‘The Disaster Artist’ and James Franco are critical darlings

2017 Gotham Independent Film Awards

After what seems like a small eternity, The Disaster Artist hits theaters today. If the critical reception is any indication, James Franco may have a hit on his hands.

The film, directed by and starring the often offbeat, 39-year-old actor/director, details the making of the 2003 camp classic The Room. The story follows that movie’s star/writer/director, Tommy Wiseau, and his friend and co-star, Greg Sistero, as they create an unintended cult phenomenon. Based on Greg’s 2013 book The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, The Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made, (co-written by Tom Bissell), the movie co-stars Dave Franco as Sestero as well as Seth Rogen, Alison Brie, Josh Hutcherson, Zac Efron, Jacki Weaver, and Ari Graynor.

The Disaster Artist has already achieved something the film it’s based on never did – critical kudos – which is kind of a new thing for Franco the director. It’s currently rated 95% “fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes. Critics are calling it “extremely entertaining” and “sweet and affectionate”, with some suggesting that James may find himself nominated for a Best Actor award come Oscar time. On Monday, he received a Gotham Award for Best Actor, the first of many, I’m guessing.

James, who admitted he came late to the party as far as the cult of The Room was concerned, felt that after reading the book the story needed to be told. He told the Huffington Post that “Before I was halfway done [with the book], I was like, ‘This is an amazing story.’ I love Hollywood history. I love Hollywood stories. I read books about Hollywood about as much as anything. I knew, as a storyteller, I’m obviously drawn to things that are unusual.”

Franco enlisted an all-star cast (who look eerily similar to their Room counterparts), as well as screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber to bring the book to life. In an interview with the LA Times, the writers wanted to create a script that was “equal parts ‘Boogie Nights’ and ‘Ed Wood’ with a dose of ‘Sunset Boulevard’ thrown in for good measure.” They had nothing but praise for James, whom they claim embodied the character of Tommy, complete with his bizarre, unidentifiable accent and unique mannerisms. “By the end of shooting, none of us could remember what he actually looked like.” And, proactively addressing any potential haters, they added:

Quick word about our fearless director. Throw away whatever you think you know about James Franco unless you’ve been in the trenches with him. The man is a dynamo. It was more than just his performance and preparation. His focus is superhuman. His esprit de corps is irresistible. The best on-set experiences are when everyone feels safe to take risks. As captain of the ship, James created that environment. It was exhilarating to go to work every day.

[From the Los Angeles Times]

The Disaster Artist employs an extreme attention to detail in recreating some of the iconic scenes from The Room. Original blueprints of the sets were employed and the lighting was specially designed to replicate the amateurish look of the original movie. James discussed shooting the infamous “Oh, hi Mark” scene with Vulture, recalling that:

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.

[From Vulture]

If The Disaster Artist is a success, it’s probably because James put a lot of heart and soul into it, just like Wiseau did with The Room. James told Variety that “I truly think the secret sauce to ‘The Room’ is Tommy’s passion and the fact that this was an incredibly personal film to him. Whatever he says now and however he’s rewritten the history, this is Tommy’s heart and soul out for everyone to see on screen.” TDA really seems like James’ own passion project and, after learning about how hard he worked to tell this tale, he certainly is deserving of the acclaim.

James Franco during an appearance on ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live!'

Vulture Festival, The Disaster Artist's James Franco & Dave Franco

'The Disaster Artist' Premiere - Arrivals

Photos: Getty Images, WENN.com

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

24 Responses to “‘The Disaster Artist’ and James Franco are critical darlings”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. DazLondon says:

    This film looks fun

  2. Nicole says:

    I mean the set pictures and the stills look like exact replicas. So this looks enjoyable to me.
    Nice to see a different kind of movie again get some critical praise and awards buzz. Sometimes it’s boring to have 5 million “serious” biopics be the frontrunners

    • Cupcake says:

      Yes! I am SO hoping for an Oscar for this film so that Tommy Wiseau’s dream can be realized in the oddest way imaginable. Tommy better be at the Academy awards and, if they win, on stage for the acceptance!

      I’ve been waiting for 12/1 for months to see this movie. I’ll be watching it in SF tonight with a cocktail in my hand!

      • Jen says:

        I’m so with you on that! Tommy did submit The Room to the Academy Awards for their consideration, so this would be such a bizarre but perfect full circle

      • mee says:

        Just saw this. It was amazing – and I knew nothing about The Room before. Franco was fantastic and deserves an oscar for his performance.

