The Room is not the worst movie,” James Franco told Vanity Fair at the Toronto International Film Festival on Monday. “It is the best worst movie. I think that is an important distinction. There are thousands upon thousands of movies that people never watch, and people are still watching this movie. I think the secret sauce of The Room is that Tommy put his heart and soul into it, and whether they recognize it or not, people feel that.”
Franco directs, produces, and stars in the film as Wiseau. And he cast his brother Dave Franco as The Room co-star Greg Sestero. Dave, who joined James for the interview, added, “With this, Tommy was trying to make an award-winning movie, and you feel that.”
“I mean, he kept it in theaters when it first came out for two weeks so that it could qualify for the Oscar,” James laughed. “So it shows you how he felt about this movie.”
James made it clear, however, that he is not as deluded about the quality of the 2003 film as his real-life counterpart.
“It cost $6 million to make . . . and it looks like it cost about $6,” he laughed. “There was an insane billboard in L.A. for like five years that [Wiseau] must have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars alone, and it is the scariest thing you’ve ever seen, with his lazy eye, like, staring at you. It looks like an ad for a cult. I saw that billboard and was like, ‘No thanks; whatever they’re selling, it’s not for me.’ But [the advertising] paid off, because [The Room] plays in almost every major city at least once a year. I think we worked it out that he must make half a million or a million dollars a year, or something like that.”
With a laugh, James admitted that Wiseau might be eating into his profit margin with another business scheme.
“He might have spoiled that, because he has all of this merch, Wiseau merch. Like underwear . . . those Australian plumper stripper underwear.” Asked if James himself has a pair, the actor added, “I have [it], but, I mean, you can never wear it.”
James said he became interested in The Room after reading producer Greg Sestero’s 2013 book about the making of the movie, The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made.
“Yes—it was an insane story about insane people doing insane things. But underneath, Greg and Tommy had kind of written this universal story about dreamers,” James said, before revealing that he bought Wiseau’s life rights for the project and first reached out to Wiseau and Sestero by phone.
During the call, James expressed his interest in making a movie about The Room, but did not reveal that he also wanted to play Wiseau. So The Room mastermind shared his own casting choice: Johnny Depp.
“I laughed,” said James. “And he said, ‘Why are you laughing?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, dude. He’s a big movie star. He’s in Pirates of the Caribbean.’ Then Greg said, ‘What about you, James?’”
Wiseau was not audibly offended by the suggestion, but did have some notes.
“He said, ‘Yeah, James, I’ve seen your stuff. You’ve done some good things, some bad things.’”
“I think this is the role you were born to play,” added Dave.
“That means a lot, because he would not do my movies before,” James replied. “I went back to film school after I had been an actor for like, 10 years and I always thought, ‘I want a Coen brother. I want someone to work with, collaborate with, share ideas with’ . . . And then I realized, ‘Well, I do have a Franco brother.’ And now we do have production company together. So I found my Coen brother.”