Some Lawrence students meet Tommy Wiseau. (Micah Paisner)
For those of you who know me, you probably know how much I love the film “The Room.” I use at least one quote from the film a day. So when I saw that the great writer/director/star Tommy Wiseau was going to appear in Milwaukee Dec. 3 at a screening of the film, I immediately bought my ticket and assembled a group of friends to make the trip with me. Created with a budget of approximately $7 million, “The Room” is considered to be one of the worst films ever made. Released in 2003, the film was a commercial failure, but by 2005 the film began to garner success as a cult favorite, with ample midnight screenings in Los Angeles. Now, it is mentioned in the same conversation with cult hits such as “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” What truly makes the film stand out is the fact that Wiseau is so mysterious. He claims to be from New Orleans but has a heavy Eastern European accent. When asked where he is from, he refuses to elaborate. Wiseau also claims that “The Room” was intended to be a black comedy, but when viewing the film, this is clearly not the case. The film is simply a poorly written, poorly directed and poorly acted drama. We began our drive from Chicago to Milwaukee at 9 p.m., ready for an evening we couldn’t quite anticipate. We all hoped to meet Wiseau but weren’t certain that we would get the chance to do so. We arrived in Milwaukee an hour before the screening was supposed to start. As we stood outside the theater, Wiseau and co-star Greg “Sestosterone” Sestero walked directly past us. Before I knew it, we were standing in a circle playing football with the two. Now, if you haven’t seen the film, it is essential to understand that for Wiseau, football consists of standing close together and tossing the ball. That’s exactly what we did. The only rule was that each time someone threw the ball, he or she had to throw it in a completely new and interesting way. I’m proud to say that Wiseau called my throw “very impressive.” Following the game of football, we lined up to take group pictures and get autographs. We came with three items to get signed: a DVD of “The Room,” a football, and the terrible 2002 remake film “Rollerball.” When we handed Wiseau “Rollerball,” he first exclaimed, “What is this?” When we explained that it’s another great movie, he said, “You’re tearing me apart!” – a famous line from “The Room.” The way we organized ourselves for the group picture was not to Wiseau’s liking, so he meticulously rearranged us. After the first picture was taken, he decided it wasn’t good enough, even though he didn’t see it, and demanded that a second be taken. Next, it was time to watch the film. Audience participation makes a live viewing of “The Room” about as much fun you can have at the movies. I’ve now had the privilege of seeing it twice in theaters, but only once with Wiseau present. Fans come dressed up as major characters, as well as minor ones such as Chris R, a mysterious drug dealer. In addition, most fans bring plastic spoons to throw at the screen, yelling “SPOON!” every time a framed picture of a spoon appears – which is surprisingly often. My favorite audience participation tradition is to yell, “GO GO GO!” whenever there is a panning shot of the Golden Gate Bridge. The one time the camera gets all the way to the other end, the theater erupts in applause. After the film, my friend Greg and I asked the first two questions during the Q&A. Of course, we got very vague answers, which is exactly what we expected from Wiseau. Then, unfortunately, it was time to drive home. I arrived home around 5 a.m., already craving another viewing of the film. Wiseau and Sestero will be appearing at a screening of “The Room” Feb. 11 and 12 in Chicago. Of course, I will be there, and I suggest all of you come, too. I promise it will be worth it.