Either you get it, or you don’t

The Room isn’t for everyone, but those who appreciate its sheer, terrible insanity often do so on a deep level. James Franco wasn’t one of those people–until he finally saw The Room for himself.

The actor and director behind The Disaster Artist, the movie about the making of the worst movie of all time, discussed his first time seeing The Room and more during a panel in Los Angeles recently. Here are some of the most incredible things he said, from listening to Tommy Wiseau’s personal audio diaries to the movie Wiseau wants to make about gay sex. Click forward to read on.

James Franco wasn’t originally a fan of The Room

“I’d been in LA, I’d been here since ’96, and I saw the billboard on Highland with the phone number and Tommy glaring at you with the lazy eyelid, and I honestly–because there had been like, Angelyne billboards, you know, Angelyne in her pink Corvette, with her number. I guess I just thought it was something like that–like you can have the weird, aging Barbie type, or you can have this scary guy. I don’t know. It didn’t register that it was a movie, to me.”

Franco knew as soon as he saw it that he would play Tommy Wiseau

“The book came out about four or five years ago, and I read it immediately. Before I was halfway through, I was like, this is incredible. I was in Vancouver doing an interview at the time, and there was a screening that weekend. I went, and it was like, you know, people throwing spoons at the screen–it was just this insane experience. And I was in. I was just like, I knew then, I was like, ‘I need to play this guy,’ and I knew my brother was right [to play The Room co-star Greg Sestero].”

Tommy Wiseau wanted Johnny Depp to play him

“Strangely, I was one of two people who Tommy wanted to play him. I know why he wanted me–because I played James Dean. Tommy thinks he’s James Dean. It’s not a joke. He quotes James Dean in his–you saw–‘You’re tearing me apart!’ is straight from Rebel Without a Cause. The other one he wanted was Johnny Depp. So, he got me.”

Tommy and Greg still talk every day

“[The Room co-star and The Disaster Artist co-author Greg Sestero], he’s such a great guy, but he’s just as mysterious as Tommy. And he did this movie–whenever he thought about it, he probably, after a while, thought, ‘At least nobody’s gonna ever see this. I’ll forget about this in a month.’ Then it turned out to be the biggest public event thing of his life, it’s how most people know him, and he still talks to Tommy every day.”

Tommy and Greg made another movie

“Greg saw an early screening of our movie and was inspired, and wrote a script in four days, called “Best F(r)iends,” with “R” in parentheses, so it’s Best Fiends/Best Friends, and he said that I had humanized Tommy for him…They just finished it. It’s so long they had to Kill Bill it, so now it’s Volume 1 and 2. Tom Bissell, the co-writer of the book [The Disaster Artist], saw it, and said it’s actually pretty good–I guess David Lynchian?”

The Room is actually a trilogy??

“We didn’t know this, but apparently our movie, The Disaster Artist, is part two of The Room Trilogy, [according to Tommy].”

James Franco has a lot of respect for Tommy

“All I knew about Tommy when I did this was what I’d read in the book. And now, knowing Tommy, there’s sort of Tommy before The Room, and Tommy after The Room. The Tommy before The Room was somebody that had been told ‘no’ his entire life. Now, part of that’s on him–like, if a guy comes in the room and says, ‘I’m an all-American guy, cast me in the James Dean roles,’ like, he’s probably going to hear ‘no’ a lot. But he had to build up a defense in a way to the world…I respect Tommy because he got this thing made. It’s so hard to make it in this business, it’s just hard, and he did it. He made this movie, and I really respect him for that.”

Seth Rogen loves Tommy

“Here’s the thing: [Tommy]’s fascinating. He turned out to be an incredibly sweet guy. We had to shoot this scene with him. He showed up, we had no idea what he was going to be like. Seth just fell for him.”

Tommy wants to direct Seth Rogen and James Franco in a movie about gay sex

“I interviewed him that night, I was dressed as Tommy, had the prosthetics on, and I interviewed him as Tommy, and I was like, ‘So, what do you think, you gonna direct another movie?’ He was like, ‘Yeah, I got this idea, I got this movie, American Stud. You seen American Gigolo? It’s like that, but with gay sex. Very controversial.’ …And Seth then pulled me aside and said, ‘Hey that would be kind of interesting!'”

Franco knows what The Room’s “magic ingredient” is

“Here’s the trick with Tommy: When he made the movie, he was incredibly earnest. That is the magic ingredient, I think, of The Room. He put his heart and soul into that thing. Think about all the bad movies that have ever been made that we just don’t watch, that are just gone, that we’ll never watch again. This thing that people have been watching for 14 years, and I think one of the main reasons is, he put so much passion into it, and I think people feel that.”

Early The Room posters had two taglines

“He put on the original poster, ‘A Tennessee Williams level drama.’ That shows what he thought about it. He used to say, ‘People will watch this movie and won’t be able to sleep for two weeks.’ And then when people started laughing at it, he was, you know, to his credit, able to embrace that. So he kept ‘Tennessee Williams level drama’ on the poster and just added, like, ‘An entertaining black comedy’ or something like that. So, it’s both.”

Franco has Tommy’s personal audio diaries

“As an actor, if you could have like, the ultimate gift of a character, like, here’s a character’s soul, or here’s the character’s private journal, that’s what I got, but even more. Tommy, 20 years ago, would record everything. In The Room he does it–like, ‘I will record everything!’…Tommy actually did that. He recorded every phone call he ever made. He would drive around in his white Mercedes and talk to himself on one of those little old fashioned tape recorders and just have conversations with himself. Greg way back then, 15-20 years ago, stole some of those tapes–another weird thing about Greg–and he had those and he gave those to me. Tommy knows I have them, so I’m not doing something totally unethical!”

Tommy wished for a clubbing life

“[The audio diaries are] Tommy just having these weird private moments. It’s like Tommy’s Journal audiobook…he’s like driving down the street, like, ‘I see the people going in those clubs, and I just know that they stay in there ’til coming out at 4 in the morning and they’ll be sleeping all next day. I know I have to work hard and I just do it but I just want to go to club!'”

Tommy has nicknames for himself

“Sometimes he’d call himself funny names, like–I can’t’s not Igor, but it’s something like that. ‘And I say, hey Igor, let’s do this!’ And then he’s talking to himself, he’s like ‘Yeah, sometimes I call myself Igor.’ It was amazing. It was like the holy grail for an actor.”

Tommy Wiseau and James Dean are surprisingly similar

“I played a real guy in 127 Hours, but nobody is really as concerned with Aron Ralston’s mannerisms or how he sounds. It’s not what’s primary. What was primary in that movie was the experience, taking people on an authentic experience with that guy. With Tommy and James Dean [who Franco portrayed in a 2001 biopic], people know their movies. They’re going to be watching the movies because they know that behavior, and they can go and watch James Dean movies or Tommy’s movie and see what it was.

“The exterior behavior was very important, but you also don’t want it to become a caricature. And so what I really learned when I played James Dean was how to do that–practice that external behavior, and marry it to a worked out, deep internal life, and to figure out why James Dean slumps, why all these things. And I applied the same thing to Tommy. Why is he doing these things? What does he want? And grounding him also emotionally. That’s why the relationship [with Greg] was so important. That’s why audiences are sympathizing with him here. You can relate. You feel his feelings.”

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