Interview with Tommy Wiseau the filmmaker behind 'The Room' and Hulu's 'The Neighbors' [Exclusive]

It’s been 12 years since writer/director/actor/producer Tommy Wiseau gave audiences The Room, and affections do not cease or die down. If anything, the popularity of the now cult-classic expands, as Rifftrax brings the film to 700 theaters across the United States and Canada on May 6 and 12 with their special commentary intact.

To promote the event and look at the film’s status, Wiseau sat down for a phone interview with to discuss The Room’s popularity, what he thinks of the film’s response, his work with Tim & Eric, his new Hulu series The Neighbors, his future filmmaking plans and what directors he’d like to work with in the future. Check out the exclusive interview below, and make sure to check out the screenings, with tickets available for purchase here.

This interview took place on April 21. Some audio was hard to hear and thus was transcribed as best as possible. When you heard Rifftrax was tackling your film, were you more nervous or excited?

Tommy Wiseau: I was excited. As we were talking, I knew that they are a part of the new entertainment, and I said to myself, “Why not? Let’s just do it.” You know? I’m pro-freedom. I like when people express themselves. I mean, there are special screenings with The Room. I’m actually touring, I don’t know if you know that, I have special screenings, I call it. This year, 2015, The Love is Blind Tour. So I travel once a month. So basically, you know, I like when people express themselves and I say, “Well, it will be in a different country.” It will screen on 700 screens almost. It will also screen in Canada, I don’t know if you know that. So I accept their proposal, and we’re talking about it today. * laughs *

TCC: And were you a Mystery Science Theater fan before this?

TW: Yeah, I was not a fan of the Rifftrax. I just approve of their concept, because I think it’s something different and I think they are good people to work with, and we will see what the audience will say, you know? We are in the entertainment business. So I like to do something different. I don’t know if you know when we released The Room in the beginning, it was a little stressful to actually show it, because I think the audience was not ready for it, especially in Hollywood.

It’s a different cookie cutter from Hollywood, and also, as you know, The Room has always been “The Beating,” I call it, of some of the responses we get from media. But I think the past few years, people realize,” Wait a minute, this is supposed to be fun to see The Room” * laughs* So I’m happy with that.

TCC: And, now that you have a film that’s been this beloved and adored for over ten years, how does it feel as a first-time filmmaker at the….

TW: Actually, we have anniversary in June. It will be the 12th anniversary.

TCC: Oh wow, but as the filmmaker behind this movie, how does it feel to have this fanbase that loves your movie for now 12 years?

TW: Yeah, yeah. I like it, you know. But it was stressful in the beginning. You know? It just too bad we didn’t have support where we have support now, and also, for example, especially with some actors and other people who sorta misleading the public to believe what transpired with The Room, especially with the production. I don’t know if you heard people say there was not a script on the set, and it was very disrespectful what, you know, people said in the past 12 years.

So I said, “Enough is enough.” So we actually created a little trailer that shows the script and also production. I released it on the DVD and Blu-Ray, so you very clearly see behind-the-scenes what transpired. But, you know, people * laughs * are out for something. But I always say, “I’m pro-freedom.” So with the Rifftrax deal, I said, “Yeah, let’s just do it.” That’s what they want to do, you know? I think people will enjoy it. Yeah?

TCC: Great, and now that it is going to be screening on 700 screens, is that daunting or does that make you really excited?

TW: Yeah, it make me very excited, because I think it’s something different and I also say very openly that if you never saw The Room before, it’s a nice way to watch the movie for the first time. So I think we probably have new audiences and also hopefully people will enjoy it. Hopefully it will bring in new fans of The Room, and we’ll see what we’ll do next year.

I don’t know what will happen. But I think people should understand it’s different entertainment. I really support Rifftrax because again, Rifftrax or me and others of Hollywood, we create something unique. Why not laugh and have fun with it? They say Tommy does not laugh with us, well that’s an incorrect statement. I do laugh with you. * laugh * You know? So I’m trying to straighten out all the records straight, you know, little by little. * laughs *

TCC: And when you meet someone who hasn’t seen The Room, how do you like to describe your film?

TW: I always say, you know, don’t expect too much, but at the same token, expect a lot. That’s a good question, by the way. Ashton, right?

TCC: Yeah, Will.

TW: Oh, I’m sorry. So it’s a good question because the audience actually have weird reactions, mixed messages from audience. So I’ve always encouraged them to express themselves and also just don’t be too serious about it, because it’s just a movie. At the same token, I also believe very strongly that The Room is a good story. It’s like a red flag. You have to go in certain ways, because you’ll get into trouble. For example, two’s a party, three’s a crowd. What’s your relationship? We’ve all been there, you know, one way or the other. So I think I’m very happy about the audience and again —what I said in the past three or four years —people should analyze the characters, whether the character is mine or Lisa or whoever.

