Tommy Wiseau (/ˈwaɪzoʊ/) is a Polish-American actor and filmmaker. He produced The Room (2003), which has been described by many critics as "one of the worst movies ever made" and has gained cult film status. He also directed the 2004 documentary Homeless in America and the 2015 sitcom The Neighbors.
Wiseau is secretive about his early life. In various interviews, he has claimed to have lived in France "a long time ago"; asserted that he grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana; and described having "an entire family" in Chalmette, Louisiana. In interviews following the release of The Room in 2003, Wiseau gave an age which would indicate he was born in 1968 or 1969, but actor Greg Sestero claims in his 2013 memoir The Disaster Artist that his brother's girlfriend obtained copies of Wiseau's U.S. immigration papers and found that Wiseau was born "much earlier" than he claimed, in an Eastern Bloc country in the 1950s. In his 2016 documentary Room Full of Spoons, Rick Harper claims to have researched Wiseau's background and concluded that he is Polish and originally from Poznań.
In The Disaster Artist, Sestero asserts that Wiseau revealed to him—through "fantastical, sad, self-contradictory stories"—that as a young adult he moved to Strasbourg, where he adopted the name "Pierre" and worked as a restaurant dishwasher. According to Sestero, Wiseau described being wrongfully arrested following a drug raid at a youth hostel and being traumatised by his mistreatment by the French police (which led him to immigrate to the U.S., purportedly to live with his aunt and uncle in Chalmette, Louisiana). Sestero asserts that Wiseau subsequently moved to San Francisco, California, where he worked as a street vendor selling toys to tourists near Fisherman's Wharf. Wiseau supposedly gained the nickname "The Birdman" for his unique bird toys, which were only popular in Europe at the time; this led him to legally change his name to Thomas Pierre Wiseau, "taking the French word for 'bird', oiseau, and swapping out the O for the W of his birth name".
According to Sestero, Wiseau worked a variety of jobs in the San Francisco Bay Area, including restaurant busboy and hospital worker, and ran a business called Street Fashions USA that sold irregular blue jeans at discounted prices. He eventually purchased and rented out large retail spaces in and around San Francisco and Los Angeles, making him independently wealthy. In the same book, however, Sestero admits that the idea of Wiseau becoming wealthy so quickly via the jobs he claims to have had is so unlikely that he himself finds it impossible to believe. Sestero suggests on several occasions that many people involved with the creation of The Room believed the film to be part of some money-laundering scheme for organized crime, but Sestero himself considers this unlikely.
Sestero recounts that at some point in late adulthood, Wiseau was involved in a near-fatal car crash in California after another driver ran a red light and struck Wiseau's vehicle; as a result, Wiseau was hospitalized for several weeks. Sestero suggests that this incident was the turning point in Wiseau's life that led him to pursue his dreams of becoming an actor and director, ambitions that he had long neglected while pursuing financial security. Wiseau's cinematic influences include James Dean, Marlon Brando, Tennessee Williams, Orson Welles, Elizabeth Taylor, and Alfred Hitchcock.
Wiseau's best known production is the film The Room, released in 2003. Its budget was $6 million, the financing of which has remained a source of intrigue. The film was based on an unpublished 540-page novel written by Wiseau himself. The movie was immediately lambasted by critics, but ultimately became a "cult classic" with late-night showings at theaters around the world. Audience members typically arrive wearing wigs resembling their favorite characters, interact with the dialogue on screen, and throw plastic cutlery and footballs around the theater. This attention grew into what was dubbed The Room's 2010–2011 "Love is Blind" International Tour, with the movie being screened in the United Kingdom, Germany, Denmark, Australia and India, among other locations. Wiseau appears at many of these events, posing for photographs with fans and often addressing the audience before screenings.
In 2004, Wiseau produced and appeared in a short documentary, Homeless in America. In 2010, Wiseau acted in a short film entitled The House That Drips Blood on Alex, a parody horror film written and produced by sketch comedy group Studio8. The film had a preview showing at Comic-Con on July 24, 2010. It premiered on Comedy Central and appeared online on October 14, 2010.
Wiseau has stated that he has been influenced by the films The Guns of Navarone and Citizen Kane, and specifically the actors James Dean and Marlon Brando. According to Sestero, Wiseau's obsession with James Dean was so intense that he often visited a Los Angeles restaurant owned by a former acquaintance of Dean, and that several lines of dialogue in The Room (including the infamous cry "You are tearing me apart, Lisa!") were based on lines from Rebel Without a Cause.
In the upcoming film adaptation of The Disaster Artist, James Franco is set to portray Wiseau. Wiseau approved of the choice, as well as that of Dave Franco playing Disaster Artist author/friend Greg Sestero.
In March 2015, Tommy stated in a Reddit "ask me anything" thread that he had commenced work on a new project named "The Foreclosure". He also was featured as the villain Linton Kitano in Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance, the sequel to the cult classic Samurai Cop. In October 2016, it was announced that Wiseau, alongside his The Room co-star Greg Sestero, would star together in a new movie called Best F(r)iends. The movie was written by Sestero and was shot in secret in Los Angeles.
In 2008, Wiseau produced and appeared in the pilot episode of a television series called The Neighbors. A trailer for The Neighbors showed a series of clips set in an office. The show's website, accompanied by trailers and announcements at The Room showings in 2015, stated that the show is coming to various media distribution outlets in March 2015.
In 2009, Wiseau guest-starred in an episode of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! entitled "Tommy", wherein Wiseau guest-directed a segment entitled "Pigman". After Wiseau expressed a desire to work with the duo again, Tim and Eric announced in 2009 that they were developing two series for him. In 2010, Wiseau appeared in Marc Wooton's 2010 comedy TV series La La Land. In a mockumentary format, Wooton's character, Gary Garner, accepted a role in Wiseau's present production at the time. Wiseau kicked Wooton off the set after Wooton jokingly alluded to using production funds to buy instant lotto tickets.
In 2011, Wiseau starred in a YouTube web series, Tommy Explains it All, in which he explained his views on various topics ranging from Citizen Kane to the art of kissing. Wiseau starred in segments on Machinima.com called The Tommy Wi-Show. The segments show Wiseau playing various video games, such as Mortal Kombat and Driver: San Francisco, and offering commentary.
|2003||The Room||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Johnny||Directorial debut film|
|2010||The House That Drips Blood on Alex||Yes||Alex||Short film|
|2015||Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance||Yes||Yes||Linton Kitano|
|2016||Cold Moon||Yes||Rodeo Official|
|2017||The Disaster Artist||Yes||Henry||Cameo|
|TBA||Best F(r)iends||Yes||Harvey Lewis|
|2004||Homeless in America||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Himself||Interviewer|
|2016||Enter the Samurai||Yes||Himself|
|2009||Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!||Yes||Yes||Himself/Pig Man||Episode "Tommy"|
|2011–2012||The Tommy Wi-Show||Yes||T. W.|
|2011||Tommy Explains it All||Yes||Himself|
|2004||Homeless in America||New York International Independent Film and Video Festival||Best Social Documentary (L.A. Festival)||Won|
|2004||The Room||New York International Independent Film and Video Festival||Audience Award – Feature (Miami Festival)||Won|
|2010||Himself||Harvard's Ivory Tower (Harvard Undergraduate Television) Filmmaker of the Year||Filmmaker of the Year||Won|