My Insecurities and Tommy Wiseau: A Compilation
Words: Jennifer Worgan | Art: Romy Lester, @romaji_draws
Tommy Wiseau’s seminal 2003 film The Room has been described as “the Citizen Kane of bad movies”. It tells the story of a wealthy banker who discovers his fiancée is cheating on him, as well as containing subplots involving cancer, drug abuse, and football. After failing upon first release, it slowly gained cult status. Over ten years after its release, it is still regularly played in cinemas.
The film was directed, produced, and written by Wiseau, who also starred in the lead role of Johnny. Wiseau intended the film to be a drama, but has since stated that it was a black comedy. He is an enigmatic figure, and secretive about himself — his age, nationality, and the nature of his career before he went into film have all remained mysterious. He is thought to be in his seventies, but has maintained long and luscious hair, seemingly with ease. He speaks with a European accent and has been rumoured to come from both France and Poland, although he has stated that he was born and raised in Louisiana. Ultimately, he is living like a king in LA, where celebrities including Kristen Bell love him, his film, and his ambiguous Wikipedia page. He has successfully sold underwear off the back of his cinematic success, and is having a film made about him by Seth Rogan and the Franco brothers.
As a critic, it is important to remain objective, but I must admit that it has been a difficult experience attempting to write about The Room, as Wiseau’s success has forced me to confront my own intense professional and personal jealousy.
This article will probably win several Pulitzer prizes, so it will be a shock to you that I have in fact written many pieces of dubious quality in the past. I can say with absolute certainty that Wiseau is by no means the only writer who can introduce subplots and then forget about them, or include what is deemed to be an unnecessarily large number of sex scenes in a story. These are characteristics I had always thought of as unique to my work, and although gatekeepers of the creative industries seemed slow to catch on, I thought that it was because I was ahead of my time. After watching The Room, the stark reality set in and I was forced to face up to the fact that James Franco has not yet offered to play me in a film.
I want to be clear: the issue is not that I don’t like men with long hair. In fact, I often subtly try and encourage men to grow their hair longer, in the same way that a Tame Impala song does. However, Wiseau’s hair has reached such a length and maintained such silkiness that I can’t help but feel it is vaguely inappropriate in someone who has also made so much money. He also dyes it jet black, something I did myself in both 2014 and 2016 without creating any cult films, and so it was not viewed as one of the trademarks of my eccentric personality, but rather as a cause for concern by my mother. I have spent many a sleepless night googling Wiseau, overcome with desire to be asked to attend a red carpet event because Paul Rudd ironically enjoys my work. Instead of simply letting the darkness fade from my hair, I wish I was casually touching up my roots before attending a party hosted by Alec Baldwin in his gated community.
This has been a confronting time for me, and it has led me to a confronting truth. Not all creativity is rewarded in our time. Some of us are beloved for our low-calibre work, and others are left to live the life of Van Gogh, writing sex scene after sex scene in obscurity. As I watched The Room, weeping, for the seventh time in a row, it struck me that the film itself is about jealousy, and the ugly ways it can manifest. Perhaps, I thought, Wiseau’s hair is not taunting me — perhaps it is a sign that he is like Jesus. Perhaps he is leading me to acceptance.
This has been a beautiful and meaningful realisation, but it has also made for a long week, and so I will provide it here to save time, if any of you are considering going through a similar transformative experience. Some terrible writing is lauded, and some is lost forever, but trying to garner niche cult status is like trying to catch a small and fragile insect in a jar — Hollywood celebrities won’t notice you doing it. The only option for true creative freedom is to write out a thousand unresolved subplots, tear the paper into tiny strips, and then slowly and lovingly eat them. I wish you well.