In the fascinating documentary, Room Full of Spoons, director Rick Harper delves into the strange world of Tommy Wiseau, the eccentric auteur behind the midnight movie smash hit, The Room. But what began as a simple paean to the “Citizen Kane of bad movies” developed into something deeper and weirder as Wiseau retreated from the project he’d once lauded, and Harper and his crew began piecing together the real story behind the secretive director.
It all started so promisingly, though. “When I met Tommy Wiseau for the first time we immediately became friends,” Harper recalls. “He is such a fascinating and eccentric person, I felt I had to share this man with the world. Additionally, the movie he created was such a phenomenon and I was having so much fun at the screenings that I knew it would be a great subject for a documentary. I pitched the idea to him one night when we were hanging out in Toronto and he was really excited. We both thought it would reignite interest in The Room and help make him an even bigger celebrity.”
It didn’t take long for things to start edging inexorably downhill, though, and Harper realised that the film he was making was going to be quite different from the one he initially envisioned. Ineed, he was not even the first filmmaker to attempt to document Wiseau’s work. “Early on we were told by one of our interview subjects that three other film crews had attempted to make documentaries about The Room and they all eventually gave up because Tommy is a very difficult man to work with. After only a month or two of filming it was clear that Tommy was no longer willing to participate and was more interested in making a short promo for his film instead of an actual doc. We decided to take the film in a different direction and as Tommy started to push back we realised that his response added another layer to the story and despite his lack of participation, his behaviour toward us showed a side of Tommy that fans had never seen before.”
In order to get as complete a picture of The Room’s bizarre production as possible, Harper interviewed every member of the cast (bar Wiseau) and as many crew members as possible. “Robyn Paris and Dan Janjigian (the actors who play Michelle and Chris-R) were a simple Facebook message away, they responded immediately and were among the first people I managed to interview. Others such as Juliette Danielle and Philip Haldiman (Lisa and Denny) were a bit harder to convince but eventually came around as the project grew. Then there are others that were pure luck; Scott Holmes (Mike) is completely off the radar, he no longer acts and is not found on any social media platforms. I was lucky enough to meet a filmmaker named George Gross in a sushi bar in LA. He used to do improv with Holmes in Brooklyn and still had his phone number.”
However, it wasn’t long until the secretive Wiseau began to push back – hard. “I started getting emails from Tommy during some of our early promotional efforts. I was interviewed for a podcast where I made mention that most of the cast said they’d never received a full script for The Room during it’s production. This prompted Tommy to create a video called ‘Shame on You – The Script Exists’ which indirectly slandered me and called me out as a liar. This video spawned two sequels ‘Shame on You Part 2’ and ‘Shame on you 3- The Reckoning’ which a little less subtle.
From there Tommy went on social media calling me a thief, a liar, a bully… and he started contacting festivals and theatres warning them that if they ever screened Room Full of Spoons he would pull The Room from their theatre and would even go on to threaten some with legal action.”
Perhaps the reason behind Wiseau’s vitriol is the fact that Harper has managed to uncover more of the self-obfuscating director’s background than anyone else – but even now, the full story of Wiseau’s life remains hidden. “There are things I’ve learned about Tommy that I will never share,” Harper admits. “Despite the current state of our relationship I still have a lot of respect for him as a person. Room Full of Spoons reveals where he is from, his true age, his real name and where he got the money to make The Room and that’s as far as I chose to go.”
In spite of Wiseau’s efforts to discredit the work, Harper thinks that fans of The Room will love his film. “For the time being we’re doing the film festival circuit and doing several in person screenings in select cities throughout the world. It’s been a five year journey making this documentary and at this point I just want people to see the film. Room Full of Spoons is a beautiful story about a movie that nobody should have ever seen that became a worldwide phenomenon, while we made it for the fans of The Room, it’s also a great introduction for those uninitiated to the ‘Citizen Kane of bad movies’.”
Room Full of Spoons screens at the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival, which runs from July 9 – 11 at Howler Art Space. For info and tickets, hit up the official site.