Oh, Hi Mark: An evening with Greg Sestero of “The Room”

Image via IMDB under Fair Use Policy

Image via IMDB under Fair Use Policy

Tara O’Donnell, Scarlet Staff

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“The Room” is among the worst films ever created. The glaring plot holes, catastrophic continuity errors, and awkward dialogue contribute to this overall disaster of a movie. Ironically, this is why it has received such high acclaim over the years. 

“The Room” has acquired a fanatical cult following since its debut in 2003. Interactive midnight screenings of the film, similar to The “Rocky Horror Picture Show” or David Lynch’s “Eraserhead”, are wildly popular throughout the US and beyond. Tommy Wiseau, the mastermind (writer, producer, actor) behind The Room, had initially intended for the film to be a striking and tragic romantic drama. The audience’s reaction, to say the least, was far from his expectation. The notoriety Wiseau had aimed for was earned, but for a much different reason than anticipated. He is now acknowledged by most as an artistic enigma who created a hilarious, confusing, and distinctly entertaining mess.

On September 26th, Cinema-Worcester hosted its own screening of “The Room” at the Sprinkler Factory. In the art gallery-turned-interim theater, veteran Wiseau fans and enthusiastic newbies gathered to hear “The Room” star Greg Sestero speak. Before the film, a brief behind-the-scenes documentary played and the first of the night’s many uproarious laughs were shared. In this short doc, actresses Juliette Danielle, Robyn Paris, former crew members, and various fans were interviewed about their experiences with the film. They relayed stories of Wiseau’s bizarre mannerisms on set and their (generally horrified) reactions to watching the movie for the first time. Sestero’s novel, “The Disaster Artist”, was also promoted throughout the doc. 

Soon, Greg Sestero, who portrayed Mark in “The Room”, took the stage to extensive applause. He appeared nearly identical to the character he portrayed 16 years ago; the blond, surfer-style hair, chiseled features, and all-American tan still present. He introduced himself and cracked a few jokes at Wiseau’s expense. Almost immediately, he reached out for volunteers to read with him from the film’s original script. A Lisa, Johnny, and narrator were quickly selected from the audience. Sestero read for Mark (of course). Their rendition of the selected scene was hilarious; the audience Johnny did an incredible impression of Wiseau, complete with his mysterious self-proclaimed “Cajun” accent. After the cold read, Sestero warmed the audience up for the film by suggesting some “midnight movie” interactions including his favorite: in the chaotic bedroom destruction scene, Wiseau knocks over a chest after pulling two of its drawers out and giving up on the third. Sestero invited the crowd to yell “One! Two! F**k it!” He then disappeared from the screening area before the show began. Later he explained that he has only seen the movie on 5 occasions, and he intends to keep it that way.

The screening was lively and raucous thanks to a very enthusiastic audience. By the time the credits rolled, thunderous applause and scattered hollers had erupted from the crowd. Sestero returned to the stage to answer questions and to give a more thorough description of his experience working on the movie. He maintained a humble and polite demeanor even during the “Ask Me Anything” portion of the program. The first question of the evening was in regards to his decision to star in the film despite knowing how poor the end product would be. “I wasn’t actually planning to act in the film. There was another actor cast as Mark,” he replied. The night before filming began, Wiseau had fired the original Mark and begged Sestero to take the role. He wanted the character to have a boy-next-door appearance, much like “Matt Damon in “The Talented Mr. Ripley”.”

Many of the questions were related to the incredibly uncomfortable and drawn-out sex scenes. One man asked why Wiseau had decided to use cheesy R&B for these frequent sequences. Sestero chuckled and explained how “Tommy really wanted Journey and Bon Jovi to play during those parts.” This remark earned laughter from the entire crowd. Sestero answered another question about his least favorite scene in the movie, which he immediately stated was “every sex scene. They seriously have no redeeming qualities.”

Sestero also described what led to his decision to write “The Disaster Artist” and his writing process with co-author Tom Brissell. As he wrote, he imagined each chapter of the novel playing out like a movie scene. He had cast Javier Bardem as Wiseau (“…after I watched “No Country for Old Men”, I just knew.”) and Ryan Gosling as Sestero. His interest in being portrayed by Gosling received undeserved giggles from the crowd. Sestero and Gosling really do have some strikingly similar features. He informed the audience that he enjoyed the film adaptation, but it was watered down to make some occurrences in the book seem less crazy. 

“The Room” has been described as “the best worst movie ever filmed.” It is a film that draws audiences closer through its complete ridiculousness and leaves them giddy about its many, many flaws. Sestero recognizes the poor quality of the film and the insanity of Wiseau, but embraces the weirdness and even still considers Wiseau a good friend. Sestero gave a wonderful presentation and shared some fascinating information. If you weren’t compelled to watch “The Room” before, you should be now!