Who are these people? Are they real people from life. Or are they just their story, what I’m trying to present? So, in the end, I’m very happy that people interact with the characters, think about it. You know? I think it’s very exciting to have the audience, and I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t even realize that what we have now with The Room would transpire. I just say, “Okay I make movies and I’ll just move on to the next one.” * laughs *

TCC: Right, and as you continue to meet new fans on your tours and during your Q & As, is there anything that continues to surprise you — either about the film or them in general?

TW: I’m actually surprised a lot that people, when we travel, interact with the screen, as well as with the characters. With all the stuff, you know. I never have a bad Q & A, believe it or not, after all these years. When I interact with fans, they know I love them very dearly. And again, we have some bad apples, but I close my eyes. Because, you know, what do you do?

It’s the same with writing. Let me give you an example. I just released The Neighbors, I don’t know if you are familiar. We have a big screening in D.C., as well as New York, and we have sold-out audiences. You know, sold out. We sold out almost 11 screenings, wherever we go. And one of our reporters wrote about The Neighbors’ success, he talked about something else. But he’s a perfect example of that, because sometimes I think the media doesn’t give us enough credit. But it is what it is. I always say, “Be strong.” I’m very optimistic. So now, The Neighbors, you can actually see it on Hulu. But sometimes entertainment could be a little tough, you know?

TCC: Right. That actually lead to my next question: You were talking about how tough it was to get people to eventually see The Room. But now that you have this broad channel with Hulu to show your new program, how does it feel to have an audience come into this initially?

TW: Well, I like it, because it bring in a different audience. I always say that even though we get mixed messages from press, I think if you refer to The Neighbors, it’s, again, different than the cookie cutter from Hollywood. I’m trying to do something to pop culture related to how we interact between people in America, you know. And I want to present this in a funny way, with different characters we have, with the chicken. I don’t know if you watch it or not.

TCC: Yeah, I have.

TW: You did?

TCC: Yeah, I did.

TW: Okay, cool. So we have different characters with different accents. You know, I’m an American with an accent and I’m very proud of it. And some people say, “Oh God, why is he talking this way or that way?” Well, I have news for you guys, some of you who are listening or will be listening, whatever: Wherever you travel, you go from New York to New Orleans, from New Orleans to Indiana, we all an accent. That’s the bottom line.

There’s nothing new about that, however people talk, heavy, light, whatever. And I think, again, sometimes it’s very disrespectful that people make an assumption, instead of hey, you can reach me and we can talk about it. I’m very open about it, and a perfect example is Rifftrax. I think they are very nice people to work with. Tim & Eric is also a perfect example, where they hired me as an actor, and the media spinning that I direct this little skit. That’s not true. They have me as an actor. So obviously there’s a little bit of misunderstanding I’m trying to straighten out as we go, including today, as you probably notice * laughs * Move on. Next question.

TCC: Actually, I did want to know a little more about how Tim & Eric first reached out to you, and when they did?

TW: Yeah, well that’s a good question again. They sent me a proposal, and say, “Do you want to meet?” Do you want to be a part of the sitcom, or whatever skit they want to do? They gave me the script, and it’s all scripted, you know. It’s sad, you know, they have to go to the extreme and go very openly. There was one interview put online. I don’t know if you know, we have big fans in U.K., as well as Australia and New Zealand, and Tim & Eric say very openly that they are so shocked that The Room has more audience than their project called…One Billion? Billion….. something like that. The new movie they released.

TCC: Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie?

TW: Yeah, yeah, yeah. You know. So this was, again, very shocking, because someone sent me the link to it and I say, “Well, this is completely nuts. What a put down.” And the thing is that I worked very, very hard for what I am, and I don’t need this kind of treatment, you know. I speak very openly about it, because I want to be an example to young people, audiences and others, who actually have maybe similar situation but they can’t speak up because their voices are little or whatever. You know?

We live in America. Nobody in the world became a reporter when you’re born, or actors, you studied it. I’ve been acting for the past twenty years. I’ve been on the stage actively, and my background I speak very openly about it because I want people to understand when they create something, it’s not easy.

