The Room is one of the best bad movies ever made. It’s a disaster of a film about a torrid love triangle between three friends, Johnny, Mark, and Lisa, written by a man who can barely speak English. It’s a movie where characters go from trying to throw each other off a building to making small talk, where a woman declares she has breast cancer and nobody reacts or ever mentions it again, and where the sets are decorated with framed pictures of spoons.
It’s one of those so-bad-it’s-good films, made endearing by that the strong sense you get that the creator, Tommy Wiseau, really is just trying to make the best movie he can. Which he is. Because the man behind the 2003 cult classic is every bit as strange as the movie he made—and the story behind The Room is even weirder than the film itself.
10 The Original Script Was Even Weirder
It’s hard to imagine that anyone edited any part of The Room, but the movie you saw was the toned-down version. The original script was even weirder. “There was stuff that just unsayable,” one cast member said about Tommy Wiseau’s original vision. “I know it’s hard to imagine there was stuff that was worse. But there was.”
She wasn’t lying. The first script of The Room got leaked to a reporter, and it’s an absurd fiesta of broken English and complete nonsense.
In one scene that didn’t make the final cut, the character Lisa was to tell her fiance Johnny, “Here is your coffee and English muffin and burn your mouth.” Then, without a beat of explanation, Johnny was to give a baffling reply of, “Old Man Donkey lets me know today.”
In another, Mark was to beat Peter unconscious and then pour water on his face. Then, after nearly killing the man, he would say, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it. You’re my best friend. Are you OK?” Peter, in reply, would say, “Don’t worry about it. Let’s talk about your problem,” before sharing some sage and helpful advice about Mark’s girl troubles: “Never do sex with her.”
That was Wiseau’s original vision: an inexplicable spree of people talking about “doing sex” that would culminate with a scene where the main character masturbates into his girlfriend’s dress. The film we got was actually toned down by the cast members, who forced Wiseau to change a few things. Because otherwise, it would have been even crazier.
9 Nobody Knows Where Tommy Wiseau Came From
English, obviously, is not Tommy Wiseau’s first language. He has a thick, implacable accent and says things like “do sex.” But nobody actually knows for sure where he’s actually from—not even his closest friends.
In interviews, Wiseau has claimed that he grew up in New Orleans, only admitting to having lived in France “a long time ago.” He’s also refused to say how old he is, except for once specifically denying being “100 years old.” He told his cast, though, that he was in his early thirties, despite already having a face that looked like a worn-out catcher’s mitt.
“Tommy Wiseau” isn’t even his real name. People who know him say that when he first came to the US, he called himself “Pierre” and that he picked up the name “Wiseau” as a broken spelling of the French word for “bird.”
Some people have actually conducted in-depth investigations to figure out where in the world Wiseau came from. One tracked down his family’s immigration records. He claims that Wiseau is from Poland and that his real last name is Wieczor. Another actually flew to Poland and went to Wiseau’s aunt’s grave to confirm whether that was true.
So, Tommy Wiseau is probably Polish—but even after all that work, we still don’t know for sure how old he is or what his real name is.
8 It Had A $ 6 Million Budget
With one of the worst scripts ever written in hand, Tommy Wiseau did something that nobody has been able to explain: raise $ 6 million to film it. What’s really weird, though, is that he seems to have paid for it himself. Tommy Wiseau, somehow, had $ 6 million just lying around.
It’s not like Wiseau was some big shot when he made the movie. He was a former grocery clerk who sold yo-yos and fake leather jackets on the streets. And yet, somehow, he had loads of money. Yo-yo salesman Wiseau owned three properties in San Francisco.
Wiseau refuses to explain where the money came from. One time, he chalked it up to importing leather jackets from Korea, while another, he just enigmatically said, “Let’s put it this way. I have certain resources.”
