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Film Tue Mar 19 2013

The Blu Room: Tommy Wiseau Returns to Chicago

theroom1.jpgBy Doug Rapp

Tommy Wiseau is returning to Chicago to promote the Blu-ray release of his 2003 cult favorite The Room at the Music Box Theatre on Friday, March 22, through Sunday, March 24. All three shows are at 10:30pm, and tickets are $15 in advance or $17 the day of the show. Wiseau, along with actor Greg Sestero, who plays Mark, will introduce the movie and take questions after the film.

For the uninitiated, The Room is a 2003 movie written and directed by Wiseau. The Internet Movie Database classifies it as a drama, but most people who've seen it would definitely call it a comedy. It's ostensibly the story of San Francisco couple Johnny and Lisa, whose relationship is beset by betrayal and infidelity. Add in their conniving friends and a creepy neighbor named Denny, and the movie quickly becomes a surreal comedy with understated irony, overacted emotion and abandoned subplots.

To step into The Room is to step into a parallel universe — a universe with sex scenes that defy the normal pattern of genital alignment, a universe where men routinely pass football underhanded mere feet away from each other while conversing, a universe where teenage neighbors walk uninvited into bedrooms to have pillow fights with older couples. Netflix describes the movie as "uninhibited by cinematic convention." Well put. If you haven't seen The Room, you need to.

Since its release in 2003, The Room has graced many a midnight screening while developing a sizable cult following. The Music Box has been showing the movie on a monthly basis. This will be the fourth screening Wiseau has attended, wrote Dave Jennings, the general manager of The Music Box, in an email. "We are always happy to have Tommy around," he added.

With the Blu-ray version of the movie released late last year and the 10th-anniversary approaching in June, I contacted Wiseau in advance of his return to Chicago on the "Love is Blind Blu 2013 Tour."

I initially tried to reach Wiseau through The Room's website, which is in itself entertaining with its mix of garish and mismatched fonts. My email sent through the website's contact address went unanswered for a week, and then I received a reply from "John," the administrator for Wiseau Films. After a flurry of emails back and forth, we settled on a "Los Angeles time" and Wiseau called me from a blocked number. A recording of Wiseau's mysterious, faintly Eastern European accent and trademark dry chuckle is something I will save on my smartphone forever, or at least until I accidentally erase it.

Sometimes Wiseau's syntax and diction are a bit off, adding to the mystery of his origins. He's been a bit cagey when asked about his early life, saying he's lived in France and New Orleans. His estimated age ranges from 44 to 58, depending on where you look. I avoided any personal questions that he is clearly tired of and tried to focus on the Blu-ray and 10th anniversary.

Wiseau was friendly but told me he only had 20 minutes to spare, urging me to "shoot for the questions." He had just returned from London and Paris, where the film was screened for the first time. He said the tour was going well and he liked coming to Chicago. "It's a nice city. The people are very friendly. It's a positive city. Everybody should see it in America."

Wiseau said he occasionally watches the movie at screenings if he has time. Does he notice anything after repeated viewings? "Any director will tell you the same thing that I'm telling you, that always you need improvement. I would not change too much... I'm happy with how The Room came out. During the production, I replaced four times the crew as well as actors...conflict of interest (laugh) to be nice, you know what I'm saying? Without bashing anybody. You can improve always...I asked myself during the production where is your vision? How do I want to present this? If you don't have a vision you're doomed. I had the vision and I'm a very stubborn guy. Lucky me, I did what I did (laugh)."

Is he surprised the movie is still going strong 10 years later? "Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely, I'm very surprised. Hopefully we will have another anniversary 10 years from today. Every year we have new fans. I receive many, many emails and thank you letters from fans. So it's very exciting to actually be part of [the live screenings]. It's so different than just seeing a movie and saying, 'Hey, that's it.' I like to travel, as you've probably noticed, I like to talk to fans, and say hello and have fun at the same time."

What were his original hopes when the movie was released in 2003? "This is a great question. I like challenging questions. [I thought] I produce The Room, we have a billboard for one month, 45 days, people see it, you know what I'm saying, and move on to the next project. Well, it didn't come out the way I planned 100 percent but I'm glad with the way it turned out. We had a billboard on Highland [Avenue in Los Angeles] for five years, unprecedented (laugh). The Room looks to me, I can report, that in 2013 it's stronger than ever. We've released the DVD, we released the Blu-ray, and people still like to see it in the theater, and I encourage everyone to do so because it's a different experience."

The Blu-ray features cast interviews, deleted scenes and a making-of featurette. Reviews of the Blu-ray are piling up on Amazon, and it seems the fans are pleased.

Besides attending other screenings for theĀ "Blu" tour, Wiseau said he hopes to have his second full-length film, Foreclosure, released within six months. He said he is still shopping his television show, "The Neighbors," around for a contract. A preview from the pilot episode is available on the show's website. "I've got several projects in progress. I'm always open for any projects — let's put it this way."

At one point in the interview, Wiseau said sincerely, "Please write this one sentence. Thank you [to the] fans."

No, thank you, Tommy.

~*~

Doug Rapp is a writer and ESL teacher.

 
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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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