Film and TV

The Room: Four Major Symbols in Tommy Wiseau's Cult Classic Comedy

Independent filmmaker Tommy Wiseau is as enigmatic as his movies. Several times during our 20-minute phone interview, he says, "I don't like to talk about myself."

But one thing Wiseau will discuss at length is his movie The Room, which screens at MADCAP Theaters Friday and Saturday, September 3 and 4 (Wiseau will be there for an audience Q&A).

The film, described as "an American black comedy," tells the story of five characters, whose lives are intertwined through friendships, family, and romance. Wiseau himself stars as Johnny, a banker who plans to marry a woman named Lisa, who turns into a "sociopath." There's a lot of deception, betrayal, and redemption in The Room, which has at its core one central question: Can you really trust anyone?

The Room has screened in Los Angeles for the past seven years. It's been called both "one of the worst movies ever made" and "a piece of accidental surrealism -- the sort of movie David Lynch might make if only he would ever really let himself go" ( It's garnered a significant cult following, and we asked Wiseau why he thinks that is. "I put a lot of symbolism within The Room," he says. "That's why people connect with it."
Read a breakdown of four prominent symbols (with some words from Wiseau), and watch the full movie trailer after the jump.

The Golden Gate Bridge: The Room was shot mostly in San Francisco, and features the famous Golden Gate Bridge. "There is an audience connection there," says Wiseau, who studies psychology as a hobby. Bridges can symbolize a path that joins two people or ideas, but can also represent the symbolic potential for destruction and separation ("burning bridges").

Television: Technology in general is a symbol throughout The Room, but a TV set figures prominently in one of the movie's most dramatic scenes: as Johnny experiences an emotional breakdown and tirade, the cameras pans to a shot of a television being smashed against the ground. "It's like a symbol of the end of civilization, the smashing of the television," Wiseau says.

Drugs: This is one of the more ambiguous symbols in The Room. A character named Denny deals drugs, but the movie doesn't specify what kind of drugs he's dealing. Johnny has a rooftop encounter with a drug dealer named Chris, generally considered to be one of the film's more intentionally comedic moments. There's some drug abuse in the film, which Wiseau leaves open to interpretation. Perhaps the drug abuse is indicative of man's inherent emotional instability and desire for escape, or maybe it's a symbol of clouded human judgment and distorted perceptions.

The Room itself: Characters enter and exit several rooms throughout the film, but the titular room is both symbolic and personified. "It's about relationships, the idea that two is better than three, and three is a crowd. The room is red-flagged not to do certain stuff within relationships," Wiseau says. "The room reflects life -- not just my life or your life, but any relationships. Everyone can have a slightly different take."

The Room screens at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, September 3 and 4, at MadCap Theaters, 730 S. Mill Avenue in Tempe. Tickets cost $15, or $25 for both nights. Wiseau will attend both screenings and participate in audience Q&A. Call 480-634-5192 or visit for more information.

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Niki D'Andrea has covered subjects including drug culture, women's basketball, pirate radio stations, Scottsdale staycations, and fine wine. She has worked at both New Times and Phoenix Magazine, and is now a freelancer.
Contact: Niki D'Andrea