Tommy Wiseau

Tommy Wiseau is an American actor and filmmaker. He produced and directed ‘The Room’ (2003), which has been described by many critics as ‘one of the worst movies ever made’ and has gained cult film status. He also directed the 2004 documentary ‘Homeless in America’ and the 2015 sitcom ‘The Neighbors.’

Wiseau is secretive about his early life. In various interviews, he has claimed to have lived in France ‘a long time ago,’ asserted that he grew up in New Orleans, and described having ‘an entire family’ in Chalmette, Louisiana.

In interviews following the release of ‘The Room,’ Wiseau gave an age which would indicate he was born in 1968 or 1969, but actor Greg Sestero claims in his 2013 memoir, ‘The Disaster Artist,’ that his brother’s girlfriend obtained copies of Wiseau’s U.S. immigration papers and found that Wiseau was born ‘much earlier’ than he claimed, in an Eastern Bloc country in the 1950s.

In his 2016 documentary, ‘Room Full of Spoons,’ Rick Harper claims to have researched Wiseau’s background and concluded that he is Polish and originally from the city of Poznań. Wiseau revealed that he is ‘originally from Europe’ in an interview on ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live!’ In an interview with Howard Stern later that year, he claimed to speak French and said he is a Catholic.

In ‘The Disaster Artist,’ Sestero asserts that Wiseau revealed to him — through ‘fantastical, sad, self-contradictory stories’ — that as a young adult he moved to Strasbourg, where he adopted the name ‘Pierre’ and worked as a restaurant dishwasher. According to Sestero, Wiseau described being wrongfully arrested following a drug raid at a youth hostel and being traumatized by his mistreatment by the French police, which led him to immigrate to the U.S., purportedly to live with his aunt and uncle in Chalmette, Louisiana.

Sestero asserts that Wiseau subsequently moved to San Francisco, California, where he worked as a street vendor selling toys to tourists near Fisherman’s Wharf. Wiseau supposedly gained the nickname ‘The Birdman’ for his bird toys, which were only popular in Europe at the time; this led him to legally change his name when he became a United States citizen to Thomas Pierre Wiseau, taking the French word for ‘bird’, oiseau, and replacing the O with the W of his birth name.

According to Sestero, Wiseau worked a variety of jobs in the San Francisco Bay Area, including restaurant busboy and hospital worker, and ran a business called Street Fashions USA that sold irregular blue jeans at discounted prices. He eventually purchased and rented out large retail spaces in and around San Francisco and Los Angeles, making him independently wealthy.

In the same book, however, Sestero admits that the idea of Wiseau becoming wealthy so quickly via the jobs he claims to have had is so unlikely that he himself finds it impossible to believe. Sestero suggests on several occasions that many people involved with the creation of ‘The Room’ believed the film to be part of some money-laundering scheme for organized crime, but Sestero himself considers this unlikely.

Sestero recounts that at some point, Wiseau was involved in a near-fatal car crash in California after another driver ran a red light and struck Wiseau’s vehicle; as a result, Wiseau was hospitalized for several weeks. Sestero suggests that this incident was the turning point in Wiseau’s life that led him to pursue his dreams of becoming an actor and director, ambitions that he had long neglected while pursuing financial security. Wiseau’s cinematic influences include James Dean, Marlon Brando, Tennessee Williams, Orson Welles, Elizabeth Taylor, and Alfred Hitchcock.

‘The Room’ was released in 2003. Its budget was $6 million, the financing of which has remained a source of intrigue. The film was based on an unpublished 540-page novel written by Wiseau himself. The movie was immediately lambasted by critics, but ultimately became a ‘cult classic’ with late-night showings at theaters around the world. Audience members typically arrive wearing wigs resembling their favorite characters, interact with the dialogue on screen, and throw plastic cutlery and footballs around the theater in reference to on-screen events.

This attention grew into what was dubbed The Room’s 2010–2011 ‘Love is Blind’ International Tour, with the movie being screened in the United Kingdom, Germany, Denmark, Australia and India, among other locations. Wiseau appears at many of these events, posing for photographs with fans and often addressing the audience before screenings.

In 2004, Wiseau produced and appeared in a short documentary, Homeless in America. In 2010, Wiseau acted in a short film entitled The House That Drips Blood on Alex, a parody horror film written and produced by sketch comedy group Studio8. The film had a preview showing at Comic-Con on July 24, 2010. It premiered on Comedy Central and appeared online on October 14, 2010.[29]

Wiseau has stated that he has been influenced by the films ‘The Guns of Navarone’ and ‘Citizen Kane,’ and the actors James Dean and Marlon Brando. According to Sestero, Wiseau’s obsession with James Dean was so intense that he often visited a Los Angeles restaurant owned by a former acquaintance of Dean, and that several lines of dialogue in ‘The Room’ (including the infamous cry ‘You are tearing me apart, Lisa!’) were based on lines from ‘Rebel Without a Cause.’

In the 2017 film adaptation of ‘The Disaster Artist,’ James Franco portrays Wiseau. Wiseau approved of the choice, as well as that of Dave Franco playing Greg Sestero. In 2009, Wiseau guest-starred in an episode of ‘Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!’ entitled ‘Tommy,’ wherein Wiseau guest-directed a segment entitled ‘Pigman.’ After Wiseau expressed a desire to work with the duo again, Tim and Eric announced in 2009 that they were developing two series for him.

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