It isn't easy to understand actor/director/producer/screenwriter/chicken impersonator Tommy Wiseau. For over a decade now, obsessed fans, midnight movie aficionados, pop culture backseat drivers, and your run-of-the-mill cinephiles have all been trying to make sense of his cult classic, "The Room," which has earned the moniker of "best worst movie of all time" as it has made its way into theaters around the country.

It is a movie completely removed from our basic understanding of what films should be and how filmmakers should tell stories, a movie that seems to break every conventional rule of cinema. Should one really reuse footage of the main character's naked butt thrusts in two separate sex scenes spaced about 15 minutes apart? If a character announces they have cancer, doesn't that seem like a thread that should be picked up at some point? Wait, why are people suddenly throwing a football around in tuxedos in an alley? Would Alfred Hitchcock have replaced one side character with a completely different one halfway through the film without anyone noticing? Wait, don't answer that last question, these are supposed to be rhetorical.

Poking holes in the plot of The Room is like stabbing a balloon filled with nitrous oxide: you have to savor the madness, one butt thrust at a time.

The strangeness and success of the film all rests on the shoulders of Wiseau, who can credibly claim responsibility for pretty much every shot, line of dialogue, and interstitial San Fransisco b-roll in the film. Whether he's a brilliant maniac, an incredibly dedicated method actor, or just an ambitious vampire from some as-yet undiscovered Eastern European country, The Room is a disasterpiece whose hilarity transcends its convoluted origins (the movie's first tagline was "a film with the passion of Tennessee Williams").

The production of the film will even be the subject of a James Franco directed/starring-film coming out later this fall (based on the book "The Disaster Artist," written by The Room co-star Greg Sestero). If you want an idea of the reach and influence of the film at this point, just look at the cast: in addition to Franco as Wiseau, "The Masterpiece" also stars Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Bryan Cranston, Sharon Stone, Josh Hutcherson, Kate Upton, Hannibal Buress, Alison Brie, Zac Efron, and Tommy Wiseau himself (he has a "contractually obligated" cameo opposite Franco).

If it's difficult to make sense of the movie, it's even more difficult understanding the man himself—as we learned when we talked to Wiseau, who has a habit of rambling on about the industry and his cinematic musings, jumping from one thought to another often without any seeming connection, all dictated in a thick ambiguous accent (one which is the subject of much internet speculation). This is how messy it was: I had three interns transcribe our 45 minute interview, and there were large discrepancies between all of their versions. Then I re-listened and re-transcribed it myself, and came out with entirely different readings of certain quotes as well.

All of which is to say that the enigma that is Tommy Wiseau remains at arm's length, even when he clearly wants to be understood. Still, I was bowled over by how patient he was, how much joy he seemed to draw from his fans and the success he has had, and how gracious he was with his time with me. We were only supposed to talk for 20 minutes, but the conversation just kept going as he mused about his struggles promoting The Neighbors (his first major project since The Room), industry credibility, stand-up comedy, and being misunderstood by the public.

The interview doesn't always make sense, but then again, neither does throwing footballs around in tuxedos, or a drug dealer confronting a high schooler who looks like he's 40-years-old on a green screen roof, or yelling at someone to leave their stupid comments in their pocket. Sometimes not making sense is its own kind of sense.

I've been a fan for almost a decade now, since the first time I saw The Room. I've gotten the chance to show other people the film as well over the years. Oh thank you! Did they enjoy it?

Well to be honest, I'd say 75 percent loved it and 25 percent...could not get into it. Well that's a great ratio!

Definitely not a bad ratio. I feel like every time you make a new Room fan they then go out and get other people interested in it as well. Yeah that's the typical chain of events.

How important is award or industry recognition to you at this point? As you probably know [being] a fan of The Room as well, a lot happens online and some of the stuff that people [are] saying, it's completely off the wall, you know? I'm not here to bash anyone but some of the stuff is really unpleasant and let's put it this way: people after 12 years with The Room, we've been screening it for 12 years now, and people will comment something like... they want recognition, [and] I don't even know these people, you know what I'm saying? I don't know who they are.

