Interview With Greg Sestero, Star Of BEST F(R)IENDS: VOLUME ONE
Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero are back with a new movie, and we spoke with Sestero about the process of making a new, original feature 15 years after The Room.
Independent theatres can rejoice – Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero are finally back with a new film, giving a little break from having to play The Room every month. Best F(r)iends Volume 1 is a new collaboration from actor/writer Greg Sestero and beloved cult director Tommy Wiseau. It arrives in the wake of James Franco‘s Oscar-nominated biopic about the two accidental auteurs, The Disaster Artist, a recreation of the drama behind the making of The Room, the definitive “so bad it’s good” masterpiece that cemented the pair as the modern kings of cult cinema.
As he’s currently touring Australia with Best F(r)iends: Volume 1, I had the opportunity to speak with Greg Sestero about the process of making a new, original feature 15 years after The Room, how the talented crew was assembled and the birth of Sestero’s production company, Sestero Pictures.
Greg Sestero: Have you seen the movie?
Alex Lines for Film Inquiry: Yeah, they sent us a screener. “Interesting” is probably the best way to put it. It’s also interesting watching it on a screen at home, because I do feel like, like The Room, it’s a film that benefits from watching with a crowd.
Greg Sestero: It is, a lot of movies do. When you’re seeing certain moments come to life visually on-screen, it’s a lot more compelling.
How long have you been touring the film?
Greg Sestero: A month and a half.
Oh okay, so not that long?
Greg Sestero: It came out in April.
I was wondering about the release structure of it, because Part 2 hasn’t come out yet has it?
Greg Sestero: No, not yet. It comes out November, I believe.
The film opens with the titlecard of being “Based on a True Story”, which I believe was a road trip you took back in 2003 with Tommy Wiseau. What was it about that trip that inspired the eventual screenplay?
Greg Sestero: He thought I was taking him up there to kill him. We were heading up to Bodega Bay, it was really late and we didn’t feel like driving back. There was one motel, and I thought, let’s just stay here, and he looked really deranged and messy at the time, and I was concerned that they wouldn’t let us have the last room because they’d thought we were doing drugs together. So I told him to meet him around the back and he thought that I was trying to murder him.
So that was 2003, and a couple of years later I played off that mindset, and then the other true story was that my brother is a dentist. He told me the story about the dental scrap world, how you can make all this money doing it, so all the teeth you see in the film are real.
I read that you’re a fan of true crime, so I wanted to ask if there was any true crime stories/shows that inspired the script?
The Black Dahlia totally. True crimes definitely, but also Breaking Bad, Fargo, A Simple Plan, those dark comedy thrillers.
How did the director Justin MacGregor get involved?
Greg Sestero: I met him through a mutual friend, he saw The Room when he was 16, and he was like “what am I watching?” What we had in common was that we both loved film, and I thought that I’d really like to make a movie that stars Tommy, that puts him in a part that fits him. He’s good in the movie, you’re laughing with him not at him, and I thought, this was a good chance to do that.
You wrote and produced the film, did you ever have any interest in directing it yourself?
Greg Sestero: No, I don’t really have any experience doing that, I think that’s where you start to get into some problems because you’re learning on the job whilst trying to make your first film. Delegating responsibility, collaborating with a group of people who know their craft, puts you in a much better chance at making something that’s watchable.
Being an actor yourself, are there any directors you’d love to work with?
Greg Sestero: I think the obvious ones would be David Fincher, Christopher Nolan, Edgar Wright. People who have a voice and are making original movies, you know Tarantino makes things that are watchable and cool and aren’t to do with superheroes. I’d love to continue making movies like that.
Between the launch of The Room in 2003 and now Best F(r)iends this year, was there any attempts to make a feature film with Tommy that didn’t work out?
Greg Sestero: No, not really. I got the idea to work with Tommy again and it came after seeing a rough cut of The Disaster Artist and I thought it was a good time to do something new.
With a film like this, and the main audience for it, I do feel like there’s an immediate need to ridicule the film. Is that something hard to juggle when creating it?
Greg Sestero: Yeah, I think I learned a lot with The Disaster Artist book, that I think people were ready to see that as the worst book ever, but then they quickly responded to its honesty and sincerity, and I think it was able to take readers in a different direction. I think with this film it was a similar approach, if people are gonna wanna laugh, let them laugh, but give them something new and something they can be intrigued by, but still deliver the same enjoyment that The Room does.
When screening it, have you noticed a scene or a moment where you see people getting into the film’s groove?
Greg Sestero: Definitely, there’s moments where it becomes ridiculous and people laugh, but I feel like it strikes a good balance at the screenings I’ve gone to so far.
When was the decision made to split the film in two?
Greg Sestero: I wrote it as one film, but when we were piecing it, editing it and testing it, there was always a point where the second half of the film becomes very different, very intense, very crazy, and I felt like you needed kind of a break to reassess and be prepared to enter the second part.
Due to this, was there anything you had to cut out or add to fulfil two films?
