James Franco on Impersonating Tommy Wiseau for ‘DISASTER ARTIST’

Disaster Artist
During his Vulture Fest talk with his brother about The Disaster Artist, James Franco went in deatil about his experiences with Tommy Wiseau and how he brought the eccentric man to the big screen. As if that doesn’t sound entertaining enough, Franco answered a good bit of the questions using his accent from the movie.

While Wiseau and Franco are different on the surface level, Franco said he felt like he “related” with Wiseau. From an acting perspective, Franco said he immediately knew his way into the role and felt compelled to bring the story to the big screen before he even finished reading The Disaster Artist, Greg Sestero’s memoir the upcoming film is based on.

In addition to watching The Room about 50 times, Franco had access to vast tape collection that included hours of Wiseau’s scattered thoughts. Apparently, the director would record everything and even talk to himself while driving around, and “Tommy’s good friend Greg strangely stole [them] like 20 years ago,” and gave them to Franco to prep for the role. Wiseau speaks in a thick accent, one that no one can fully place but Wiseau insists comes from New Orleans, with a broken sentence structure. Known for skipping prepositions and speaking in short, direct sentences, Wiseau’s quotes have been deemed “Tommyisms” by Franco. While reading the book and listening to the tapes,

“I went through the book and listened to these tapes and I just wrote them down like in my phone so I’d have Tommyisms. Like, ‘I’ll stop you right there,’ or ‘now, you’re five cents, ‘for your information’ or ‘this is real Hollywood movie, not Mickey Mouse stuff.’ These were all Tommysisms that I just had, that I kind of needed because we improvised a lot and I’d have to improvise as Tommy.”

In addition to the vocal patterns, Franco has to go through two and a half hours of makeup every morning to get into character.  Since Franco both directed and starred in the film, he would stay in his makeup and costume throughout the day. While Franco wouldn’t necessarily stay in character while wearing his director hat, he would keep Wiseau’s specific, mumbly accent.

“I would give directions as me I would just lose certain modifiers in my speech. It got a little confusing sometimes, especially when it’s a scene that Tommy is directing within the scene, and then I’m sort of directing. So like ‘okay, we go again,’ and then actors would be like ‘is that James or Tommy?’ and I’d have to say James.”

When Franco first approached Wiseau with the idea for the film, Wiseau wanted Johnny Depp to play him. Unbeknownst to him, Franco himself was actually Wiseau’s second choice because he had previously played James Deen, Wiseau’s favorite actor. Part of Wiseau’s agreement to allow the film to be made included the fact that he needed to be in a scene, something Franco decided to include as an after-credit sequence.

Franco said Wiseau is a fan of The Disaster Artist who felt emotional at two specific scenes in the movie. While the ending scene makes sense because it depicts a real, emotional moment between Greg and Tommy, his other choice struck Franco as odd.

“Scene where Greg in swimming pool with girlfriend […] it’s my favorite scene, it make me very emotional. When you’re in swimming pool, you feel good. You’re happy when you’re in swimming pool, make me very emotional. That’s my favorite scene.”


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