The Untold Truth Of Tommy Wiseau

There are some mysteries in life that may never be answered. For instance, what happens after death? Were humans put on Earth for a reason? And, perhaps most inexplicable of all, who is this Tommy Wiseau dude, and why did he make The Room?

You know his voice. You're familiar with his personality. Whether your introduction to Tommy was through the infamous L.A. billboard from the mid-2000s, James Franco's The Disaster Artist, or simply a late-night Room party with friends, he's a person you can't forget. Is he an extraterrestrial? A cyborg? He can't really be from New Orleans, can he? The deeper you crawl into the rabbit hole, the more confusing it becomes. Don't expect to find clear answers — with this guy, they don't exist — but if you keep your eyes peeled and, to quote Tommy's script, "leave your stupid comments in your pocket," the story of this quirky maverick is one for the ages.

Are you wise enough to know Tommy Wiseau?

By now, if you don't know Tommy Wiseau, it's time to reorient your life. Seriously. The best thing you can do tonight is clear your schedule, rent The Room, and finally learn why all your friends have been yelling things like, "You're tearing me apart, Lisa!" and "Oh, hi Mark!" for all these years.

Put simply, Tommy Wiseau is a cinematic legend of the Ed Wood variety. His magnum opus is The Room, a movie he produced, wrote, directed, and stars in. This flick is, well ... the sort of thing that can't be explained in words. Dripping with passion and sincerity, clearly a labor of love, every single aspect of The Room is bizarrely off-kilter, as if an alien from Mars was trying to do its best impression of Earthling customs. Now, The Room's sheer oddness would be enough to make Wiseau a B-movie icon, but it's the strange (and unexplained) mystery surrounding his origins that truly fuels the increasingly widespread fascination with him. No one but Tommy knows the truth about where Tommy comes from, much less what his real name is, or why he's dripping with enough cash to make Scrooge McDuck jealous. 

Basically, this fella is the celebrity equivalent to Bigfoot, and though he's definitely real, most of the alleged details about his life are questionable. That said, in the past few years, some key information has leaked. 

He's not truly from New Orleans, right?

Tommy Wiseau loves America. He's more patriotic than Uncle Sam. Whenever he's asked where he came from, Wiseau proudly names New Orleans as his hometown ... which, well, conflicts with his heavy Eastern European accent. Now, there's nothing wrong with an ex-pat identifying more strongly with their new country than their one of birth, but Wiseau's elusiveness does get people curious. According to People magazine, he once admitted to Jimmy Kimmel that he was "originally from Europe," and he's occasionally claimed to have origins in France, but the story does have some missing pieces.

This being the 21st century, an internet sleuth on Reddit has theorized that Tommy's real name might be Piotr Wieczorkiewicz, and that he was born in Poland, all of which remains unconfirmed. 

Perhaps the best source for Tommy factoids is the man's self-proclaimed best friend, Greg Sestero — Mark in The Room — who believes that Wiseau grew up in the Eastern Bloc (according to Vox), nurturing dreams of an American future. After immigrating to France, the future Tommy may have changed his name to Pierre (the French version of Piotr), and suffered through homelessness and police brutality before finally making enough money to land in the United States. Presumably, he went right to New Orleans.

His age and inexplicable fortune are puzzling

When someone asks you how old you are, you tend to respond with a number. Tommy Wiseau, on the other hand, just replies, "However old you are," no matter who's asking. Not so believable. If you ask Greg Sestero, according to People magazine, he'll tell you Tommy was probably born in the '50s. Clearly, Tommy would prefer for people to think that he's younger, and he's tried to accomplish this feat through copious amounts of black hair dye and a rigorous exercise routine.

The mystery of Tommy's age, though, is hardly as bizarre as the mystery of his wealth. He funded the entire $6 million production of The Room by himself, with much of the cash going to pointless expenses like shooting the entire movie with two cameras — one 35mm film, the other digital HD — at the same time, as reported by Vox. Tommy claims that his money comes from selling imported Korean leather jackets, according to Entertainment Weekly, but c'mon, does that sound likely? 

One of the strangest stories out there, as described by Vulture, theorizes that Tommy may have been involved in a car crash with a powerful Hollywood producer, who gave Tommy all his Room money in a settlement. Believable enough, but the proof is lacking. There's also a ridiculous conspiracy theory which posits Tommy as being the infamous plane hijacker D.B. Cooper, but this notion is so wacky it makes the leather jackets explanation seem credible.