  3. mamacita says:

    love james franco. watch his old Comedy Central roast. watching his ability to laugh at himself was delightful. he’s underrated and is truly talented as hell. good for him on this and I enjoyed his recent interview covered here too.

  4. Insomniac says:

    I want to see this RIGHT NOW. That book is one of the funniest things I’ve ever read.

  5. WombatNation says:

    I’m so conflicted because The Room is my favourite bad movie because every single scene, every line is pure comedy gold. The book by Greg Sestero was hilarious (and a little frightening) BUT I loathe James Franco – he gives me the heebs. That smile is just greasy. So, conflicted – although I suppose he is the right person to play the (possibly non-human) Wiseau.

    • Wren33 says:

      He is definitely a weirdo and very hard to read. Not necessarily a bad thing but I have no idea what is going on in his head.

  6. sb says:

    I don’t how, i’m looking forward to the film and think it might be a hit. I really don’t know if he’s going to win much more though.

  7. FishBeard says:

    Hasn’t James Franco always been a critical darling? Not to knock this film or anything, but he consistently recieves good reviews for his performances. As much as I despise his ‘artiste’ persona, he truly is a splendid actor.

    I can’t wait to see this. When I first heard about the premise a few months ago, I thought it was going to be a stoner comedy. I’m really pleased to hear how sensitive and heartfelt it is.

  8. third ginger says:

    Franco is definitely in the Oscar conversation; however, that is no guarantee he will get a nomination. What’s going on with Best Actor is that there are several “prestige” potential nominees, Hanks, DDL, and Oldman. Now the Academy, which has gotten many new members in the last few years, may want to reward something different. As Nicole wisely points out above, there is always a glut of biopics. As I said in a thread yesterday, analyzing Oscars is one of my hobbies.

  9. Tallia says:

    He and his brother make my skin crawl for some reason.

  10. Jen says:

    My girlfriend and I actually watched The Room together on our first date, after we discovered that we both love so-bad-they’re-good movies. I had already seen this cult classic but it was brand new for her, and once she laughed at the opening line, I knew we were compatible.

    The following week we went to one of those screenings with audience participation (ie: yelling “spoons!” and throwing spoons across the theater whenever a scene would feature spoon artwork. There was a LOT of spoon artwork) and actually met Tommy Wiseau. He tossed a football around with fans (!) and answered some questions on stage. He is just as strange and unintentionally hilarious as you would imagine lol

    Needless to say, we are definitely catching The Disaster Artist this weekend. James Franco’s “oh hi Mark” scene sold me.

  11. Lori says:

    I read a really bad review on nytimes of this movie, so Im shocked now reading this.

    Yet happy, I like Franco- I’ll watch this.

  12. IMUCU says:

    I have no opinion about TDA or TR because I know nothing about either than what I have read here… except Hollywood always loves movies about Hollywood/film making, so it’s no surprise that if it’s decent it will be acknowledged critically.

  13. TheOtherSam says:

    He’s hit on underage girls, from all the time he spent getting a million degrees from various schools. The incident in the UK in 2014 wasn’t the only one. Your creepy feelings (the ones noting this) are valid. He’s got a brilliant pr team will give him that. When will Hollywood and the Academy learn?

    • Brian says:

      About the movie, it might be ok. I won’t knock it until I see it.

      Franco, the Taller, has never really impressed me all that much as an actor. Except for the James Dean movie he did long ago. He really was good in that. On the other hand I’ve never actually been convinced with his academic achievements. As a post-graduate student myself I’m all too familiar with the amount of work and TIME it takes to complete an M.A. let alone a P.h.D. For him to be enrolled simultaneously at two different schools in two different programs while working full time as an actor smacks of a lot of underhanded deals and leeway. I’ve never bought that. Plus his work up to this point has been extremely mediocre.

  14. princessbuttercup says:

    This does look good, but he’s got some creepy stories floating around about him that are all pretty legit. Not quite the open-secret that Kevin Spacey was, but enough, and there was that time in 2014 he got caught hitting on a 17-year-old. He might be next. It will be interesting to see how his people swarm to try to protect him if it comes out.

  15. I Choose Me says:

    Not a Franco fan by any means and yet I find him oddly compelling on screen. I watched the trailer and hardly recognized him, he disappeared into his character so well. I think this one is a definite watch for me.

  16. Apple cinnamon says:

    He’s super shady in real life re those underage girls but I have to say he’s a decent actor. From the first spiderman reboots to The Vault which I saw just recently, this guy does have something.