Working with siblings can go either way. Some have the harmony of Haim; others turn a bit Liam and Noel. Things seem to be going pretty well for brothers James and Dave Franco, who have finally made a film together, and a very good one at that. The Disaster Artist is the story of really, really bad film The Room and actor/director/lunatic Tommy Wiseau, the man to blame for it. The elder Franco is unforgettable as the bizarre Wiseau, with his younger brother playing the straight man as Tommy’s co-star, Greg Sestero. We met the pair in London.
Because it’s a small cult movie, a lot of people won’t know The Room. Can you sum up its appeal?
James Franco: “It’s called ‘the best worst movie ever made’. It’s the Citizen Kane of bad movies… To describe the movie: Tommy plays Johnny, who’s this all-American guy. Johnny is betrayed by his best friend and his girlfriend, and I think it’s very personal to Tommy, that he feels he has been let down by the world, betrayed by the world. Spoiler alert: the character commits suicide. I think The Room stands alone because when Tommy Wiseau made it – he acted in it, directed it, wrote it, financed it to the tune of $6 million – he was so sincere and was aiming so high. He put on his first poster, ‘Tennessee Williams-level drama’. He kept it in theatres for two weeks to qualify for the Academy Awards. That’s where he was aiming. He didn’t reach that… But people are still watching it 14 years later. Religiously.”
Which of you was a fan first?
James: “I read this book [The Disaster Artist by Greg Sestero] four years ago… Before I was halfway done I knew I wanted to tell the story and play this guy. Not only was he a great wacky character, I felt like I understood him.”
And you decided this would be the project for you and Dave to finally work on together?
James: “One thing we had done was the series of Funny Or Die videos where I play a ridiculous acting coach and Dave’s my student. That was kind of the dynamic, or at least the rudiments, of what we have in The Disaster Artist. I was like, ‘Come on, Dave, this is the one!’ So he watched it in his room, alone.”
And were you on board immediately?
Dave Franco: “No, I was not.”
James: “It took you a minute!”
Dave: “I watched it by myself in a hotel room and it is not the way to see that movie. You want to be able to turn to people and say, ‘What the f**k is going on?’ Then I read the book and immediately understood the movie James wanted to make.”
Was it OK being directed by your brother or did you bicker?
Dave: “People keep saying this! They’re so surprised we worked well together and have nothing negative to say. It was really fun and easy.”
Even in the scene where James is directing you while wearing nothing but a sock over his bits?
Dave: “That was a few weeks into production and by that point I didn’t even think twice about it. I just thought, ‘OK!’”
James is seven years older than you, Dave. Did you have the same taste growing up?
Dave: “Yes. He and [middle brother] Tom used to show me R-rated movies when I was way too young to see them. Whatever they liked is whatever I ended up liking… When I was 13 or 14 I visited James in LA for the first time. He was filming Spider-Man. One day, while he was on set, he gave me a movie to watch at his apartment and it was Kids [a graphic movie about teen sex]. I popped that in not knowing what to expect.”
James: “You were that young?”
James: “Then you came to visit me a little later and we saw [explicit film] The Brown Bunny in the theatre.”
Dave: “Jesus. Yes. You guys were really trying to scar me. But yes, it opened me up to everything at an early age and made me become a huge fan. I’ve always embraced movies that are pushing the envelope. Part of the reason for that is because of these bizarre movies he introduced me to.”
And now he’s put you in one.
The Disaster Artist is in cinemas now