At this point, it’s a bona fide cultural phenomenon. Thirteen years after a lackluster opening weekend, The Room—lovingly known as “the Citizen Kane of bad movies”—now draws huge crowds in theaters all over America. Be advised that, if you attend a screening, there’s a good chance you’ll get hit with a barrage of fan-thrown plastic spoons. More on those after the jump.
1. IT WAS CONCEIVED AS A STAGE PLAY.
The Room sprung from the mind of Tommy Wiseau, its mysterious co-producer, screenwriter, director, and star. At first, he wanted it to be a play but decided that a feature film would be more profitable. Before tackling the script though, Wiseau turned his tale into a 500-page novel. “It’s the same story but it’s much more detail-oriented,” he told The Portland Mercury. What became of this tome? Wiseau says, “Eventually we will publish. I’m pretty sure, 100 percent.” Apparently, one publishing company has expressed an interest in putting it out—if he can reduce the length to 300 pages.
2. TOMMY WISEAU WANTED TO INCLUDE A FLYING CAR.
The main character in The Room is Johnny (Wiseau), a banker who loves tossing footballs, imitating chickens, and hanging out with his best buddy, Mark (played by Greg Sestero). But is there more to Johnny than meets the eye? In 2013, Sestero released The Disaster Artist, a tell-all book about The Room and its bizarre production. Inside, we learn that Wiseau often ambushed the crew mid-shoot with ideas for brand-new scenes. One of these—which was never filmed—would’ve involved Johnny’s car levitating up off his roof and into the sky. “It’s just possible side plot,” Wiseau elucidated. “Maybe Johnny is vampire.”
3. TO PREPARE FOR THE ROLE OF LISA, JULIETTE DANIELLE WATCHED EYES WIDE SHUT.
Throughout the film, Mark is having an affair with Johnny’s fiancée, Lisa. Originally, the part was given to an unidentified actress whom Wiseau later fired. Once she left, Danielle took over—even though she had already been cast as Michelle (Lisa’s best friend) when she was handed this very different character. To help her get inside Lisa’s head, Wiseau had the actress watch Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut—but he never explained why. “I still don’t know what he was trying to do there,” Danielle admitted.
4. THE ROOM’S INFAMOUS SPOON PICTURES WERE STOCK PHOTOS.
Johnny and Lisa really seem to like cutlery. For reasons the movie never makes clear, their apartment is decked out with pictures of spoons. These actually came with the frames that Wiseau’s team had bought to decorate the set. Instead of replacing the throwaway photos, he kept them in. Why? Sestero says that Wiseau just wanted to “get on with the filming” and didn’t think there’d be time to find new pictures. On the other hand, the director himself swears that these spoons have a deep symbolic purpose—namely, they represent America’s unhealthy dependence on disposable products.
In any event, whenever The Room is presented in theaters nowadays, those stock photos steal the show. Every time they appear, fans yell “Spoon!” and throw plastic ones at the screen.
5. GREG SESTERO INSISTED ON REMAINING HALF-CLOTHED DURING MARK AND LISA’S SEX SCENE.
“Tommy … definitely wanted to show some flesh,” Sestero told Rolling Stone. “I was like, ‘Uh, that’s not going to happen with me.’ So, luckily, he made the exception so I could have my jeans on.” When the movie later premiered, Sestero got up and left before the scene began. Even today, the actor claims that he can’t stomach this sequence—which oddly takes place on a spiral staircase. “It’s a part of the movie at which I always fast-forward or run for the exit because it’s just painful to watch.”
6. AN ALL-NEW CHARACTER WAS CREATED FOR THE CLIMAX BECAUSE ONE ACTOR LEFT EARLY.
The Room has a 97-minute runtime. “Steven”—a character who’s never referred to by name—doesn’t show up until the 76-minute mark. When he finally appears at Johnny’s climactic house party, the man repeatedly confronts Lisa about her affair. Because we’re never told who Steven is or how he knows any of the other guests, his sudden arrival baffles viewers.
Originally, he wasn’t in the script. Instead, his lines were supposed to be delivered by an established character named Peter. A psychologist played by Kyle Vogt, Peter makes several appearances in the movie’s second act—and even gets into a shoving match with Mark over Lisa’s two-timing ways. Unfortunately, prior engagements forced Vogt to leave The Room before it finished filming. Wiseau’s solution? Cut out Peter and give his lines to a never-before-seen character. After a casting call, Wiseau hired Greg Ellery, telling him, “Peter left. Now you are like Peter, but you are Steven.”
7. TO PROMOTE THE MOVIE, WISEAU PERSONALLY SPENT $5000 PER MONTH—FOR FIVE YEARS—ON AN ENIGMATIC BILLBOARD.
There’s no shortage of odd sights in Hollywood, but this one really stood out. Perched on the west side of Highland, a cryptic billboard spent half a decade advertising The Room. Being a man of means, Wiseau paid for it himself. Design-wise, this thing was rather straightforward. The sign mainly consisted of a scowling Johnny close-up with a plug for the movie’s official website. Far more intriguing to most passersby was its location: Just a few blocks away stands the Dolby Theatre, home of the Academy Awards ceremonies. As The Room’s cult following grew, the sign became a minor landmark of sorts. Then, long after Wiseau had the image removed in 2008, Sestero advertised The Disaster Artist on this exact same billboard.
8. THE ROOM’S ORIGINAL RUN ONLY MADE $1900.
On June 27, 2003, Wiseau’s masterpiece arrived in theaters—two of them, to be precise. The Room’s initial run was confined to the Laemmle Fallbrook and Fairfax cinemas in Los Angeles. By the time it was pulled from both just 14 days later, the film had grossed a meager $1900. Yet, all was not lost. B-movie history was about to intervene.
9. ONE CINEPHILE ALMOST SINGLE-HANDEDLY KICKED OFF THE ROOM’S CULT FOLLOWING.
One of the few people who saw the film during that two-week original run was screenwriter Michael Rousselet. At an “absolutely empty” theater, he found himself enthralled by The Room and its mesmerizing, laugh-out-loud ineptitude. Toward the end of the film, Rousselet started ringing his friends and telling them “You have to come see this movie.” Three days later, he’d amassed a crowd of more than 100 people. Many emailed Wiseau to personally thank him for his work. Encouraged, the director set up an encore, midnight showing at Laemmle. The turnout exceeded even his wildest expectations and—without hesitation—Wiseau arranged to have it screened monthly.
10. WISEAU HAS RETROACTIVELY CALLED THE ROOM A DARK COMEDY.
To hear Wiseau tell it, the film was supposed to be a humorous, tongue-in-cheek farce all along—which means that The Room’s narrative blunders, according to Wiseau, were deliberate. Yet an anonymous cast member disputed this claim in a 2008 conversation with Entertainment Weekly. “He was trying to put together a drama,” claimed the source. “It was basically his stage to show off his acting ability.”
11. JAMES FRANCO JUST MADE A MOVIE ABOUT THE ROOM—AND WISEAU MIGHT HAVE A CAMEO.
Scheduled for release sometime this fall, The Masterpiece is a big-budget film adaptation of The Disaster Artist. James Franco is directing and will also be playing Wiseau—and, evidently, he got to share a scene with the man himself. “Tommy was involved contractually,” Franco said. “We had to give him a cameo opposite me which was very weird because I was playing him. I don’t know if that’ll end up in the movie or not, but it was a surreal experience.”