Update: Cedar Lee Theatre Adds Second 20th Anniversary Screening of Cult Classic 'The Room'

Actor Greg Sestero reflects on his involvement in one of the most bizarre movies of all time

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click to enlarge Greg Sestero. - Courtesy of Jonathan Mares
Courtesy of Jonathan Mares
Greg Sestero.
Update: At 7 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 21, the Cedar Lee Theatre will host a special screening of the cult classic The Room to celebrate the movie's 20th anniversary.  Since tickets to that screening have sold out, the theater has added a second screening that will take place at 9:30 p.m. that same day. Actor Greg Sestero, who stars in the movie and wrote a memoir about his experiences, will attend both screenings.

Original Post 1/5/2023: When actor and writer Greg Sestero originally signed on to help friend Tommy Wiseau complete his movie The Room, a 2003 film about a love triangle that emerges between a banker (Wiseau) and his fiancée (Juliette Danielle) and best friend (Sestero), he had little idea that the movie would become a cult classic. Now, 20 years later, the bizarre movie continues to intrigue.

To mark the film's 20th anniversary, Greg Sestero will appear at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 21, at the Cedar Lee Theatre to show a behind-the-scenes feature and answer questions.

While in Texas scouting locations for an upcoming UFO movie he'll direct, Sestero spoke via phone about the Cedar Lee Theatre event and the film's legacy as one of the worst movies ever made.

You knew Tommy Wiseau before he started filming the movie. How did you initially meet?
We met in 1998 in an acting class in San Francisco. I watched him perform Shakespeare. I was so entertained. I told him, “So many people in class are trying so hard to be perfect.” Something about watching him perform was invigorating, so I approached him to be acting partners. We are polar opposites in every conceivable way, but we just connected because we had the goal of wanting to act.

You had some acting and writing experience prior to working on the film. What was it like for you to be part of such an amateur production?
It re-defined the term “production.” They had crew people who had worked on Terminator 3 and actual films. But this one was run in a way that every day was a surprise. There would regularly be new cast members and new crew members. Each day, you didn’t know what was coming. I had been in a couple of horror films and had written a sequel to Home Alone. I was really interested in storytelling and acting. The Room was more trying to help a friend make his movie. He really wanted me to be in the movie, but my head was elsewhere. It was one of those last-minute decisions and I said I would do it thinking no one would see this movie. I was just trying to help Tommy finish the movie. I know how hard it is to get anything made. It was an amazing ride, everything that has come from that.

You did more than acting. Talk about the other roles you took on.
I came in as a helper and then casting director and then line producer and then prop finder. Then, I was ordering lunch for everybody. I wore four or five hats. That’s sort of what I ended up doing. I just did it all. It was a great learning experience. I learned how to communicate and make sure that everyone is dialed in. For me, what made The Room so interesting was that one person had a clear vision, but nobody else understood it. It’s a movie that makes sense in one person’s mind but not in anybody else’s mind. That was fascinating to watch. I was at the right age where I was willing to go along for the ride. It was a great experience. You think you’re making a movie that no one will ever see and six or seven years later, it starts playing around the world. You go, “What?” That doesn’t happen often. This is quite a backwards experience of success.

The movie initially only showed in a few California theaters and was a box office bomb. It then took on a new life as a cult classic. At what point did you know that had taken place?
I think it was at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York. There had been some articles about the film in Entertainment Weekly and on CNN. It sold out the theater, and I think that was the first time a movie had done that since the re-release of Star Wars. I thought there was something here that was fascinating to watch. That gave me the idea to start writing the book.

What was it like to put that book together? Did you keep a diary during the filming?
Those memories were so surreal, but they were pretty fresh. I also had behind-the scenes, and we’ll show some of those clips at the Cedar Lee, so you’ll get a full-on look at the making of The Room.

What did you think of The Disaster Artist, the 2017 biographical comedy-drama about The Room?
I enjoyed it. It was just really cool to see that story get out there and see a good movie made about this. It brought so many new people to the story as well.

How well does James Franco capture Tommy?
Yeah, he studied all the tapes and watched the movie over and over and just really connected to the story.

Talk a bit more about the upcoming event at the Cedar Lee Theatre.
We’ll have a behind-the-scenes featurette that shows scenes from the making of the movie. Some people will come on stage and read from the original script. We have art and T-shirts. I haven’t been to Cleveland in about five years, and I’m looking forward to going back. It’s a great city.

You’ve been busy in the wake of The Room. Talk about some of the projects you’ve completed since that film came out?
My film Miracle Valley came out on Tubi, but it will be out on Prime this year. I was also in The Haunting of Bly Manor. I made a couple of fun films with these Australian filmmakers. One is called The Christmas Tapes, which is a found footage horror movie, which is also streaming on Prime. I’m writing and making Forbidden Sky, a UFO abduction film which is based in New Mexico and ties in with the events of Roswell. It’s based on the radio show Coast to Coast AM with Art Bell. I’ve been reading and researching the story.

Twenty years on, what is it about The Room that keeps people coming back to it?
I would say it’s just unlike any other movie you can find. It’s made by someone who had a vision and followed through and made it, and there wasn’t anybody to say no. With movies, you put your vision out there, and it clicks or doesn’t, but there’s something about The Room that brings people back, and it’s one of those things that people never forgot. New people continue to discover it.

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Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected]
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