Tommy Wiseau and the “Worst Movie Ever Made”

Tommy Wiseau is probably one the most enigmatic characters among celebrities. He is known for writing, directing, and producing the infamous movie The Room in which he also played the lead role. The film is fondly known as one of the worst movies ever made.

Tommy Wiseau / Tommy Wiseau / Juliette Danielle, Tommy Wiseau / Dave Franco, James Franco.
Source: Getty Images

Just like this cult film, its creator is also shrouded in a cloud of mystery, mainly due to Wiseau’s tendency to keep every aspect of his private life secret. Here we’ll take a closer look at his life to find out everything there is to know about Tommy Wiseau.

Tommy Wiseau, the Disaster Artist

Most of the information about Tommy Wiseau’s life comes from Greg Sestero, his best friend and co-star in The Room. Sestero’s book, The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside the Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made, gave great insights into Wiseau, and was even turned into a film.

Tommy Wiseau poses next to a poster of the film the Room.
Photo by Josh Brasted/Getty Images

While most aspects of Wiseau’s life have been closely guarded secrets, we’ve started to get more information about this crazy character. There have also been several documentaries about the creation of his movie and similar projects. While the information is a little patchy, this is what we know about Tommy Wiseau.

A Secretive Date of Birth

Tommy Wiseau’s date of birth has never been confirmed. The rare times he has mentioned his age, he has placed his date of birth in the late 1960s. However, other sources claim he was born in the mid-1950s. His IMDb page indicates that he was born on October 3, 1955.

A publicity still of Tommy Wiseau for The Room.
Source: Copyright: Chloe Productions

The same sources refer to his birthplace as somewhere in the Eastern Bloc, some even specifying the place as Poznań, Poland. That is supported by his unique accent and certain European customs he uses in his projects, but he has never confirmed where he was born.

No Record of His Name

There are no records anywhere outside the United States of his current name. It’s entirely possible that he changed his name and other personal data upon immigrating to the country. There are a few indications that he once went by the name Pierre.

Tommy Wiseau attends an event.
Photo by Amanda Edwards/Getty Images

While he has never disclosed his early Eastern European origins, Wiseau admitted that he lived in France as a child and moved to New Orleans as a young adult. There he lived with his aunt and uncle for a short period and subsequently moved to San Francisco in search of a better life.

Where Did Tommy Grow Up?

While Wiseau claims to have grown up in France and then in New Orleans, he also says he has extended family in Chalmette, Louisiana. We don’t know much about all these places and times since Tommy only talks about being from Europe.

A still of Tommy Wiseau in a scene from The Room.
Source: YouTube

It wasn’t until 2017 that Wiseau even openly admitted that he had grown up in Europe, saying it was “a long time ago.” He didn’t say specifically where that was in Europe. That’s partly due to his determination to see himself as American. He’s stated that he’s a proud American despite his European roots.

Was He Once Known as Pierre?

A lot of the stories around Wiseau come from what he has apparently told his friend Greg Sestero. One such story was that as a young man, Wiseau moved to Strasbourg, France, went by the name Pierre, and worked as a dishwasher in a restaurant.

A picture of Wiseau during an event.
Photo by JB Lacroix/Getty Images

The legend goes that Wiseau was falsely arrested and mistreated by the French police following a drug raid at the hostel where he was staying. The event scared Wiseau and lit the spark to move to America and live with his aunt and uncle.

He Worked as a Street Vendor

According to Sestero, Wiseau lived in Louisiana for a while and then moved to San Francisco to start a new life there. He worked as a street vendor selling bird toys that were popular in Europe at the time, which earned him the nickname “the Birdman.”

Wiseau and Juliette Danielle as Johnny and Lisa in a scene from The Room.
Source: Copyright: Chloe Productions

Wiseau then used this nickname to create his new name—a name he would use during his life in the USA. The French word for bird is oiseau, and Tommy decided to swap the “o” for a “w” and go by the name Wiseau. This mysterious character with a puzzling past and a made-up name would go on to do many things and have many jobs.

He Had Many Jobs in San Francisco

After being a street vendor and changing his name, Tommy had various jobs in the San Francisco Bay area. He was a hospital worker and then a busboy. Eventually he got into the business of selling jeans on the street.