I’ll tell a little story. A few weeks ago, I have a big conversation with a big executive from one of the big networks, I don’t want to drop the name, but I’ll tell you the story. This guy said to me, “Oh you just have this big movie and that’s it.” I said, “Wait a minute. Are you kidding me? Ha!” If it was that simple, everyone would be doing it. It’s not that simple. So the process of directing movies, say, 50 years ago compared to today is almost the same, except the technology changed. If you look at the history…It’s funny, I don’t know if you know, we used in The Room two cameras, including the H27 HD. It was the first feature movie, actually, to do that, to use two cameras at the same time. And doing the research, long story short, I wanted to know what the difference was, and using cameras is a different then than it is now. I don’t do that now, because it’s a waste of time and money.

But the way to present movies has not changed too much. But you still want to present the story, you know? When you have a different formula to study, you see, that’s the biggest obstacle. And I say that, because I also have fun with it too when I’m doing it. But it’s true, you know. So it’s not easy to present anything, and that includes when I released The Neighbors, for example, I always think about how many percent of people have fun with it. It’s something different, something unique. People make fun of my stuff, as you probably know, and they expect me to believe it’s a parody and take money from The Room. That’s not right. That’s not free license. You know what I’m saying?

TCC: Right.

TW: So I think, little by little, people realize that, you know, certain credit is due, and the people say, “Hey, he did what he did, you know?” * laughs * But I’m very optimistic, I always encourage people. I always say, “Hey, you don’t have to love my movie.” Maybe that’s the word: hate. They’re trying to hate onto me. As long as it’s a fair weight, and not just a hatred weight, I think that’s important for me. Because money is one thing, but speaking up, we all make choices. You know, when I don’t like a movie, I don’t talk about it. I just say, “Well, watching it was okay, but I don’t like it.” You know. * laughs * Pull up the next question.

TCC: Alright, and whenever young actors or young filmmakers come up to you, what advice would you like to give to them?

TW: That’s a good one. I think about 20 percent of actors or filmmakers out there, they have this dilemma. They want to do things very quickly. Well I have good news and bad news. The good news is keep going. The bad news is it doesn’t happen just because you say so. You know? Especially in America, as you probably know. I learned myself. I said, “I want to do that. I want to do that myself.” When you’re doing a project, you find yourself. Be good at your audition when you’re acting, for example. Be ready. When you do an audition, be ready for rejection, you know. A lot of people say, “Actors be rejected.” Well, it’s true. At the same token, treat people the way you would want to be treated. So you have to be very, very strong and be optimistic, you know. Some will reject you, move on to the next project, and I think that’s what entertainment is.

If you’re looking at big stars, like James Dean, Marlon Brando and Orson Welles and others, that one thing they have in common is that they speak very openly about the problems they had. They were constantly in search of original material, you know? Whether a play or whatever I am in, I always like to go by the motion, not so much the words, but the words are important too. I have to understand it. You know. You go by situation.

So I’m a little different from average person from Hollywood. They like, for example, if actors talk to walls. I prefer actors be there, but sometimes you have a scene where you don’t have an actor. I don’t like it, for example, when you green screen, you talk to the wall, I’m not against it, but I sorta don’t like it. Because it’s a tough corner for performances from actors. Actors need a divide you know. So sometimes people try to cut corners, but they don’t understand how important it is to perform. It’s a more difficult obstacle you have and the environment you have. The better in tune you are, the better you are is my point.

TCC: Sure, and on that note, are there any actors or directors today that you’d like to work with?

TW: Well I’ve said this openly, but I’ll say it again since you asked and since you’re a nice guy. * laugh * I just I said that, but I really mean it. You know, I’d love to work with Clint Eastwood. I’ve met him, and I think he’s pioneer of — I’ve said this before, but since you asked — I think he’s the pioneer of his age of directors and cinematography as well. He’s a perfect example of actors with multiple scope. If you look back, in the 1920s, or a little earlier, that the star usually makes the movie. Now people make the star. But because of the technology change, I always say to everyone, “The more skills you have, the better set you are.” Because you read the great script, and you do it correctly and you think you can do more with it, then do it.

And that’s the thing I like with Clint Eastwood. I don’t know if you know, but he sometimes create music score for his movies. I think he’s great and I hope that people understand that we have something in America that we can cherish forever. * laughs * So that’s my answer to your question. But I’d like to work with other people as well, you know, other directors. Tarantino and others, they are pretty good. You probably know the major five or six of them. They have something very unique. When I directed The Room, people sometimes discredit me, what I did, I always think that it’s the director. It’s my vision. It’s mine.

That’s my core statement. You need a vision. People choose a script, a story from a book or whatever you are doing, you still have to have a vision. You have to have the skills to put all the pieces together. It shows that, sometimes, you have to have see all the directors. You know? It’s a right director for the thing. You know, like Hitchcock or Clint Eastwood, you can see distinct visions, for example.

TCC: Okay then.

