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How The Disaster Artist director James Franco fell in love with The Room

The making-of movie ‘The Disaster Artist’ is released Dec. 1

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Director James Franco’s new directing project The Disaster Artist (out Dec. 1) is an adaptation of actor Greg Sestero’s memoir about the production of 2003’s cult film The Room. Franco plays that movie’s star-auteur Tommy Wiseau, while his brother Dave portrays Sestero. Other members of the star-studded cast include Seth Rogen, Ari Graynor, Alison Brie, and Sharon Stone. But how exactly did James Franco learn about, and fall in love with, The Room in the first place?

“It’s funny,” says the filmmaker. “I don’t know how much time you’ve spent in L.A., but from, like, 2003 to 2008, there was a billboard on Highland, advertising The Room. It was this very scary billboard, where it’s Tommy’s face sort of leering out at you, and it said ‘The Room,’ and there was a phone number on it. It was such a confusing advertisement for a film. Normally there isn’t a phone number. And so, I didn’t know what it was. I must have passed it a hundred times, and I just assumed it was a cult or a strange local guy that wants to be put in movies. I just didn’t put it together. Now, I realize that, at the time, there were these midnight screenings of The Room at this famous L.A. theater called Sunset 5.”

The Oscar nominee continues: “I wasn’t part of the original gang that would see those early screenings. I really found out about it after reading the book, The Disaster Artist. Somebody turned me on to it and I read it in a few days. It was such a great book, it was co-written by the other guy in the movie, Greg Sestero, and this great journalist Tom Bissell, and it was such a great read. It was also so fun to read aloud, because of Tommy. Tommy’s such a big character in there and he’s quoted so often. I was doing The Interview in Vancouver, and I would read The Disaster Artist out loud with my assistant, and my hair-and-makeup woman, and my dresser. Then I went to a screening [of The Room]. My first viewing of The Room in a theater was in Vancouver, and I have to say it was the best theatrical screening of The Room that I’ve been to, and I’ve been to a few now at this point. I was just taken with the whole thing. I was taken with the story of these guys trying to break into this creative industry that’s incredibly hard to break into and actually doing it, albeit in a very strange way, but nonetheless becoming Hollywood success stories.”

Watch the teaser trailer for The Disaster Artist above and see an exclusive still of James Franco and Rogen in the film, below.

Justina Mintz/A24