Over at FilmInk, I interview Jessica Leski about her documentary, I Used to Be Normal.
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With James Franco’s The Disaster Artist doing well at the Box Office, and receiving nominations at this year’s Golden Globes, I decided to throwback to 2014 when I had an opportunity to interview Mark himself, Greg Sestero, about his memoir of the same name. This interview was originally published on filmink.com.au.
Since its release in 2002, The Room has gathered a significant cult following that will be baffling to some. Costing a surprising $6 million to make, The Room’s story of a doomed love triangle is besieged by poor dialogue, questionable acting and a larger than life performance by Tommy Wiseau: a man with a patchwork quilt of an accent – he claims to be from New Orleans – who was also the film’s director, writer, producer, lead actor and distributor. It has spawned numerous midnight showings, a musical and even a computer game. It’s no wonder this film has been famously crowned as ‘the Citizen Kane of Bad Movies’
So, how does a film like this even get made? Greg Sestero knows better than anyone. Not only because he’s friends with Tommy, having met in acting class, but he also has the dubious honour of starring in The Room. As Mark, Greg played the love rival to Tommy’s Johnny and utters one of the film’s more colourful lines – ‘Leave your Stupid opinions in your pocket.’ Speaking from LA, Greg admits that at the time, he didn’t know what he was letting himself into.
‘I don’t think I could possibly have imagined such an outcome,’ he laughs. ‘It kind of shows you that you never know what’s out there when you do something.’
His new book, The Disaster Artist, which Greg will be promoting in Australia in July, details the arduous journey to produce The Room and is interspersed with flashbacks to Greg’s early days as an actor and eventually meeting up with Tommy.
‘I was basically part of this crazy experience,’ Greg says ‘I really wanted to share what it’s like to go to Hollywood, try to make a movie, and try to make a career. And I felt this was a great story that captures that.’
Whilst researching the book, Greg reconnected with his old colleagues to get their view on a difficult production that saw everyone expected to be on set regardless of whether they had a scene to shoot that day or not.
‘I think they thoroughly enjoyed it.’ He replies when asked how his co-stars have taken to the book, adding ‘I‘ve got a great response from fans. As well as people who have never heard of the movie.’
And interest in the book is only going to increase with the announcement earlier this year that Seth Rogan’s production company, Point Grey Pictures, has acquired the rights to do an adaptation. Greg, understandably, is pretty excited and admitted, ‘From the beginning, what I wanted when I was writing this book, my ambition was always to turn it into a film. Kind of like Ed Wood or The Great Gatsby.’
The Gatsby comparisons aren’t unwarranted. In The Disaster Artist, Greg, as Nick Carraway, meets Tommy who, like Gatsby, has a past he doesn’t wish to discuss and a seemingly bottomless pocket of money. In one chapter, Greg writes about Tommy buying all his equipment for the film, including needlessly financing a overly expensive bespoke camera which, due to it being able to film in HD and celluloid, was incredibly awkward to use.
With rumours rife of Rogan’s BFF James Franco and his brother Dave, donning wig and accents to play him and Tommy in the film adaptation, Greg is remaining modest about who will eventually step into his shoes.
‘I’m pretty open at this point,’ he laughs, ‘I think it’s all about the ensemble and the cast and how it works together, so I’m pretty open.’
With the book tour going global and the forthcoming film, our conversation wraps up with the suggestion that Greg is looking forward to obtaining some closure and closing the door on The Room.
‘You know what, it’s always going to be a part of what you do because the audience enjoys it so much,’ Greg says. ‘And I think that’s cool. Whether it’s a great film, or a horrible film, if it strikes a chord, I don’t think it’s the worst thing ever. But from here on out, it’d be great to tackle some new projects and take audiences in a different direction. The Room is something that brought me so many cool experiences and I’ve met so many great people, I’m thankful for that. From here on out, I hope it’s just as exciting a run.’
Since the age of 19, with his accomplished documentary about his aunt, Chasing Buddha, Amiel Courtin-Wilson has been swimming through a sea of never-ending work (“I just really love what I do, so I try to do as much as I can.”) When FilmInk catches up with him in Paris, he is working with composer and sound designer Nicholas Becker (Batman Begins), about to board a plane to return to hometown Melbourne as part of the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) for a screening of his new film The Silent Eye, as well as a 10th anniversary screening of his documentary Bastardy.
Running just over an hour, The Silent Eye is a contemplative performance piece that sees Japanese dancer, 72-year-old Min Tanaka collaborating with free jazz pioneer, 88-year-old Cecil Taylor; the pair having known each other for over 30 years. It’s a stripped back affair that contrasts with Amiel’s previous narrative work.
“I’ve been doing these shoots that take years and years, I wanted to do something that was discreet and very contained,” he explains. “I was really interested to see if I could shoot a feature in a few days, in a single room and setting those kind of creative constraints.”
Read the rest of the interview here.
Perhaps all of us at some time have wanted to reinvent ourselves; to be reborn a new person. For former housewife Morgana Muses, the desire came when she was at her absolute worst. Recently divorced and feeling isolated from her conservative community, Morgana, sadly, wanted to end her life. Before doing so, she hired a male escort for one last stab of intimacy. It was from this point onwards her life took on a whole new meaning. Seizing a later opportunity to make an erotic film about her experience, Morgana lit the touchpaper to a new life as a feminist adult actress.
The documentary, Morgana, follows the titular subject as she takes ownership of her sexuality and identity and is directed by Melbourne filmmakers, Josie Hess and Isabel Peppard. Isabel is an award-winning animator whose short Butterflies won great acclaim on the festival circuit. Josie, along with writing and producing the short film Sunroom, has worked on numerous indie erotica projects including Morgana’s Permission4Pleasure label.
“Josie had approached me to direct Morgana’s 50th birthday present to herself, which was to be suspended in a giant bondage installation,” Isabel explains. “It wasn’t something I would have directed, because I only direct my own visions and the stories I write. However, Josie told me about Morgana’s story, that three years ago she was a housewife from rural Australia and now she’s a pornographer and I thought ‘wow, that’s an incredible story’.”
Read the rest of the interview here.
The Space Between is the feature length debut from director Ruth Borgobello and the first to come out of the Italian/Australian co-production treaty signed way back in the ‘90s. A potent blend of second chances, love and stunning scenery, the film is likely to resonate with the Europhiles of Australia.
Filmmaker Ruth Borgobello hadn’t always wanted to be a director. Growing up she had her heart set on being an actress or a writer. Discovering films like A Clockwork Orange and The Graduate in her teens, led her to wanting to study film at VCA. A word from her careers guidance counselor led her down a different path however.
“He gave me a disapproving look,” Ruth explains “and said, ‘if you want to study arts, then at least do Arts/Commerce so you have a back-up.’ I took his advice to heart and ended up at Melbourne Uni studying Commerce, sneaking in a few cinema subjects and getting involved in theatre. Marketing was the most creative of the majors on offer so I did that.”
Read the rest of the interview here.