To look at Greg Sestero’s IMDB page, you’d hardly notice the 31-year-old was in 2003’s The Room; it’s no more than an understated blip on his small list of roles, and the film receives no mention in his fairly extensive biography. But Sestero is a large part of what makes the cult phenomenon such a hit: He plays Mark, the two-timing best friend of Johnny (the clay-like Tommy Wiseau), who’s engaged to Mark’s lover Lisa (Juliette Danielle, who can’t be troubled to dye her hair and eyebrows). Mark says Johnny is his best friend at least 100,000 times, has a bad habit of saying hi to everyone, and suffers from seemingly random outbursts of rage. He makes this cognitively fuzzy, unfortunate film such a fascinating circus. In anticipation of two midnight screenings tonight and Saturday at the Esquire Theatre, The A.V. Club called Sestero to discuss The Room’s lack of clarity, behind-the-scenes drama, and his friendship with Wiseau—though he wouldn't say, “best.”
The A.V. Club: You’ve attended numerous screenings of The Room in LA. What’s the experience been like for you to watch other people watch the film over and over?
Greg Sestero: Well, originally my favorite part, when I’d gone to the earlier screenings in 2004, was the stuff that people came up with [to yell]. Tommy showed me the script a long time ago, and I was laughing. Tommy comes from a different way of expressing, and talking, and I think that’s the way it came across. During the auditions, too, you could see that it was going to be a lot of fun; I just didn’t know if it would actually be seen by people.
AVC: It’s interesting that you thought it would be a fun movie, because the script is really dark: infidelity, drugs, cancer, etc.
GS: You have these dark subjects, but they’re surrounded by these random scenes that are rather funny—like the football scene in the alley. He’s finding out that his fiancée’s cheating on him, and then he’s in an alley talking about football and throwing it three feet apart [from the rest of the cast]. I think that’s why people get totally confused.
A rare angry moment from Mark:
AVC: What was your experience with Tommy before the film?
GS: I was in an acting class, and he went up onstage and was, just, so entertaining. The whole class was laughing and chanting his name, and he was getting into it with the teacher and I thought, “This guy’s kind of cool.” I thought wow, next time it comes up—picking a scene partner—I want to work with him. And we just clicked. I mean, we rehearsed these scenes and everyone in acting class loved them. They thought we were a great pair. He told me, “I have a movie I’d love to make, and I think you’d be great, and I have a part for you.” We randomly kept in touch, and a few years later he said, “I’m going to start doing this movie. Would you like to jump on board?” It’s kind of funny. You meet someone in a class and start doing a movie together.
AVC: You were also the line producer on the film?
GS: Yeah, he had showed me the script, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to act in it because I thought it was… I don’t know… the love scenes… [pauses.] So I thought, “Let’s just see where it goes.” I was his right-hand man, calling people into audition, casting it, helping hire people, so when it got down to actually shooting it, I figured I’m going to be on set all the time, why don’t I act in it. He made me a good offer, so maybe three nights before we started shooting it, I decided to act.
The chemistry between Mark and Lisa is electric.
AVC: Was the intention always to make a comedic film?
GS: There were absolutely scenes in it that were intended to be comedic. The football playing in the tuxedoes; I hope those scenes weren’t intended to be dramatic. And then there are certain scenes that look like they’re supposed to be dramatic. So I think it’s sort of a half-half thing. I guess he was trying to make a dramedy. His big thing was he wanted to get a reaction from people. He wanted people to be entertained at whatever price.
AVC: It’s been rumored that the actor who played Peter, the psychologist, quit; so you guys had to cast another actor to play a friend part, who wound up being Steven at the party. What happened to Peter?
GS: Well, there were supposed to be a few more friends at the party, to make the scene—more people, more stuff. We were going to add in that character Steven, but once Peter left, he kind of took over. Peter had other clients he had to tend to as a psychologist, so he couldn’t be at the party. [Laughs.]
AVC: How do you feel about the phrase, “It’s so bad, it’s good,” as it applies to The Room?
GS: There’s certain things people like about this movie. You watch the flower-shop scene and ask yourself, “What were they thinking?” It pulls you in. And at the end of the day, it’s just entertainment. So, “so bad its good” definitely pertains to this movie. You either have to be extremely good to have people watch your movie a lot, or you have to be extremely bad.
AVC: How closely do you follow fans’ questions about the film? Things like: What kind of drugs did Denny take? Why don’t they bring up the cancer again?
GS: When you saw this, you must have been completely blown away. Are you saying, like, “What the hell?” It just totally pulls you in. When I see [the film now], I’m like, “I remember that day. I remember the call time, making sure all the props are there.” It’s hard to remove yourself.
AVC: But as far as those questions people have, were the answers left purposely vague?
GS: It was just the thought process. Just random scenes that don’t really have a plot line. There wasn’t any character arc. It was a scene that infused drama into the movie, but there was no point to it. And if you think about it, good films have plants, and they have payoff. Here, you have a garden full of plants… and no payoff. It’s an interesting way of manipulating an audience.