He’s never explained what those resources are—but Greg Sestero, the actor who played Mark, is pretty sure Wiseau is connected with the mob. Either way, he had a lot of money. On top of the $ 6 million budget, for five years, Wiseau paid another $ 5,000 a month to keep a billboard advertising the movie up in Hollywood.
7 The Movie Started As A 600-Page Novel
Originally, Wiseau wasn’t going to make a movie at all. He’d envisioned The Room as a masterpiece of American literature. At first, it was a novel—and it was 600 pages long.
Somewhere along the line, Wiseau changed his vision and tried to turn his masterpiece into a play. But in the end, he decided to make it for the silver screen because, in his own words: “I did a study and concluded that, in America, the number of people who go to see theater on the stage is much less than the people that go to a cinema.”
Research, apparently, was a big part of Wiseau’s process. He’s boasted about the meticulous investigations he did to prepare for the movie, including researching, again, in his own words, “When a person is born, how does this happen?”
Figuring out where babies come from and whether more people watch movies or plays was so time-consuming that creating The Room took up 20 years of Wiseau’s life. And he was proud of it. In fact, Wiseau even submitted it to the Academy Awards for consideration.
6 The Infamous ‘Breast Cancer’ Line Was Meant To Be Empowering
One of the strangest moments in the movie is when the character Claudette announces, almost completely out of the blue, that she has breast cancer—and nobody reacts in any way or ever mentions it again.
Apparently, there’s no follow-up that ended up on the editing room floor: Wiseau worked that line in on purpose. He thought it would empower breast cancer survivors.
Wiseau said he got the idea while doing his meticulous research and finding out that cancer patients don’t like to be pitied. “I did the research,” Wiseau recounted in an interview, “and I said, ‘Wait a minute, I myself did not realize that!’ ” To educate his viewers, Wiseau deliberately worked in a character who had breast cancer and then had nobody talk about it. “I created a character with a disease who wouldn’t want to be pitied,” he explained.
In his original script, people actually did talk about Claudette’s breast cancer a little bit, but they didn’t pity her. In Wiseau’s first draft, when Claudette told people she was dying, people were to brush her off by telling her, “Cancer is no big deal.”
5 Mark Was Named After Matt Damon, Whose Name Is Not Mark
Wiseau got the idea for his film after watching Matt Damon in The Talented Mr. Ripley—and after being rejected for every acting role he’d ever applied for. When the movie ended, Wiseau told his friend Greg Sestero, “You know what? F— it, man. I will write my own.”
The Room, Wiseau declared, was going to be “better than everybody else,” boasting that, “My movie will have seven main characters,” dwarfing The Talented Mr. Ripley’s measly three main characters. His movie, he promised, would have emotion. “I give those bastards their reaction,” Wiseau declared. “After my creation, people will not sleep for two weeks.” Wiseau’s movie was going to be a hit. “I’m going to show all these f—ers from Hollywood in their limousines.”
Then he told Sestero he even had a role ready for him. “I know the name of your character now,” Wiseau announced. He’d give him the same name as the star of the movie they’d just watched: “Mark Damon.”
Sestero, it seems, never bothered to correct him.
4 The Entire Crew Was Replaced Three Times
Tommy Wiseau was a perfectionist. He had a vision, and he wasn’t going to let anyone ruin it. If they anyone tried to tell him his vision was wrong, they’d get fired—which happened a lot. Wiseau fired his entire crew three times. “You could come in and it would be a completely different cast and crew,” one of the actors who worked on the film recalled. “It was crazy.”
Wiseau doesn’t deny it. “Some decided to have a temper. Some people got fired because of words,” he explained. “They tried, for example, to change the script. They say, ‘This is the way to do, etcetera, etcetera.’ I say, ‘No!’ ”
In particular, Wiseau’s crew tried to talk him out of simultaneously filming the movie on both HD and 35-millimeter film, trying to explain he wouldn’t be able to combine them. They got fired because Wiseau refused to believe them. In the end, Wiseau found they were right and that he’d wasted a small fortune on unusable film.