A close-up on Wiseau in a movie still from The Room.
Source: YouTube

His jeans business, called Street Fashions USA, sold defective jeans at discount prices. It was this business venture that apparently gave him great wealth, which many people, even his close friend Greg Sestero, doubt. Sestero finds it impossible to believe that Wiseau’s became wealthy this way.

Was He a Money Launderer?

Wiseau’s mysterious source of wealth has led to much speculation. He would later go on to pour huge amounts of money into his film project, The Room. And everyone wondered where all that money came from to finance the movie. Some thought he was laundering money for organized crime.

A studio portrait of Tommy Wiseau.
Source: Pinterest

While money laundering would be a reasonable explanation for his surprising wealth and millions to fund his film, it’s important to note that there has never been any solid proof of that. It remains pure speculation about where all that money came from, and no one quite knows for sure.

A Car Crash Changed His Life

While supposedly accumulating this vast wealth, Wiseau was involved in a serious car crash. According to reports, a driver went through a red light and ran straight into Wiseau’s vehicle. The incident was serious enough to land him in the hospital for several weeks.

A portrait of Tommy Wiseau.
Source: YouTube

After recovering, Wiseau had a sudden epiphany about life being too short and that he needed to follow his dreams. He saw his accident as a turning point and soon focused his attention on becoming the Hollywood star he’d always dreamed of being. The journey would be a wild one.

Where Did His Money Come From?

Considering the $6 million Wiseau unnecessarily spent on producing and promoting his first movie The Room, it’s safe to say he had considerable wealth at his disposal. It’s clear that most of his wealth came before his rise to stardom. Not everyone has $6 million to plunk down on a film project that may not be successful.

James Franco and Tommy Wiseau pose for the press.
Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

When he moved to San Francisco and worked as a street vendor, he still wanted to carry out his plan to chase the American dream in Hollywood. While many people struggle, chasing this American dream came suspiciously easy for Wiseau.

Sestero Has Some Insights

According to Greg Sestero, Wiseau endured a harsh life when he lived in Europe. He apparently experienced everything from homelessness to anti-communist prejudice and less-than-ideal working conditions. It lit a fire inside him that never went out.

A photo of Sestero and Wiseau during a conference.
Photo by Araya Diaz/Getty Images

Although he never openly talked about any of this to anyone but Sestero, Wiseau was always working on improving his financial status. This trait is very typical for many who come out of poor beginnings and not-so-ideal backgrounds. While there will always be speculation about his wealth, there is no doubt about his hard work and determination to succeed.

Is Tommy Wiseau a Vampire?

One of the reasons people have difficulty with Tommy Wiseau’s age is his youthful appearance. When asked about this, he frequently jokes about being a vampire. In fact, he does that so often that fans have started to wonder whether there is some truth to his claim.

A video still of Tommy Wiseau from an interview at Jimmy Kimmel.
Source: YouTube

This type of intrigue about his age and origin was likely Wiseau’s intention in the first place. A more likely cause for his young looks is his intensive self-care routine. In a true spirit of Hollywood stars, Wiseau consciously maintains an outward appearance of youth.

He Works on His Youthful Look

Wiseau regularly dyes his hair and keeps it long and black to add to his mysterious persona. Along with working out on a daily basis to maintain a healthy-looking muscle mass, Wiseau shields his skin from harmful elements and has a very healthy diet. Eating healthy is especially true when he eats out, but at home, he sometimes resorts to noodles and Red Bull to keep him going.

Tommy Wiseau takes a photo of himself.
Source: Pinterest

Above all, Tommy has a compulsive need to appear prosperous both financially and physically. He is constantly very concerned with maintaining his status as a Hollywood movie star. He projects an appearance of self-satisfaction, which he did even when things weren’t going so well for him at the beginning of his career.

He Dreamed of Being a Movie Star

To the outside world, it seems that Tommy Wiseau’s every move is a carefully projected appearance. He wants everyone to see a successful movie star because that’s what he has always dreamed of becoming. In a way, he made his dream come true.