TW: I hope I answered your question. * laughs *

TCC: Yeah actually, talking about your directing, I heard you’re working on a new movie called Foreclosure. Is that true?

TW: Yes, that is correct. I am working on Foreclosure right now, and we’re still working on The Neighbors. Foreclosure will be a feature movie and a Screen Actors Guild project, and we’re reaching out to big stars. So we’ll see if they want to work with me. If not, I think we’ll pick the actors who will be right and will do a good job. So I don’t distinguish between different ones.

I’ve said this many times, that the people who were attached to The Room, it’s sad that some of the actors, I don’t think they understand, that’s it’s very disrespectful when you bash the creator. And at the same token, they don’t know what you do in the first place. You know? I wish it would be the same situation of 20 years ago or so, when I started to thinking about acting and getting a job, I said, “Hey, this is a big part of the production. You are going to be on the lot, you’re going to experience this and that.” You know? That’s a big part of acting, you know.

I did get into a little trouble from my acting teachers. I’ve done many, many workshops, acting classes, etc. And I always say, “Hey, can I use my camera?” I always get in trouble, because first they say yes, and then the students complain, “Why the camera is there in the class?” You know. So I always say, “Hey, do you want to be an actor in the first place?” So expect sometimes that things don’t come out the way you wanted. Move on. Next question.

TCC: Okay, so it came out a little while ago that James Franco is going to play you in a new movie.

TW: Yeah, that’s correct. Yeah I’m actually involved, thank you for asking. It’s based on Greg Sestero’s book, The Disaster Artist. I’m only supporting about 40 percent, I don’t know if you know that. Now you do. They describe some of the stuff right, and some of the stuff is completely off-the-wall. But it is what it is. We still talk, I still talk to Greg. I’m involved to a certain degree with James Franco in the production that I can’t talk about. I can say James Franco, Seth Rogen (are involved). Dave Franco, he will play Greg and James Franco will play me.

Long story short, I’m very happy about it, because he’s a very good actor and when I talk to him, he says he will be respectful when telling the story. There are some reporters who say, “Well, he says he will respectful. Do you think he is kidding?” Well, you know what? Bottom line, he will say what he wants to say, you know? Whether he spins negative or positive things, I think it’s a good story. By the way, have you read the book?

TCC: I’ve read half the book.

TW: Oh okay. I hope you finish. But it’s a good read, and I think the book is a big success actually, which I’m very happy about for Sestero. My friend — ex-friend — actually, still friend, let’s put this way. But I think it will be a good production. So we’ll see what direction they go in. From what I understand, I think they have a good writer, and I’m supposed to review the script, but we’ll see what direction they go in.

TCC: Okay. So, it looks like I’m basically out of time now. So I’ll cut it short…

TW: Two more questions, then we’ll be done.

TCC: Alright, two more questions?

TW: Yeah, sure.

TCC: So what would you like to do with The Neighbors right now?

TW: Well that’s good….Wow, I commend you to ask me that. What I’d like to do with The Neighbors, you know, with Hulu, we have four episodes that we produced right now. I’m hoping some record executive will contact us and see us. Because, again, what you see on Hulu now, I think we can do 30-40 percent better. Because we have a lot … I’ll tell you, what we released on Hulu, we were testing our programming because it is sort of programming. But we did a screening of The Room and Neighbors at the same time. And we have a spectacular response from audience. I was actually, to be honest with you, very, very surprised.

We screened in London this year, as well as other countries, and we got a really great response. So hopefully some people will talk to us, as well as, again, it’s a slightly different approach. I hope people will enjoy The Neighbors. And also the Rifftrax, as you know. May 6 and May 12, they will be screening The Room, and also in Canada May 12. And your final question is?

TCC: Alright, this is kind of a weird one.

TW: No problem. Ask whatever you want.

TCC: Yeah, yeah. What’s the strangest either request or gift that you have gotten from a fan?

TW: Oh, that’s a good one. Yeah. One of the strangest things, I remember back today, is a person, a girl, she asked me if I can marry her. She really meant it. She was really crying, she was very emotional, and I say, “How old are you?” And she responded she like 18, 18 1/2. I said, “You know what? Just wait five more years, and then maybe we’ll see what happens.” * laughs * But she was so sweet, you know? It was very emotional for her, you know. People tend to go emotional, you know, with The Room, everything was a certain way. And I think that is how The Room affects people, sometimes directly or indirectly, and maybe that’s why we talk about The Room today, as well as other stuff. I really enjoy that people enjoy it. That’s the moral of the story.

The Room screens in theaters across the U.S. and Canada on May 6 and 12, courtesy of Rifftrax. To watch The Neighbors, check out the link here.

Image courtesy of Rifftrax

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