The actors were all replaced as well. The first three Lisas were fired—one, ironically, for having a “weird accent.” In the end, the role was given to Juliette Danielle, a woman with no acting experience who worked at an animal shelter. Danielle said the only direction Wiseau gave her was to watch Stanley Kubrick’sEyes Wide Shut, adding, “I still don’t know what he was trying to do there.”
Wiseau was thrilled with another casting choice, though. He boasted that Philip Haldiman, who played the (apparently mentally challenged) boy Denny, brought authenticity to his role because, “He’s really retarded a little bit.”
3 The Movie Almost Ended With The Main Character Revealing He Was A Vampire
As filming went on and the dailies came out, Tommy Wiseau got worried. Something wasn’t right. “We need something bigger, more spectacular,” he told his crew. And he had just the thing: At the end of the movie, Wiseau declared, his character Johnny should hop into a Mercedes-Benz and fly it into the sky.
“Why,” the director of photography asked, “do you want to do this, exactly?” “It’s just a possible side plot,” Wiseau replied, before trying to tantalize him by adding, “Maybe Johnny is vampire.”
Nobody was entirely clear on why, exactly, Wiseau thought that, if the audience saw a flying car, they’d immediately understand that it meant the driver was a vampire. But after the last three crews had been fired, nobody was going to question it.
The scene didn’t make the movie, purely because Wiseau couldn’t figure out how to make it look like the car was flying. But he still thought his idea was brilliant.
“You see how creative I am?” he boasted after pitching the flying car idea. “Somebody’s good director.”
2 Tommy Wiseau Paid People To Ask For His Autograph
The premiere of The Room was as big of an event as Tommy Wiseau could make it. He had spotlights shot up into the sky, showed up in a white limousine, and paid to have his leading lady Juliette Danielle come out in a jewel-encrusted black dress.
Then the movie started. It was the first time anyone involved, other than Wiseau, had seen the final cut—and it was even worse than they’d expected. The first of five sex scenes started within minutes. Even the actress in them was caught off-guard. “I thought it was gonna be this beautiful fifteen-second montage,” Juliette Danielle said afterward, “but they went on and on.” She spent the rest of showing trying to keep anyone from noticing she was there and never let her family see the movie.
The film was horribly panned. One review said that people will “ask for their money back—before even 30 minutes have passed.” Over its two-week run, it only made $ 1,800 of its $ 6 million budget back.
Still, when it was over, the cast was swamped by a crowd of people begging for their autographs—who, they could tell right away, had been paid off by Tommy Wiseau. “It was so evident that someone had just hired people to come in and do all that,” one of the actors said afterward. “That was such a weird situation.”
1 Tommy Wiseau Has His Own Brand Of Underwear
The Room ended up becoming a cult hit, purely because it’s so bad. It has since made its budget back. Wiseau, though, has used his newfound celebrity to branch out into new endeavors, like selling underwear.
Tommy Wiseau now runs a website that sells underwear with his name on the band. “I don’t know if you know, but I’m the designer as well,” Wiseau has boasted, before advertising his briefs as “very easy to wash.”
He also runs his own dating website, called TheRoomDating.com, which has absolutely nothing to do with his film. Instead, it’s just a standard dating website—albeit one that lets you choose whether you’re looking for friends, dates, fellatio, or “vampire cutting.”
His dating site also has a 3-D Chat mode, which lets you look at a CG picture of an apartment while a recording of Tim Curry’s voice, pulled from the audio of the movie Legend, says, “Beneath the skin, we are already one. Was it not your sin that trapped the unicorn?”
Like with most things Wiseau has done, there’s no explanation for any of this—although people have asked. “So what we’re doing there,” Wiseau told an interviewer when asked why he made a dating website with Timmy Curry quotes and vampire cutting, “Well, we’re promoting the underwear.”
No explanation followed. And perhaps, when it comes to Tommy Wiseau, no explanation is needed.