Tommy Wiseau poses for the media.
Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

The notion that he directed and starred in his first motion picture without ever being on a movie set before speaks about his sheer will and determination. So does the fact that he persevered with similar projects after that movie was declared one of the worst movies of all time.

He Thought He Was a Born Leader

At the beginning of his career, Wiseau was offered several acting roles and turned all of them down since they were all villains. Wiseau felt he was born a leader, and he wanted to be the hero of the story. He decided to carve out his own path instead.

A portrait of Tommy Wiseau.
Source: Wikipedia

He clearly showed his leader side when he demanded respect and attention from everyone working on the set of The Room. He continues to seek the limelight and resists taking supportive roles in any project he takes on. Those roles have steadily increased over the last few years.

He Has Some Weaknesses

Wiseau’s greatest weakness is his tendency to be impatient and selfish. He doesn’t have a high tolerance for shortcomings—of others or himself. Anger can get the best of him, particularly if he feels stressed or overwhelmed with the duties imposed on him. On the other hand, when left to his own devices, he becomes the man capable of achieving his life’s dream.

Wiseau laughs during an interview.
Source: YouTube

Wiseau is the type of person who strives for growth and creativity, no matter how unusual it may seem. He believes everyone has the right to express their thoughts and emotions in their own unique way. In his endeavor to reach success, he never lacked the courage to wander off the paths others had walked before him.

Always Kept Very Private

Tommy Wiseau is notorious for keeping his private life away from prying eyes. Therefore, we don’t know much about his family or other personal connections. However, he has admitted that Greg Sestero is his best friend, and he often speaks fondly of him. The two of them bonded while trying to break into the Hollywood film industry as actors.

Wiseau poses for a picture.
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Their efforts ended with not much success, which led to Wiseau coming up with the idea of directing his own motion picture. According to Wiseau, Sestero was the only one who believed he could go through with the project, something he truly appreciates to this day.

The Story of The Room

Not many films have had a weirder journey than The Room. Its long and strange journey included the day it was nationally released for one day only on January 10, 2017, 14 years after the film first premiered in 2003.

A photo of Greg Sestero and Tommy Wiseau behind the scenes.
Source: Copyright: Chloe Productions

This one-day showing marked yet another ironic twist in what has become a uniquely bizarre film career. Tommy Wiseau’s quest for fame is finally coming to fruition. He spent those 14 years trying (and sometimes failing) all sorts of methods to promote his film.

The Ever-Present Billboard

There was once a billboard advertising The Room high over West Hollywood. It was there for years with a huge picture of Wiseau’s face on it, a phone number, and a little information. This was the man who wrote, directed, produced, and acted in the film that was labeled a disaster.

A photo of the billboard.
Source: Pinterest

The cost of keeping this billboard up for all those years was one of many reasons people wondered how and where Tommy got his money. But it’s pretty clear that how he manages his business ventures will continue to be a secret. It all adds to the mystique.

The Room Had a Huge Budget

Keep in mind that Tommy Wiseau financed The Room with his own money. It was self-financed to the tune of $6 million, an insanely expensive film. And the billboard and other promotional ads weren’t cheap either, especially with no guarantees that the film would make any money. It was a huge risk for Wiseau.

A scene from the film.
Source: YouTube

Bizarrely, the billboard was effective and not only managed to get the message across but also created residual interest in what seemed like nothing more than nonsense at first glance. Eventually, this awful film would develop into a huge cult classic.

The Cult Phenomenon Soon Grew

Since its premier, the film has become a worldwide phenomenon. It is seen as something of an urban legend with celebrities such as Paul Rudd and Kristen Bell apparently going to a monthly midnight showing. That started to generate even more interest in the film.

A promotional portrait of Tommy Wiseau for The Room.
Source: YouTube

Private viewings were even organized. Fans from all over quoted lines from the film and hurled plastic spoons at the screen to match the scenes in the movie. It was clear that the showing had become much more than just watching the movie.

What Exactly Is The Room?

If you’ve never watched The Room, you may be wondering what the fuss is all about. It was a 2003 movie written, produced, and directed by Tommy Wiseau, who also stars as its main character, Johnny. The original plan for The Room was to stage it as a play.