The making of The Room

These days, Tommy Wiseau often calls The Room a black comedy. Honestly, though? There's no way that the protagonist's death scene, which culminates in a Christ pose, wasn't intended to be deadly serious. Every character (and scene) in the movie goes out of their way to point out what a great guy Tommy's character is. Behind the scenes, this same ego and solipsism was on display at all times, according to Vox, with one particularly notable example being Tommy's decision to invest copious amounts of cash in a private bathroom for himself on the set ... while refusing to pay for the other cast members to have air conditioning. One person even fainted from heat exhaustion, because Tommy refused to let anybody carry water bottles. 

Now, as you can imagine, The Room's development was an epic saga unto itself. Tommy originally drafted the story as a stage play, then converted it to 500-page novel, before rewriting it as a movie script. That's enough work for a lifetime, and no matter what one thinks of the finished product, there's no question that the creator invested everything he possibly could.

Tommy Wiseau's famous billboard

If you lived in Los Angeles during the mid-2000s, there's a good chance that you saw Tommy Wiseau's squinting face looking out at you from a colossal billboard over Highland Avenue ... and, most likely, wondered what the heck it was advertising. This infamous showcase was one of the few pieces of promotion Tommy Wiseau purchased for The Room, and as Vox explains, he kept it up for over five years. Back then, before The Room became a millennial touchstone, most people couldn't decipher what the billboard was trying to signify, whether The Room was an adult film or a crime thriller, much less why they would want to RSVP in the first place. 

Putting this billboard up — and keeping it there — is estimated to have cost at least $300,000, according to Complex, all of which came out of Wiseau's pocket. That's no small number. Seriously, people buy houses for less than that. Needless to say, if you can really make that kind of dough by selling Korean leather jackets, maybe everyone should quit their jobs and follow in Tommy's footsteps.

He's all about vampires

If you've seen The Disaster Artist, you have a good idea about what drives Tommy Wiseau to be the unique individual that he is. One of the few quirks that Franco and company didn't explore, though, is Tommy's underlying fixation with vampires. He often hints at this passion in interviews, to the point where some have speculated that he might be a supernatural being himself. Back in 2016, Wiseau spoke to Newsweek about his dream of producing a vampire movie titled Vampire from Alcatraz: King of Vampires, which has yet to manifest. 

This unmade film isn't his first creative dalliance with nocturnal creatures. According to Inverse, Greg Sestero claims that he actively dissuaded Tommy from including a vampire subplot in The Room, wherein a mid-movie plot twist would've revealed Johnny to be a secret bloodsucker (but still a great guy, presumably). Early scripts reportedly featured a sequence wherein Johnny used his dark superpowers to fly his Mercedes-Benz right into the stars, according to Complex, and while this makes no sense with the movie's story, it certainly would've been fun to see.

The Room wasn't his first movie

Watching The Room, it's obvious that Tommy Wiseau wasn't an experienced filmmaker, producer, or actor when the cameras first rolled. However, he wasn't a total newbie, either. For one, as depicted in The Disaster Artist, Wiseau did attend method acting classes, which is where he first met Greg Sestero, according to Los Angeles magazine. Sestero has also reported that Tommy used to attend film classes at Los Angeles Community College, according to V magazine, and that he'd been trying to break into Hollywood since the '80s.

During this time, Tommy allegedly wrote and directed a short film titled Robbery Doesn't Pay. The plot, characters, and actors in this work have never been revealed, but the mind paints many possibilities. To date, no one but Sestero has ever claimed to have seen the flick, which is a tragedy. Can you imagine how fast that thing would go viral if it appeared on YouTube today?

Helping the world, one Room showing at a time

Tommy Wiseau used to always sell his movie with the tagline, "See The Room, change your life," according to Entertainment Weekly, and time has shown that he genuinely believes that. Though he admits that early reactions to the movie were a bit polarized (to put it mildly), he said that the film really gained its legs when they took it across the country, and people began expressing their enthusiasm for it in wild ways. However, he may have been reaching a bit far in 2014, when he told Gawker that midnight showings of the The Room had single-handedly "eliminated crime in America." 

How so? As Tommy sees it, the derelict youth of a world without The Room might spend their nights hitting people with rocks "by accident" and going to jail, but thanks to his film, they can just go the theater instead. Sounds great, but is it likely? Well, as Tommy once said, "Believe in what you believe."

The Neighbors wasn't such a success

Everybody loves The Room, once they've seen it. Unfortunately, people aren't so fond of Wiseau's follow-up TV series, The Neighbors, which hit Hulu in 2014.

