the disaster artist review

So how did you get hooked up with this project to start?

Neustadter: They came to us, which was really nice. They had read the book. Franco was like, ‘Let’s go, go, go, go!’ and they’re like, ‘You know what? Hold on. Let’s see if these guys want to do it.’ Because it was an adaptation, and I’m sure we probably had conversations with [producer James] Weaver or somebody, like, ‘We love Hollywood stories.’ And Franco is obsessed with old Hollywood stories, too. So it felt like a good marriage of the minds there.

Weber: But we really didn’t know. (To Scott) You and I always do a little film festival before we start writing anything, and we were watching and talking about movies that we love – Ed Wood, Boogie Nights, Sunset Boulevard, The Talented Mr. Ripley – as touchstones, and the first time we walked into Point Grey’s office to meet Seth and Evan and James Franco, those were the movies they were talking about. Right off the bat, they walked in and were talking about Ed Wood and Boogie Nights. We were like, ‘Cool. They have the same vision for this that we do.’

With actors like those guys, we normally associate them with a lot of improv. Did the cast generally stick closer to the script this time, or was there room to play around?

Neustadter: Probably a little bit of both. Certainly they were restricted in what they could do when they were recreating scenes from The Room, and it was so spot-on and so perfect. Then they would always do the takes that we would write, and then sort of try different things.

Weber: They would try some things, but they never wandered too far. It was interesting to talk to Brandan Trost, who’s the DP who has shot most of Seth and Evan’s other films, and he said, for him even, he really enjoyed this experience because of how close everyone stayed to the script. It allowed him to do more with the camera – which was sort of interesting. I’d never thought about that before. He said with a lot of their other movies, because there’s so much room for improv, ‘We’ll just put the camera here, we’ll do like one or two of what’s in the script and then really let people explore for like an hour and do crazy things and then find it in the edit later.’ But they really tried to stick closer to the script this time, which allowed a lot of people to do their jobs differently. Their approach to allowing so much improv really impacted many departments.

Neustadter: There would be a day, for example, when they were shooting the auditions [for The Room]. It was just their comedian friends coming down and that was so fun for us. Because we would write a thing, but we would be like, ‘There’s no way that whatever we write would be anywhere close to this.’

Weber: Totally.

What was the oddest bit of knowledge that you gleaned from watching that behind the scenes footage that was shot on the set of The Room?

Weber: I want to say – we will answer that – but from the beginning, we decided early on that The Disaster Artist was not going to be the Rosetta Stone of The Room. We weren’t trying to decipher and answer all of the questions. Not only that we didn’t want to, but we probably couldn’t anyway. (laughs) The thing we’ve learned about having anything to do with The Room is, you answer one question and it leads to eight more questions. So for us, it was less like, ‘Well, we have to make this an expose and like, who is really Tommy?’ If there was any bit of that in our movie, it’s really to service the tension and the friendship. That said, what did we learn that was weird?

Or maybe something that didn’t make it into the final cut of the movie that you were thinking about or maybe inspired by? Some little moment that we might not know about?

Neustadter: I’ll tell you a funny story from when we premiered it. Right before the premiere, Tommy and Greg are with us. I don’t think he had seen the final, final cut yet.

Micheal: He had only seen the work in progress.

Neustadter: And he’s pacing in the green room, and he’s nervous. And I’m thinking about it, like, ‘This is such a trip for this guy.’ So I was like, ‘Tommy, what are you feeling? What’s it like to be here?’ And he turns and he just said, ‘I’m not here. This is my ghost.’

[Stunned silence.]

Neustadter: And you’re like, ‘Right on. OK! Cool.’ That’s Tommy Wiseau.

Wow. Well, one of my other questions was ‘What’s your favorite Tommy Wiseau story?’ and it can’t top that.

Neustadter: Yeah, he’s a special guy. And he’s not putting on a thing. It’s just the way his brain thinks.

I went to the AFI Fest premiere last night and saw the film again. I love the movie – it’s one of my favorites of the year. And Dave Franco is so great in it. I think James does tremendous work, but the second time I was watching it, I was like, ‘Dave is incredible in a totally different kind of way.’

Weber: He really is the unsung hero performance. Because James’ performance is brilliant, and James’ performance is technical and big. It’s so interesting. But Dave has to play this sort of babe in the woods, but you have to believe that he would go along for the ride. That he would hitch his wagon to that and then stay in it. And then he has to make such a hard choice. Tommy’s pretty consistent up until the end when he shares some credit with Greg –

Neustadter: And I think you can see the motivation. Whereas the Greg motivation starts to get really foggy. It’s like, ‘Why, dude? Why?’ You want to shake him out of it.

Weber: But that’s what Dave brings! There’s a humanity there that Dave finds in Greg where you start to understand, ‘I’m stuck in this. I have to see this through. Partly because I’m in so deep, but partly because I do owe this guy.’

Neustadter: You feel bad. He feels guilty.

Weber: It’s so human.

Neustadter: He’s in a spot.

Seeing the real Greg and Tommy at the premiere last night, I noticed the height difference was reversed from the James and Dave. I don’t know how that might have impacted you guys –

Neustadter: We were sent the book, and it was like, ‘I’m playing Tommy and my brother is playing Greg.’ And we knew to write to that. If we had one thing we were not going to worry about, it would be that.

Weber: But it’s OK, because Tommy is such a larger than life figure, and Greg is sort of more low key. Greg feels like a California guy. He’s really chill and kind of quiet, and Tommy’s this force of nature. So it’s almost as if the height that we have in The Disaster Artist represents that a little bit.

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The Disaster Artist is in theaters now.

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