Tommy Wiseau and his co-stars pose for a promotional portrait.
Source: Pinterest

That was before the script turned into a 500-page beast and the idea for a movie was born. And then it turned into one big mess that people are finding unintentionally hilarious. Most scenes make everything feel awkward. Wiseau later claimed it is a black comedy, but no one believes that.

What Happens in The Room?

The main plot of The Room is the story of one man’s betrayal. Johnny lives an idealistic life in San Francisco with his girlfriend, Lisa, and their friends, including a guy named Mark. Johnny’s girlfriend cheats on him with Mark, which starts to put a strain on their relationship and friendships.

Sestero and Wiseau are in a scene from the film.
Source: YouTube

The ending is meant to be sad, but with all the weirdness happening on screen, it just makes viewers laugh harder. It’s difficult to take any of the characters seriously, which helps make it an awful film but also makes you marvel about who made a film this nonsensical.

But Why Is It So Bad?

The Room is a bizarre film with many scenes that would make anyone cringe. One minute you’re watching an actor stage their lines awkwardly, and then all of sudden there’s some green screen work being done for what seems like no reason at all.

A still of Juliette Danielle as Lisa.
Source: YouTube

It doesn’t help matters much when Wiseau’s directing makes everything seem sort of odd. Added to this are some of the creepiest sex scenes you’ll ever see. The plot can be hard to follow with some plot lines even branching off, never to be resolved.

They Made a Film about It

The Room was so bad that they made a film about the making of the film. The Room had captivated audiences for years but none more than James Franco. He wanted to make a film about it, which he called The Disaster Artist.

A still of James Franco in The Disaster Artist.
Source: YouTube

Franco’s movie is an adaptation of the 2013 book by Greg Sestero called The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made. The book tells how Sestero became friends with Tommy Wiseau when they both lived in San Francisco. It follows the strange journey of the film and its cult success.

The Film Became a Success

Sestero’s book is just as funny and poignant (if not more) as the movie. There are poignant moments that take a look at those who pursue the Hollywood dream and its impact on the soul.

A still of Dave and James Franco in a scene from the film.
Source: Copyright: New Line Cinema

The Disaster Artist became a popular film by many conventional methods. It was a critical success and highly rated by those who watched it. The film, of course, meant that the cult popularity of The Room would continue and help it thrive even to this day.

A Perfect Storm of Intrigue

There have been many terrible films made in the history of cinema. Most of them sink without a trace to be watched only by a handful of people. For whatever reason, The Room became a film that was so bad that everyone had to watch it.

A movie still from The Room.
Source: YouTube

And much of that happened because of Tommy Wiseau’s mysterious role, his huge personal financing of the film’s large budget, and the effort he put into marketing. There is perhaps no better example of how a film can become a cult classic than what happened with The Room.

Surprising Facts about The Room

Tommy Wiseau, co-producer, screenwriter, director, and star of The Room, decided to make the film after he first created it as a stage play and then tried unsuccessfully to get it published as a 540-page book. He thought it would make more money as a movie than as a play or a book.

A still of Tommy Wiseau in a still from the film.
Source: YouTube

When the Portland Mercury asked him how the film is different than the book, he said, “It’s the same story, but it’s much more detail-oriented.” Wiseau has stated that he will eventually publish the novel, and one publishing company has expressed interest only if he reduces it to 300 pages.

Tommy Planned to Have a Flying Car in the Movie

Johnny (played by Wiseau) was the leading role in The Room. He was a banker who loved to throw a football, copy chickens, and hang around with his good friend Mark (played by Greg Sestero). But there might be more to the main character than it appears, wouldn’t you say? Sestero’s 2013 book, The Disaster Artist, explains all about The Room and how badly it was made.

A portrait of Tommy Wiseau.
Photo by Jeaneen Lund

The book says Wiseau would disrupt the shooting whenever he wanted to add some new scenes. One of the plans for Johnny, the main character, was for his car to levitate from his roof and fly into the sky. Wiseau said it was a side plot, and it turned out he never filmed it.

Juliette Danielle Was Inspired by Eyes Wide Shut for Her Role as Lisa

An unknown actress was supposed to perform the role of Lisa, but Wiseau fired her. Juliette Danielle was already acting in the movie as Lisa’s best friend, but when the unknown actress was gone, Danielle took over the role of Lisa.

