Greg Sestero on Reuniting with Tommy Wiseau for Best F(r)iends

Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero in Best F(r)iends
Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero in Best F(r)iends Courtesy of Greg Sestero
Greg Sestero has had quite a year. Looking back, it feels a little meta.

The actor was portrayed on-screen by Dave Franco in James Franco’s film The Disaster Artist, an adaptation of the book Sestero co-wrote with journalist Tom Bissell in 2013. It documented Sestero’s involvement with the production of the cult 2003 film The Room, directed by his friend, the mysterious Tommy Wiseau.

“He did a great job,” Sestero says of Dave Franco’s performance. “We had met up a few times before and talked about what the character was. He really understood that part of my life and took it seriously. I really enjoyed the film.”

The film was nominated for two Golden Globes, including Best Motion Picture, musical or comedy. James Franco won Best Actor in a musical or comedy for his portrayal of Wiseau. The movie also snagged a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay at the 90th Academy Awards.

Amid the renewed attention on The Room, Sestero wanted to work with his friend Wiseau again. So Sestero wrote and co-produced Best F(r)iends. Wiseau plays mortician Harvey Lewis, who befriends drifter Jon Kortina (Sestero). The duo embark on a twisted road trip that may or may not be based on real-life incidents. After filming was complete, the decision was made to split the film into two parts. Volume One came out on March 30, and the second half is scheduled for release in June.

Sestero will screen the first part of the film at Alamo Drafthouse in Chandler on Friday, April 13. A screening of The Room precedes it on April 12. He took some time out from putting the finishing touches on Best F(r)iends Part 2 to talk with Phoenix New Times about how his new project is unlike The Room, writing for Wiseau, and not fitting in. (This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)
Phoenix New Times: According to your IMDb page, you’ve done everything from movies to television to soap operas. How does Best F(r)iends differ from your previous experiences?
Greg Sestero: This has been the most fun to me because you are actually creating a project from scratch. You’re collaborating with a group and bringing a vision you had in your mind to light. It has been the most rewarding project.

Did writing the book The Disaster Artist give you the confidence to write the screenplay for this movie?
My first love was storytelling, so [writing the book] warmed me up to trying to tell more stories. When I came up with the idea of Tommy and I reuniting for a film that I was writing, it was a lot easier for me to jump into it.

Were you a writer growing up?
I saw Home Alone when I was 12. I wanted to write a screenplay to the sequel with a part for myself opposite Macaulay Culkin. I sent it to John Hughes and I got a little note back from him. It was what I wanted to do.

From what I have heard, Best F(r)iends is based on some true-life experiences that you and Tommy had. Were there other things that influenced your screenplay?
I love Los Angeles noir films like Nightcrawler, Double Indemnity, and Drive, so I tried to put a little of that into it while telling a unique story. There is another true event that involved this underground world of dentistry selling scrap now that the price of gold has gone up. It is lucrative. My brother was telling me about it, so I put that into the film as well.

It almost sounds like a Chuck Palahniuk novel.
I can see that! I love offbeat stories, so I wanted to make something that was a far cry from The Room.

Tommy plays a mortician named Harvey. What about Harvey fits Tommy’s personality?
I think he sees the world in an infectious and loving way. Being an outcast and believing in what you are doing when no one else does is a good fit for Tommy’s character. He carries out those feelings without tapping into The Room in any way.

You mentioned Tommy feeling like an outcast, but given how The Room has this huge following and the film adaptation of The Disaster Artist was received so positively, do you feel accepted now?
Yes, especially after attending the Golden Globes and watching James [Franco] win. [The Room] has become more understood to a point. I think it’s a great thing but you still want to be making stuff you are passionate about and not try to fit in.

How do you feel like you don’t fit in?
When I first came to Los Angeles, a lot of the big shows were Dawson’s Creek. A lot of stuff being made is not what I was passionate about.

You have to find a way to tell stories and engage people. They want something unique and you have stories to tell that no one else does. People will find and appreciate it if it’s authentic.

My goal with The Disaster Artist was to make it more comprehensible than The Room and tell a story that people could laugh at but also have strong feelings towards. I’m really glad it was taken in that way. I hope that is the work I can continue to do.

What was it like attending The Golden Globes?
Having something you wrote be nominated for Best Picture and Best Actor and then winning one of those awards was incredibly exciting. Getting to meet all the people you looked up to and having them tell you they have seen your film was great. It was everything you could ask for.

Given The Room’s “reputation,” was there any hesitation from people you wanted to work with for Best F(r)iends?
People really wanted to come out and help. I had a ton of support from everyone from film students to actors to friends. It was almost like everyone wanted to make this movie happen.

Why divide Best F(r)iends into two parts?
It’s just one of those things. You have this vision in your mind, then you end up making the film and it turns out to be a different beast than you expected. In testing the film, we felt it needed an intermission. Part two is even crazier than part one. It works well together and it leaves you wanting more. I think it will be a fun adventure.

When you visit Phoenix, you’re showing The Room one night and Best F(r)iends the next. Are people surprised when one film is not like the other?

It’s been pleasantly surprising how much people have been enjoying Best F(r)iends because it is different. I think they don’t know what they are going to get. They are expecting a movie that is “so-bad-it’s-good” on purpose but are getting something with effort and craftsmanship put in.

I assume when doing interviews like this, you are talking about The Room more than Best F(r)iends. What is the one thing about your new movie that you want people to know that you maybe do not get to talk about?
You don’t get many chances in life to collaborate with your friend 15 years later and make something. It is its own beast. The tensions are different. The Room is what brought you in and you want to keep those fans happy, but at the same time what a great challenge to do it all again in a different, mature, and more coherent way. That was really our goal.

I hope people enjoy this film. You are never going to duplicate The Room, but you hope people appreciate this film. It is a different form of storytelling. I hope it’s a great cinematic experience for the fans.

Greg Sestero is scheduled to appear on Thursday, April 12, for a screening of
The Room and on Friday, April 13, for a screening of Best F(r)iends at Alamo Drafthouse, 4955 South Arizona Avenue in Chandler. Tickets are available via the Alamo Drafthouse website.
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Jason Keil was the Phoenix New Times culture editor from August 2019 to May 2020.
Contact: Jason Keil