A view of The Room
In 2003, unsuspecting moviegoers were introduced to The Room, a low-budget drama that marked the auspicious feature debut of writer/producer/director/star Tommy Wiseau.
Reaction to the film was swift and immediate: It was a catastrophe. Self-absorbed, pretentious, rife with lapses in continuity and plot, and an unintentional laugh riot.
In short, an immediate cult classic and an enduring cause celebre for bad-movie mavens the world over, with Wiseau being hailed as an auteur of the worst order – more Edward D. Wood Jr. than Orson Welles. (Incidentally, The Room is in no way to be confused with Room, the critically acclaimed 2015 film for which Brie Larson won the Oscar as Best Actress.)
For Robyn Paris, a graduate of Grimsley High School in Greensboro and Duke University, who played the character of Michelle, The Room wasn’t her first film, nor (fortunately!) her last, and the film’s following inspired her most ambitious project to date: “The Room Actors: Where Are They Now?,” a mock reality series that sees the film’s original cast members reunited to discuss the impact of The Room on their careers and lives.
Paris will return to Greensboro this Friday for a special “homecoming” screening of The Room followed by episodes from “The Room Actors: Where Are They Now?” at Geeksboro Coffeehouse Cinema.
“I’ve been writing comedy for years,” explains Paris, who earned an MFA in screenwriting at UCLA, “but my notoriety as a Room actor gave me an excellent platform for raising funds on Kickstarter, getting my work out there and seen by a larger audience. For that, I am very grateful. Maybe there’s something to that old adage ‘there’s no such thing as bad publicity.’
“When I approached the other Room actors about my mockumentary web series and told them they’d be playing fictionalized versions of themselves, they were psyched. (They’re) fun people and they all have an excellent sense of humor and great attitudes. We (know) that we’re in this trainwreck of a film and I think we all enjoyed the chance to poke fun at ourselves and laugh at our association with The Room. Doing the mockumentary gives us some agency in this whirlwind of press and cult fandom, and perhaps offers a tiny bit of redemption in the process.”
Since its theatrical premiere, replete with Hollywood billboard trumpeting its release (paid for by Wiseau), The Room became perhaps the first midnight-movie phenomenon of the 21st century. To this day, it still enjoys special screenings and engagements, earning more and more fans, including such celebrities as Kristen Bell, Paul Rudd, Patton Oswalt, Will Arnett and David Cross. Room co-star Greg Sestero penned the 2013 best-seller The Disaster Artist, about the making and maker of the film, which was then optioned by producer Seth Rogen and director James Franco as a feature film to be called The Masterpiece.
The Masterpiece, which is scheduled for release from Warner Bros. later this year, stars Franco as Wiseau, Rogen as script supervisor Sandy Shklair, and Franco’s brother Dave as Sestero, with Josh Hutcherson, Zac Efron, Jacki Weaver, Melanie Griffith, Alison Brie, Sharon Stone and Melanie Griffith.
Paris, who is played in The Masterpiece by June Diane Raphael, embraces the Room phenomenon.
“Seeing The Room in the theater is a frenzy of laughter, fun, and witty banter,” she observes. “There’s a zealous, comical energy that’s communal. I’ve never seen it replicated anywhere else. People passionately love The Room and the energy at screenings is one of pure joy. A film that brings that kind of happiness is rare and probably won’t die anytime soon!”
Indeed, “the web series has lots of hilarious moments that Room fans in particular will love,” she promises. “We’ve planted so many Room jokes and references, both subtle and obvious throughout. I’m hoping it’s a show Room fans will watch over and over, looking to find the buried treasures within.”
(You can view behind-the-scenes footage here).
“I had no expectations that The Room would be good,” Paris admits. “It was obvious that the script was poorly written and I assumed the film would never see the light of day. My hopes were to get some footage for my demo reel and get some experience on a film set.”
And yet, she says, “I told my husband back in 2002 when we were filming The Room that if anyone ever saw the finished film, it would get a cult following. I swear, I called it – ‘high-five’! Tommy Wiseau intended to make a classic Hollywood love story for the ages. The earnestness of The Room only underscores its shortcomings and failures, making them especially potent and hilarious. You can’t not laugh at The Room, I challenge you to try! Tommy Wiseau is undeniably the heart and soul of the film. He’s a one-of-a-kind real-life caricature. I’m excited to see how James Franco portrays him in The Masterpiece.”
Want to go …?
The “homecoming” screening of The Room will take place 10 pm Friday at Geeksboro Coffeehouse Cinema, 2134 Lawndale Drive, Greensboro, followed by a Q&A with actress Robyn Paris and the screening of her web series “The Room Actors: Where Are They Now?.” Tickets are $15 and are available online at: https://www.geeksboro.com/theroomparis. For more information, call 336.355.7180 or visit the official Geeksboro Coffeehouse Cinema website.
The official website for “The Room Actors: Where Are They Now” is www.theroommockumentary.com, and the official Facebook site is https://www.facebook.com/roomactorsmockumentary/.