The Neighbors, as its title implies, is about a group of people living in the same apartment building, with a wig-wearing Tommy Wiseau as the landlord. Sounds funny, right? However, the problem with the show, as The Atlantic explains, is that it can't duplicate the earnestness of The Room, since Tommy is now in on the joke. None of the care, craft, and touching (if weird) vulnerability of The Room is present in The Neighbors, since Tommy knows people are just going to laugh at it. 

Instead, the show veers into mean-spirited, poorly-crafted "satire," wherein unlikable characters do unlikable things, with much of their dialogue peppered with not-so-amusing instances of casual racism and/or misogyny. Add in some truly awful production values, and it results in a program that's hard to watch, easy to forget, and mostly serves to highlight just how lovingly filmed The Room really was.  

Tommy Wiseau's superheroic campaigns

Superhero movies are booming, and pretty much every actor wants to get a piece of the pie. Rather than courting a place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, though, Tommy Wiseau seems to be more of a DC fan, and his character of choice is the Joker.

In a way, this makes sense. Like Wiseau, the so-called Clown Prince of Crime is usually depicted as a figure of mystery, with an unknown past, unknown motives, and a flair for the theatrical. Nonetheless, when the filmmaker decided to don a full-Joker getup for his own self-produced audition tape — which totaled almost three minutes — it didn't get the attention of Warner Brothers executives, who cast Joaquin Phoenix instead. Bummer. To Wiseau's credit, he does seem like a genuine fan, as The Hollywood Reporter points out, with his choice to quote lines from both the Nicholson and Ledger Jokers. 

Lest you think that Wiseau has given up on his DC dreams, fear not. In 2019, when director James Gunn released an image announcing the star-studded cast of The Suicide Squad, Cinema Blend reported that Wiseau had posted an altered version, subtly inserting his own name at the top. Maybe someday, Tommy! 

What did he think of the Disaster Artist?

Having a fictionalized version of yourself put on screen, for the entertainment of millions of viewers, can be a traumatic experience. Just ask the dude who inspired Seinfeld's "Soup Nazi," if you don't believe it. So, with that in mind, was Tommy Wiseau incensed about James Franco's The Disaster Artist?

Actually, no. Tommy loved the film. According to Bustle, Wiseau remained cautiously skeptical until the film's showing at the 2016 SXSW, whereupon he announced that he approved of "99.9 percent" of what Franco did. That's a lot better than the 40 percent accuracy rating he gave to Greg Sestero's book, which inspired the movie, and that must've been music to Franco's ears. 

Now, if you're wondering what minuscule details Tommy didn't like, he's been very specific. For one, he apparently was annoyed by some of the lighting in the movie's early scenes, and later, according to Cinema Blend, he was disappointed by Franco's sub-par way of throwing a football. Otherwise, though? Peachy keen! 

Now, it's Sestero's turn behind the camera

In 2018 — not long after The Disaster Artist brought newfound fame and glory to The Room — Greg Sestero decided that the time had finally come for him to jump into the driver's seat. To that end, he crafted his own two-part film series, Best F(r)iends, starring him and Tommy Wiseau.

The reviews were ... not great, for either film. But hey, when it comes to these guys, maybe that's just par for the course. What viewers did appreciate, as explained by The Hollywood Reporter, was that Best F(r)iends didn't attempt to duplicate the passionate melodrama of The Room, instead opting for a dark, paranoid tone. Somewhat touchingly, as noted by Birth.Movies.Death., it seems that a big part of Sestero's goal for the film was to finally give his friend Tommy a role perfectly crafted for his skills. In Best F(r)iends, the wild man plays a mortician who lovingly cares for the corpses he prepares, in a performance that genuinely highlights his eccentricities instead of mocking them. 

Good stuff, Greg. That's what best friends are for, right? 

Wiseau has his eyes set on Broadway

Genuine cult classics are hard to come by. Flicks like Sam Raimi's original Evil Dead, Peter Jackson's Dead Alive, and Ed Wood's Plan 9 from Outer Space fan rise to prominence due to a combination of passion, bootstrapping, and courage, and they boast some of the most devoted fan bases in the world. The Room has certainly earned its place among these hallowed ranks, and while the film never went on to win the Oscars that Tommy Wiseau might've hoped for, it did become a genuine cultural phenomenon. That ain't easy, and Tommy should feel proud of it. 

In recent years, the filmmaker has spent most of his time touring the globe, doing showings of The Room, interacting with his many fans, and making new ones every month. Greg Sestero usually comes along with him, as you might expect. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, they revealed that they were aiming to adapt the film into a Broadway musical, perhaps with the assistance of musician Ben Folds. This project wouldn't happen for a few years, if ever, but wouldn't it be amazing if a Broadway rendition of "You're Tearing Me Apart" became a hit song? Keep your fingers crossed!