So people try to go on the bandwagon—you probably know the expression, you're the writer—so it's not important but I think it's important in that I understand that I did something, I create something like The Neighbors, you know? Perfect example could be like what my style of directing is for example, you know? I have a certain style, I'm very proud of what I'm doing and I like when people enjoy themselves.

So my take on it like a filmmaker or actor is if you have much more colors within your creation, eventually people will appreciate what you're doing, and the other stuff is secondary, like critiques or even awards or anything else, as long as people enjoy it. And I have a great respect for [the] industry... I don't think they give us enough credit, let's put it this way. That's why I submitted to the Emmys [in 2015], to say "we're here." It's up to them what they decide, if we don't win anything it's okay too, you know what I'm saying?

Yeah. Are there other shows that you do enjoy watching? Or any other current filmmakers that you admire? Well, I don't look at it that way, you know I'm looking... I always say you create your own—in my case, I like to create something new. For example—let me give you example, I like to give people examples—I just did voiceover just recently, somebody hired me for voiceover, we actually coincidentally we actually will be doing also video, somebody hired me to do it, so I like when people give me some of a [vision], it's also responsible to you as a vision, you need a vision for example as a director.

So to respond to your question, award is not as important as people who respect your project, or projects in entertainment. So public, I think the public is very important. I think the other stuff is secondary but at the same token I will contradict myself—it's important because you work hard and say, "I'm here," you know, and that's really hard, you know? Imagine you know writers, same as directors and actors, how many we have, you know. So I don't compare myself to so many people, but however I do have certain influence you know, for example Citizen Kane and Orson Welles, or James Dean and others, and I talk about this very openly about it.

But these people or films did not really influence me so much, I influenced myself. I want to do something different. For example The Neighbors, we have, you ask about The Neighbors, we did the characters— it's a creation, you see? Some people don't appreciate you see, but I think eventually people do appreciate.

For example we had the screening of The Room and The Neighbors at the same time in D.C., and then some writer wrote about it and it was very disrespectful as far as I'm concerned, because you know usually writers, when you witness for example you have filled up eleven screenings or something like that, and people really enjoy it because you are there, I was there, the reaction was there, the people laughing and that's the idea I introduce The Neighbors, and someone writing about it saying, "Oh it's not good this and that, whatever," to me, it's laughable actually because we filmmakers are responsible to say the truth and I think writers should also have the same token, "Hey you know what I don't like his project but I think the audiences enjoy it," and I think that's the key.

[Editor's Note: For what it's worth, Gothamist reviewed a similar screening of The Neighbors last fall—in which we wrote, "The Neighbors makes The Room look like 'Eyes Wide Shut'"— although we did note that everyone there enjoyed watching the show.]

I can attest to that as well, I was at the premiere in New York when you showed the pilot and then The Room afterwards, and one of the things that I found amazing was that from the get-go, people cued in on certain recurring things, like the B-roll and the music in between scenes, and people sang along... Well you see, again, I didn't anticipate that, to be honest with you. Ben, right? I remember your name. *Ha Ha Ha.*

You see this is the key with entertainment, what I'm very strong about it and very proud of it because I learn as I go, you see? The Room for me was actually a platform not just as an artist, but it also challenged, you know? The Neighbors for me, the challenge you asked me, for so many you see I have very much respect that people don't understand this. They say, "Oh yeah, they're laughing at him," it doesn't matter. The more laughing the better, what the heck you know? So I think sometimes people have a tendency to, I say general speaking, to go in the places that actually for me it's much more laughable when they [are] gossiping about The Room or The Neighbors you see, move on next question, *Ha Ha*.