A still of Juliette Danielle as Lisa.
Source: YouTube

In the movie, Lisa is Johnny’s wife-to-be, and at the same time, she is having an affair with Johnny’s best friend, Mark. Wiseau had Danielle watch the movie Eyes Wide Shut by Stanley Kubrick to prepare for the role of Lisa. But Danielle was clueless since Wiseau never explained why he wanted her to watch that movie to prepare for her role.

The Pictures of Spoons Were Actually Stock Images

The movie made it look like Johnny and Lisa liked eating with utensils very much. Their apartment was full of spoon pictures that didn’t make sense. So Wiseau’s team bought the pictures to decorate the movie set. Wiseau didn’t think he had time to find new pictures, so he left those photos on the set.

A photo of all the spoons thrown during a The Room screening.
Source: Pinterest

Wiseau was confident about the spoons’ presence. He wanted to speak about Americans’ unhealthy habit of using disposable eating utensils. Now, when people go to watch The Room in cinemas and see the spoon pictures, they throw plastic spoons at the screen and scream, “Spoon!”

Greg Was Semi-Naked in the Sex Scene between Mark and Lisa

In the interview with Rolling Stone, Greg Sestero said Tommy really wanted to include nakedness in the film, but Sestero was uncomfortable with it. Later, Wiseau let Sestero leave his jeans on during the sex scenes. It was so unbearable for Sestero that he walked out on the first premiere of the movie before that particular scene.

A still of Sestero in a scene from the film.
Source: YouTube

Greg said he can’t stand the scene even today. He just skips it and fast forwards the film or goes out when it’s playing. The scene was shot on a spiral staircase and is well known for being incredibly awkward.

They Had to Make a Whole New Character

There was an unnamed character who didn’t even appear in the film until 76 minutes into the 97-minute movie. The first time he appeared was when Johnny had a party at his house. The character approached Lisa about her affair, which confused viewers since they had no context for who he was and why he was saying it.

A still from the film.
Source: YouTube

As it turns out, Peter the psychologist, who had already made quite a few appearances, was supposed to say those lines. But Kyle Vogt (who played Peter) had left the project, and Wiseau cut him from the film. Wiseau left some of his lines in and gave them to someone else—the unnamed character who is credited as being called Stevens.

Wiseau Paid $5,000 Every Month for 5 Years to Advertise on a Billboard

Wiseau chose an extraordinary site to advertise The Room. The billboard stood high above Hollywood on Highland Avenue for five years, and Wiseau paid for it personally in the amount of $5,000 per month. The design was ordinary with a close-up of Johnny’s face, the words “Coming Soon,” a phone number, and some information about the premiere.

A photo of Wiseau speaking to the media.
Photo by Araya Diaz/Getty Images

What was really interesting is that its location was near the Dolby Theatre where the Academy Awards ceremonies are held each year. In 2008, after Wiseau removed the billboard for The Room, Sestero used that same billboard to advertize The Disaster Artist.

The Room Only Made $1,900 When It Was Released

Wiseau’s film The Room was released on June 27, 2003. It originally ran on not just one but two cinemas in Los Angeles—the Laemmle Fallbrook and the Fairfax. It was a low-key release for a film Wiseau had worked on so hard and put so much money into.

Wiseau poses for a photo at The Room screening.
Photo by Josh Brasted/Getty Images

The film played for 14 days and only made $1,900. To say that was underwhelming is an understatement, especially since Wiseau reportedly paid $6 million to make the film. It was an incredible loss, and he must have been devastated.

Michael Rousselet Been obsessed with The Room

Screenwriter Michael Rousselet saw the film in its first two weeks in the theaters. And the cinema was empty when he saw it. That obsessed him, and he told all his friends they had to watch this movie. And after three days, he had gathered 100 people to go see The Room.

Michael Rousselet attends an event.
Photo by Jonathan Leibson/WireImage/Getty Images

Many people sent emails to Wiseau, thanking him for making the film. Wiseau was encouraged and scheduled a replay at the Laemmle Theatre for a midnight show. The result was beyond his anticipation, and he screened it monthly after that without hesitation. The cult of The Room was about to go into full swing and become something much bigger than he had ever imagined.

