Thursday, 1 March 2018

THE DISASTER ARTIST by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell @gregsestero

5 out of 5 stars

On Amazon UK
On Goodreads

How I discovered this book: I watched the film (starring James Franco, excellent) and had to read it!

Genre: Memoir, show business

The Disaster Artist is about Greg Sestero's life with his friend, Tommy Wiseau, a strange, deluded figure of unknown nationality (some think he is Polish), unknown age (rumoured to be over 60), who was in possession of a vast fortune of unknown origin with which he made the 2003 film The Room, that has now gained a cult following.  It's not even so bad it's good, though it is known as the best bad film ever made; this is one of the better trailers for it that I found on Youtube, featuring its 'highlights'.

Greg Sestero meets Tommy Wiseau at a San Francisco acting class, and they strike up a friendship; there is something about the stranger that fascinates Greg.  His acting is terrible; he doesn't understand basic technique, and will take no direction.  But Greg envies him his confidence and (outward) lack of concern about what anyone thinks of him.

The books traces their path through many disappointments in their quests to become great Hollywood stars, culminating, after a few small successes on Greg's part and much emotional turmoil on Tommy's, in the making of The Room.

The book's chapters alternate between the chronological story of Greg and Tommy, and the making of the film itself.  This structure worked very well as it slowly builds up a picture of the whole, and eventually the story of Tommy's past comes out in fragments, though how much is a product of Wiseau's imagination is not known.  This book probably answers more questions than any other speculation I've seen; most of it seems pretty feasible, too.


I think this book is best read after seeing the film, and preferably after watching The Room, too, as many of the scenes are referred to, though this is not essential.  Throughout, you will sometimes feel sorry for Tommy and at other times wonder why someone has not landed him a fatal punch or two.  At first I thought Greg was just using Tommy for his money, but as the book progresses he is honest about the fact that he had to share the flat in LA with Tommy because he couldn't afford to live anywhere else; essentially, I think his friendship probably kept Tommy going when he had no one else.  That he was Tommy's only companion did not take long to dawn on him.  On the whole, I don't think Greg painted himself in too glowing a light, and the way he and Tom Bissell have presented Tommy is at times quite touching.

The book is great, the story itself fascinating.  The film is excellent.  The Room is ... a hilarious disaster.  I recommend all three, most highly - start with the James Franco film, and I guarantee you will have to watch The Room once you've seen it!

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