t stop talking about it.