Greg Sestero: Friendship is art and art is challenging
Upon meeting Greg Sestero, a couple of things are immediately obvious. Firstly, he has barely aged since 2003. Even at 39 years old he could be Lana Del Rey’s boyish sidepiece in one of her opulent music videos. Secondly, he's inhumanly chilled out, to the point of exuding absolutely no low-grade anxiety.
It’s a little weird to be around someone who is 100 percent at ease, but if you’re a little bit familiar with Sestero's life it’s not unexpected. To be the notoriously temperamental Tommy Wisaeu’s best friend for two decades, to have soldiered through Wiseau’s vainglorious production of the so-bad-it’s-good cult film The Room and emerge from the ordeal sane and with a unique career? If capitalism is indeed hurtling us toward a dystopia, Sestero’s deep reservoirs of patience and good humour are bound to be extracted, bottled, and sold as fountain of youth pills. It wouldn't even be the third strangest thing about his career.
But I have to address the Room-shaped elephant in the room before we get to Best F(r)iends, the film he's here to promote. “What was the most baffling thing about being in The Room?” If Sestero is annoyed that I’m asking about a film in which he had no say, and not his current passion project which seems decently made, he’s nice enough not to show it. But it's where we have to start. Without The Room, there would be no Best F(r)iends.
“Definitely when Tommy went through with humping the red dress. I couldn’t believe it.”
Sestero is referring to the scene in which the all-American banker main character Johnny (played by Tommy Wiseau, of course) discovers his girlfriend Lisa and his best friend Mark (Greg Sestero) have betrayed him. We, the audience, find this out via the most awkwardly staged sex scenes of all time. Seized by grief and rage, he collapses to the floor and dry-humps Lisa’s red dress, his moans of heartbreak sounding uncomfortably close to sexual completion. It’s a scene that encapsulates the unintentional hilarity and the deeply wounded sadness embedded in The Room. It's the fascinating artistic work of a man reckoning with profound insecurities, and it's executed with the sophistication of an angry child acting out his resentments with sock puppets.
Similarly, Sestero’s script for Best F(r)iends could be viewed as Sestero cinematically contextualising his unique friendship and creative partnership with Tommy Wiseau. His memoir The Disaster Artist, the tell all book behind the making of The Room, made for entertaining and enlightening reading, but Sestero is first and foremost a film fan. The genesis of the premise for Best F(r)iends is expectedly surreal. “We were on a road trip and Tommy got this idea that I was planning to kill him. I thought, well that’s an interesting starting off point for a film.”
He doesn’t elaborate. He says this as if it’s not the least bit alarming. All that’s missing is a shrug. “Uh, why would he think that?” I blurt out, nonplussed.
“I don’t know,” he says, this time with a shrug and a small chuckle.
However, Sestero doesn’t view Best F(r)iends as merely a continuation of the Tommy Wiseau Disasterpiece Experience. It's all played comparatively straight and Sestero's intentions are honourable; he wanted to craft exactly the right role for his friend, one that would dramatise Wiseau's unearthly peculiarities in an un-ironic way. In other words, the Dracula-esque and eccentric Tommy Wiseau will not be playing Johnny who runs the humble shoe store with his wife Karen or something like that. In Best F(r)iends, Wiseau plays a quirky mortician who recruits a young homeless man named Jon (Greg Sestero) to participate in a criminal scheme.
“Kind of reminds me of Breaking Bad” I comment.
“My favourite tv show. It's an inspiration for Best F(r)iends.”
“Jesse Pinkman and Walter White's friendship, that’s an aspect of Breaking Bad that resonates the most with you?”
Jesse Pinkman and Walter White might’ve found fortune and a satisfying vocation, but their partnership was often marred by incompatible personalities. You don't have to squint to see the parallels. This leads us to The Disaster Artist, and the recent film adaptation.
“I saw the film before I read your book, actually”.
“You saw the film first?” He’s very surprised at this.
“I liked the film. I read your book immediately afterward and loved it. It painted a much more complex picture of your friendship with Tommy. At one point you compare it to a cancer that needs to be excised. Which is a strong analogy.”
“Did you think the film was missing that essential element? It’s not a small thing.”
“I knew before they started filming that they were planning to go in a particular direction, and that wouldn’t include certain things.”
“Their goal was to make a straightforward inspirational story?”
“Yeah, exactly. But it was great, I enjoyed it overall."
"What scene do you point to and think they one hundred percent nailed?"
"When Tommy and Greg visit the James Dean memorial site. It was exactly true to what I wrote and it was very moving.”
But, sidebar, there’s more to Sestero’s career than being the exasperated but supportive friend in Wiseau’s misguided odyssey to become the 21st century Tennessee Williams. He also played a frat boy in the epically ridiculous Dude Bro Party Massacre III, a post-modern riff on 80s slasher movies. It’s vulgar, hilarious. Unlike The Room, it’s vulgarity and hilarity are purposeful and knowing.
“I guess the vibe on the set of Dude Bro Party Massacre III was quite different compared to the chaos of The Room? Dude Bro and The Room would make a great double feature."
“Dude Bro was so, so much fun. The director, Michael Rousselet, was actually the earliest fan of The Room.”
With The Room and Best F(r)iends sharing a spiritual connection, could a third Sestero/Wiseau collaboration be in the cards, thereby completing an increasingly meta friendship trilogy? Sestero doesn’t have an answer for this, though he doesn’t dismiss the idea completely out of hand. The only thing we can be sure of is that the inspiration behind a hypothetical third film will be just as offbeat as anything Sestero and Wiseau could conjure for crowds of devoted fans. Their auteurship may be accidental but their mark is unmistakable.