Greg Sestero: Yeah it was definitely a puzzle, because I was in the mindset of writing it as a television show before I wrote it as a film, so I think I was thinking of breaks and twists and I think the twists work a lot better when you separate them. It was better to let the second part do its own thing, where we resolve certain issues that you wouldn’t have seen before. It was initially asked if it could be one film, but the people who have seen both parts when we tested it have said “I get why you’ve done that”. It’s a different film and the payoff is much greater.
Ending on a literal cliffhanger! When filming, was there a lot of improvisation or did you mainly stick to the script?
Greg Sestero: Yeah dialogue-wise there were a few moments where Tommy went off and did his own thing, but for the most part we tried to stick to as much of the script as possible.
What would you say your biggest lesson that you’ve learnt making this film?
Greg Sestero: How important it is to have the right team behind you, to be able to adapt. When making a film, there’s so many surprises that come up everyday, being able to roll with the struggles and make the best of each situation, having a positive outlook and being prepared is what I learnt.
Speaking of the team, I was surprised to see that Daniel Platzman from Imagine Dragons scored the film. How did he get involved with the movie?
Greg Sestero: He’s a friend of mine. He did a terrific job, it’s amazing to work with people who are doing so well in their respective fields. Daniel was great to work with. A vinyl for the soundtrack one day would be great.
One of the credits I noticed at the beginning of the film was that it was a “Sestero Picture” (production company). Is this the first film under that banner?
Greg Sestero: Yeah! It was a huge undertaking, but it was incredibly rewarding.
Is this something that you’d like to continue with in the future?
Greg Sestero: I’d love to continue to do that, as long as fans support it.
I imagine by now, there’s a ton of directors that could be helped by that label, as no matter who the director is, people see ‘Sestero Pictures’ and are immediately watching it.
Greg Sestero: I’d love to continue making unique and interesting content. Yeah, that’s the goal, we really put everything we had into these two films, so that’s the secret, it’s giving 110% and your audience will see it.
With The Room, The Disaster Artist and now Best F(r)iends Volume 1 and 2, it feels like a completed trilogy, and F(r)iends has a nice sense of finality to it. Do you feel that?
Greg Sestero: I do. I think we’ve really spent these 10-15 years really wrapping this great story that shows a lot of growth and strangeness, and I think it’s a great note to move forward on, and go in a different direction.
You start off the film as a busker – did you see the movie Blue Ruin?
Greg Sestero: No, but a few people have brought that up.
It’s because your character, visually, starts off in a similar place as the protagonist in Blue Ruin. In those opening scenes you did a lot of busking, were they authentic?
Greg Sestero: Yeah. I had people question me if everything was alright. Luckily nobody recognised me, though.
Do you get recognised quite often in general?
Greg Sestero: Yeah, much more since The Disaster Artist movie came out.
Speaking to that sense of authenticity, did you do much research when it came to morgues/funeral homes for the movie?
Greg Sestero: We did, we shot in a real-life morgue, which was fascinating and terrifying. Tommy was right at home on that set. It was cool, so we got hear stories about bodies coming in and autopsies, so it was all pretty fascinating.
Did any of those stories fuel, what I’d deem the film’s most memorable sequence: the clown scene?
Greg Sestero: Yeah, that was just one of those fever dreams that just came about.
It’s the one scene I’ve seen everyone bring up once they’ve seen the film.
Greg Sestero: It’s definitely a highlight, one of the funniest moments was when Tommy tried to give the clown acting lessons. Because at one point he turns to strangle Tommy, so Tommy was like “if you know anything about acting, you do it gentle”. It was pretty funny, and the clown was a nice little addition.
How did Paul Scheer get cast in the film?
Greg Sestero: So I knew Paul from doing his podcast (How Did This Get Made?), which is one of the most fun podcasts out there. I knew him for a bit, and I just said “Hey, we’re making this movie” and he came on and we’re lucky to have him. He’s great to work with and a total pro. It’s fun to see him in something kind of serious and I thought he was great.
Was there anyone else that you approached for the film, that didn’t work out?
Greg Sestero: Yeah, we tried a bunch of different people but a lot of its time and filming days, Tommy made a few suggestions, but we were lucky to have Paul.
One of the main things I appreciated about Best F(r)iends was that you chose not to lean on The Room references, was it hard to balance between how many references to stick in?
Greg Sestero: There was no intention in bringing The Room in at all, there was a few things that happened that were there, like the scene where we play basketball, which works without us trying, but there wasn’t a goal to resemble or recreate The Room.
It’s good, it means that someone can watch Best F(r)iends without having ever seen The Room or The Disaster Artist.
Greg Sestero: Exactly, that was the goal, to go in a different direction.
Have you noticed from the latest screenings of Best F(r)iends, any running jokes already developing?
Greg Sestero: Yes, yeah. People are showing up as the characters as well already. For some reason there’s always a culty feel to our films.
What can people expect from Part 2?
Greg Sestero: Part 2 is like the most fun thing I’ve ever worked on. It’s totally different, it’s crazy, think like Breaking Bad starring Tommy Wiseau. It’s all in the desert, it’s even more insane but in a different way.
Film Inquiry thanks Greg Sestero for taking the time to speak with us.
Details about any upcoming tour dates for Best F(r)iends can be found here.
Opinions expressed in our articles are those of the authors and not of the Film Inquiry magazine.