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The Room (2003) written, produced, directed by and starring Tommy Wiseau is infamous for being one of the worst films ever made. It’s an awkward, stilted train wreck that, despite its horrible quality, is well worth your time. It is an hilarious mess that will keep you entertained the whole way through, just not in the way it was originally intended. This can be compared to the treasure trove of atrocity that is the filmography of Edward D. Wood Jr, or Ed Wood for short. In the 1950s, Ed Wood released a slew of critically panned low budget horror films and he’s become known as the worst Hollywood director of all time. However, after his death in 1978 his films later found an audience, much like The Room eventually did. With The Disaster Artist set to release in December, it’ll be worth your time to check out Tim Burton’s Ed Wood, a film about the directing career of Wood and the relationships in his life up until the release of his most infamous picture, Plan 9 from Outer Space. If you’re excited to see James and Dave Franco take on The Disaster Artist, you’ll get a kick out of seeing Tim Burton’s take on the original disaster artist.
The similarities between Tommy Wiseau and Ed Wood don’t stop at the quality of their filmmaking. Both are overly passionate men who love what they do despite outsider opinions of them and their work. They’re close to their friends and while most of their co-workers are fond of them, they can be frustrated by Wood and Wiseau’s methods of directing and acting. Both men just wanted to entertain and if they did not in the way they wanted, they certainly did in other ways. Ed Wood’s major focus is his personal and professional relationships and how they grow or decline throughout his career. Mainly his endearing and close personal friendship with Dracula actor Bela Lugosi (played by Martin Landau). While Lugosi starts off working with Wood (played by Johnny Depp) to get back in the motion picture business, they later form a strong bond that sees Lugosi almost idolising the man who idolised him. The friendship between the two is the driving force of the film, with both actors having superb chemistry and capturing their roles elegantly, earning Landau an Oscar. While Depp’s portrayal takes liberties with Wood’s voice and neglects his alcoholism almost entirely, it’s an enigmatic performance that has such clear passion and dedication behind it, much like the real director’s films, that makes it a joy to watch. The two would collaborate for the remaining years of Lugosi’s life with Wood being his closest companion. What started as a mutual respect became the strongest of bonds.
Wiseau and Sestero would be a similar yet reversed situation as the two became friends on set despite Wiseau’s difficulty to work with, and Sestero would develop respect for him as time went on, seeing that, despite his filmmaking abilities, he was still giving it all he could. Wiseau returned the respect for Sestero’s support and earned his friendship during the filmmaking process.
The Disaster Artist looks to focus on Tommy Wiseau’s friendship with Greg Sestero, if we’re going off the book, it’ll be seen from Sestero’s perspective. Sestero sees that while Wiseau was a nightmare to work with, often seeing him getting in his own way and ruin his own film right in front of Sestero’s eyes, they still formed their own bond off set as Sestero grew to admire him as time went on. He may not have been great at building his visions but he was still passionate enough to see it through as best he could, which we can all agree, is very admirable. The two would work together in future projects, notably the film Best F(r)iends released after The Disaster Artist book. A nice way to show that Wiseau held no grudge against Sestero for writing the book and shining negative lights on The Room, which Wiseau has shown to still be proud of.
Burton’s Wood shows that Ed was always happy with the work he produced. There is an almost child-like wonderment in his eyes and smile on set, adoring what he does and enjoying getting to live his dream even if he’s not particularly good at it. Always saying the first take of any shot was perfect, claiming mistakes made everything more real and props falling over or poor set design wouldn’t be noticed. They were of course, but later became a sort of trademark for him when others were looking back at his work decades later. The Disaster Artist portrays Wiseau as an inept actor and filmmaker. As seen in the film’s trailer he takes nearly 70 attempts at getting one short line, that he’s credited for writing, right. This alone shows how and why his acting throughout the film is some of the worst ever produced. His crew were annoyed and frustrated to the point where they just used the first take that went decently enough to use, i.e. one where nothing, bar the quality of acting, went wrong. This is a strange yet noticeable parallel to Wood using the first good take as the final and only one, except for Wood it was usually the first take that was perfect, and he didn’t have any interest in doing a significant amount of retakes.
Burton’s film does take a few more liberties, portraying Plan 9 as having a massive grand opening and changing certain personal aspects such as the aforementioned alcoholism. Which is the real reason his wife claimed to leave him, while in the film it’s because she sees him wasting his life making “crap”. This change does have a better impact in further driving home the film’s message to follow passion and make the art you have inside of you. All Wood wanted to do was to be remembered and entertain generations with film the same way it did for him, and if in some way at least, he eventually succeeded. As Orson Welles tells Wood in the film (but not in real life) “Visions are worth fighting for. Why spend your life making someone else’s dreams?”
Despite its universal panning, The Room eventually gained a cult following for its poor quality, and Tommy Wiseau’s performance for how awkward and strange it was. Wiseau himself is a character and it shines through in his performance on screen. That doesn’t make it good but it does help the entertainment value. Wiseau took the film’s reception better than one would expect. Deciding to embrace the ‘so bad it’s good’ quality the film had, he rebranded it as a dark comedy and still shows it in theatres across America, and appears at fan gatherings and select special events. Wiseau took what he was given and is still proud that his film can still be enjoyed in some way, even if it’s not the way he set out for it to be. Perhaps underneath he might resent the fact that his film is being laughed at and not with, he seems to enjoy the joy he created and seems satisfied, that it’ll be remembered along with him, in some way. It’s hard to argue that Ed Wood would think differently if he was still around. The Ed Wood film shows his passion for filmmaking and entertaining the masses. While it’s a shame that he was unable to do so during his lifetime, eventually directing pornography and spiralling into an alcohol-fueled depression and early death at age 54, he did achieve his dream despite not living to see it. Wood’s work is shown in film schools and enjoyed by millions worldwide, some even seeing bluray releases. With how Tim Burton’s film portrays Ed Wood, it’s hard to think he’d look at his films differently than Wiseau looks at The Room. Not quite what they wanted, but something to be proud of, that’ll keep their dreams and visions alive to hopefully inspire generations to create their own art. It might not turn out how you wanted, but it can still achieve the same effect.