Wiseau Intended The Room to Be a Very Serious Film

According to Wiseau, The Room’s narrative mistakes were intentional. However, an unidentified cast member denied it in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. It seems like Wiseau was trying to save face about a film that was meant to be taken very seriously.

Tommy Wiseau speaks onstage during The Room screening.
Photo by Josh Brasted/Getty Images

Whether it was intentional or not, many people found the film quite funny. And then there was that film The Disaster Artist, which James Franco directed and also played Wiseau, who had a cameo appearance at the end of the movie.

Wiseau’s Career before The Room

Wiseau had long wanted to get into cinema and apparently had a fascination for the infamous film Citizen Kane and, more specifically, its two biggest stars, Marlon Brando and James Dean. There are even lines in The Room that are similar to those from some of Dean’s films.

A portrait of Tommy Wiseau for The Room.
Source: Pinterest

Wiseau took many acting classes to try to build up his profile and break into Hollywood. While he was taking these classes, he made his own student film that he called Robbery Doesn’t Pay. It showcased his determination to be a star, even if he had to do the work himself.

What He Did after The Room

Immediately after The Room, there wasn’t much work for Wiseau. This was partly because the film, which was released in 2003, took a long time to achieve cult status. It was 2017 before The Disaster Artist came out.

A picture of Tommy Wiseau.
Source: Facebook

In the 10 years after The Room’s release, Wiseau did a few minor projects such as writing and producing a documentary short called Homeless in America and having a cameo appearance as a doctor in the TV series Playboy Adventures. In 2013, he started to get more regular work.

Starring in Best F(r)iends with Sestero

In 2017, Wiseau starred in and released another film with Sestero called Best F(r)iends: Volume 1. The movie, written by Sestero, wasn’t as bad as you might think. It received mixed reviews from fans and critics but was a much better movie than The Room.

Greg Sestero and Wiseau pose for the press.
Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

There was a follow-up a year later with Best F(r)iends: Volume 2. Like the first one, it wasn’t considered a great movie, but it wasn’t terrible either. Around that time, Wiseau was becoming much busier with a wide range of different roles coming his way.

Working on TV Shows

While the big starring roles never came, Wiseau had a few appearances on some lighthearted shows. One of those was the comedy series La La Land (not to be confused with the film) which came out in 2010 as a mockumentary.

Wiseau smiles while posing for a picture.
Photo by Araya Diaz/Getty Images

Other projects included writing, directing, and starring in his own TV series called The Neighbors, which came out in 2014. This was critically panned and only lasted seven episodes. The most highly rated show he’s been part of is Bee and PuppyCat, a surreal animated TV series.

A Return to Directing

Tommy Wiseau’s directing career has been patchy to say the least. It all started with The Room in 2003 and then continued with his documentary short Homeless in America and the TV series The Neighbors. Neither of them was a success.

A scene from The Neighbors.
Source: YouTube

If you’re desperate to see more work directed by Tommy Wiseau, you’re in luck! He’s filming a new movie called Big Shark, which is all about saving New Orleans from a shark attack. It was meant to be released in 2019. The trailer is embarrassingly bad, which means it’s a must-watch when it eventually comes out!

Becoming an Internet Star

Wiseau also turned his talent to becoming an Internet sensation. In 2011 he created his own YouTube series called Tommy Explains It All, which is as random as you’d expect with this crazy character.

A still of Wiseau in Tommy Explains It All.
Source: YouTube

What he “explains” varies a lot, from advice on kissing to his views on various films. He also did a series for the website Machinima called The Tommy Wi-Show. In this show, Tommy basically just plays video games and gives his thoughts.

The Legend of Tommy Wiseau Lives On

What is Tommy Wiseau going to do next? Well, we have Big Shark to look forward to whenever it’s released. Maybe someday we’ll also get the true story about where he was born, his exact age, and where he grew up.

Tommy Wiseau poses for the press.
Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic/Getty Images

What we’ll probably never know is where he got all that money! He’s a very intriguing man who has built up an interesting mystique around himself. His talents of acting, writing, and directing are questionable, but there is no doubt that he has made himself into a cult icon.