It’s been a strange year for Hollywood (to say the least), full of resistance and revelations. Still, the industry is determined to celebrate — and this week we look at a few of the performances, directors, achievements, and, in one case, prosthetic jowls most likely to be honored.
When it comes to imitation, The Disaster Artist, James Franco’s new film about the making of the legendarily bad movie The Room — in which an upright guy discovers his fiancée is cheating on him with his best friend — does not go halfway. The production designer used the original blueprints to rebuild the sets. The DP matched the terrible lighting exactly. And the cast worked painstakingly to re-create the performances’ offbeat rhythms. Below, Franco (who also plays The Room’s director and star, Tommy Wiseau, and his onscreen character, Johnny), his brother Dave (Greg Sestero, who played Johnny’s best friend, Mark), Ari Graynor (Juliette Danielle, who played Johnny’s unfaithful girlfriend, Lisa), and Josh Hutcherson (Philip Haldiman, who played a youngster named Denny) explain how they remade four of the movie’s most iconic sequences — with the real Wiseau and Sestero weighing in on the original scenes.
The Roof Scene
In The Room’s most famous scene, Johnny begins an emotional conversation on a rooftop with the memorable line “It’s bullshit, I did not hit her, I did not — oh, hi, Mark.”
Tommy Wiseau: I hit myself in the head [before the scene]. So I did have certain difficulty, not just in memorizing the line, but I wanted to say something emotional. It didn’t come out the way I wanted. But after I threw the bottle, it actually came out much better and much stronger.
James Franco: We were doing the words like we were singing a song. We had this song of the dialogue as the original people had said it, and we would try to sing it like they sang it. Then we had the dance of their movements, so we’d choreograph our movements like they did it. It was really a matter of watching. You’re looking for every little twitch of the mouth, if the hand was cocked at a certain angle. We’d have these iPads with the scenes and watch them over and over again together.
Dave Franco: It’s funny bouncing back and forth between Greg and Mark. When I’m playing Greg, I’m hoping it comes across very natural and real. When I’m playing Mark, I’m supposed to be acting poorly. But I didn’t want to overdo it, because Greg was an actor who I’m sure was really giving it his best.
The Sex Scene
Johnny and Lisa share an intimate moment, complete with rose petals, an R&B soundtrack, and gratuitous nudity.
JF: I learned a lot on The Deuce about how to portray the shooting of gratuitous sex scenes. The scene could be a critique of a guy being completely inappropriate while directing a sex scene, but we ourselves would not be inappropriate in any way while making it. Tommy might have thought he needed his butt to sell his movie, but we don’t need breasts to sell our movie.
Ari Graynor: What’s hilarious about remaking any of the scenes of The Room is that every beat of it goes against your instincts. It’s like a kind of jazz you’ve never heard before. When you try to do them, it’s so deliciously uncomfortable because you’re doing things in ways that feel totally unnatural. In the sex scene, we were trying to be as meticulous about the details as possible: “Move the hand slightly more like this and the finger looks more like this on the back.” It was like a bizarre kind of surgery — really silly surgery. But it’s easy to stay present when James Franco is running around with a Tommy voice and that hair and only a cock sock. You are pretty in the moment.
The Football Scene
Johnny and his friends throw a football around a tiny alley while wearing tuxedos.
JF: It feels like this weird, kind of innocent thing. Tommy wants to be this all-American guy that plays all-American sports with his buddies, but that’s not his history. That’s not really his roots. It’s sort of this creation.
Josh Hutcherson: That was something I was excited to do, because it’s such an iconic scene. The throwing of the football was so awkward and weird, and they were really close to each other physically.
DF: None of us could keep a straight face.
JH: Fortunately, they weren’t, like, throwing 20-yard bombs or doing anything that was actually like good football throwing.
DF: Greg actually has pretty good form when it comes to throwing a football, so it wasn’t too hard for me to match. As opposed to my brother, who was trying to match Tommy’s extremely awkward football-throwing form.
TW: Johnny or Tommy does not throw the football the way he threw the football. It should be much more manhood, you know?
Greg Sestero: I’ll give Tommy credit: He can actually throw a decent spiral now. When I first met him, it was a little bit rough.
The Suicide Scene
After learning of Lisa’s betrayal, Johnny trashes his bedroom, then commits suicide.
TW: Originally, he partially kills himself, meaning that he didn’t succeed. I said that part two will be that he will survive. But then I was saying, you know, let’s just leave it. We have such a great reaction.
AG: I was watching as they were filming that, as Juliette watching the scene of that. It was a late night. James was laying there, and he had completely fallen asleep. So the part where Lisa’s crying and there’s those big glycerin tears and snot coming down her face, I just remember James was asleep during that whole thing, which was hilarious.
JF: I think Tommy was really depressed before he wrote The Room, and you can then see him channeling all of that rejection and betrayal into [this scene]. This all-American guy Johnny, the guy that Tommy’s trying to be all his life, is betrayed by his best friend and his girlfriend, then he commits suicide. Like Tommy was expressing all the rejection that he felt his whole life, and then instead of committing suicide in real life, he channeled it into his movie! That’s the definition of an artist!
*This article appears in the November 27, 2017, issue of New York Magazine.