The Disaster Artist is a 2017 American biographical comedy-drama film produced and directed by James Franco. Written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, the film is based on Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell’s non-fiction book of the same name, and chronicles the making of Tommy Wiseau’s 2003 The Room, widely considered one of the worst movies ever made. The film stars brothers James and Dave Franco as Wiseau and Sestero, respectively, alongside a supporting cast featuring Seth Rogen (who also produced), Alison Brie, Ari Graynor, Josh Hutcherson, and Jacki Weaver.
In San Francisco, 1998, 19-year-old Greg Sestero meets a mysterious man, Tommy Wiseau, in acting classes with Jean Shelton. Shelton rips apart Tommy’s performance of a scene from A Streetcar Named Desire, but Greg is impressed by Tommy’s fearlessness and the two become friends. On Tommy’s suggestion, they move to Los Angeles to pursue acting careers.
Greg signs with Iris Burton, a talent agent, while Tommy faces rejection from agencies, casting directors, and Hollywood insiders. Greg develops a relationship with Amber, whom he meets at a nightclub, and Tommy grows jealous; as he fails to find work, he becomes disheartened. As Greg’s auditions also dry up, he shares his frustrations with Tommy, who decides to make a movie for them both to star in.
Tommy writes a screenplay, The Room. Greg reluctantly accepts the role of Mark and an associate producer credit. They rent out a production house; Tommy insists on buying all the production equipment and shooting the film on 35mm film and HD Digital simultaneously. The employees introduce Tommy to Raphael Smadja and Sandy Schklair, who work as his cinematographer and script supervisor respectively.
Production starts smoothly, but Tommy is difficult to work with. He forgets his lines, arrives late, and refuses to supply his crew with basic needs such as drinking water, even as an actor faints. During preparation for a sex scene, Tommy humiliates actor Juliette Danielle by pointing out her acne to the crew. Raphael objects and Tommy briefly fires him. Having filmed extensive behind-the-scenes footage, Tommy reveals that he knows everybody hates him, and believes that nobody, including Greg, supports his vision.
Greg and Amber run into Malcolm in the Middle star Bryan Cranston, who invites Greg to fill in for a small lumberjack part in a Malcolm episode. The part requires a beard; as Greg is due to shave his beard for The Room, he begs Tommy to postpone shooting. Tommy refuses. On the last day of shooting, Greg accuses Tommy of being selfish and duplicitous throughout their friendship, and questions his real age and origins.
Eight months later, Amber and Greg have split up. Tommy invites Greg to the premiere of The Room; to his surprise, the entire cast and crew attend. The audience react first with horror then laughter at the film. Tommy walks out, but Greg comforts him, telling him they have delighted the audience. Tommy returns the theater as the credits roll, takes credit for his “comedic” movie, and receives a standing ovation.
As of January 2, 2018, The Disaster Artist has grossed $18.4 million in the United States and Canada, and $3.7 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $22 million, against a production budget of $10 million.
The film grossed $1.2 million from 19 theaters in its limited opening weekend, finishing 12th at the box office and averaging $64,254 per venue, one of the highest averages of 2017. The film had its wide expansion the following week, alongside the opening of Just Getting Started, and was projected to gross around $5 million from 840 theaters over the weekend. It ended up making $6.4 million, finishing 4th at the box office. The following week, despite being added to 170 additional theaters, the film dropped a more than expected 59% to $2.6 million, finishing 8th.
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