Do you feel like fans of The Room have embraced The Neighbors? Has there been as much engagement or passion with it as with the film? It's funny, it's good question, but I really don't know to be honest with you, because right now The Neighbors and actually The Room are on a different level. I wish we had the same level about The Room that we have today, compared [to] let's say 12 years ago. And one perfect example could be, you know, people actually recite the phrases, the words, the script, etc etc. So I really enjoy actually that they do that it, because that's a compliment to me if somebody actually say, "Hey this is from The Room," oh okay *Ha Ha Ha*. I enjoy it, I really really enjoy it because I think it's something when people recognize by saying words or situations etc, and interact. I always say about The Room, you know I want you guys to really enjoy yourself what you're watching, you know?

And I think Hollywood was not really ready in the beginning, it didn't recognize this, and after 12 years I say, wait a minute, you know what? Maybe Hollywood really wasn't ready —because what's different, you know? I have a different vision, you know. In The Room for example, I changed the crew not two or three times, but four times. There was four DPs [Directors of Photography]. And to this day, after 12 years, people say, "Oh that was not the script, etc," so we actually put on YouTube a little bit the scripting, so people was actually really surprised and I got really great responses with the script, because actually the script exists, *Ha Ha Ha*.

This is a lot of the [indecipherable] I always say Richard Gere can be naked, right? But Johnny, played by Tommy Wiseau, cannot be naked, I'm just exaggerating but that's [indecipherable].

[Editor's Note: Wiseau was referring to Gere's nudity in "American Gigolo," but I'm not sure exactly what the point was, except to say that I really liked the elusiveness of this quote]

Right... So you see again how far you go...when I started, for example filmmaking or an approach to entertainment, I would hear from many, many people who would say, "Oh you know what, Hollywood always does the movies the same way, everything is the same over and over." And I just say, well let's just figure out how we can do something different. So I try to be different. [The Room] didn't come out the way I was planning, to be honest with you, but I don't mind [because] it came out actually overall pretty good, so.

Were you angry at Hollywood early in your career? Did you feel rejected? I was actually, yeah, I'll tell you straight forward right on without hesitation, because let me give you an example: one of the first articles [on the film] I believe was from Variety, and the guy I believe had not even seen The Room. So we were sort of reject entertainment, and today we compare it—by the way that's a great question—but I'm not so much upset about it, except I say it's not right.

It's the same like I'm an American, right? To give you an example from my life, because it's the best way. People say, "Oh yeah you have this accent," this and that, right? But they don't understand... how can I talk about my life when I don't even know you, *Ha Ha*, you know what I'm saying? People always say, "Oh Tommy's so mysterious," well we have our own choices. That's why I'm living in America, and I always say America is the best country in the world.

My uncle Stanley from New Orleans, he actually is fighting for this country, so I can come here to have the freedom, you know? And I relate to it, to you know, how he as a U.S. citizen struggles, my cousin from New Orleans, etc, you see. So I relate to it and some people might say, "Wait a minute what's he talking about," you know, so I say wait a minute—hey, I have a choice too.

So to respond to your question, yes it was pretty condescending, because they'd say, "Oh yeah well he didn't know what he was doing," when in the past four or five years as you probably know this, we got pretty good response from everybody, from Hollywood, from everybody, wherever I'm going, with the big stars as you know, and some of those people actually embrace The Room, the same way I embrace everything, you know.

So do you feel like critics are being more fair with your work now that they're— Yeah but they're still, as I mentioned to you about The Neighbors, really put down honestly, because they don’t want to see the truth, you know? For example, we are on Hulu right now, we have over 100,000 viewers or whatever we have, but we don’t promote too much. But by the same token, people are actually watching, you see? This is happiness for me. This is something that people are actually watching.

And I think The Neighbors should be on TV, and I always say my product would be 30-40 percent better, you know? It's the same with performance of actors, when you create certain environments for actors or directors your product is better, but Hollywood, it is what it is. So if you want to be part of the industry, you have to, I guess, [have] everybody on the same boat. [I don't care] how rich you are, how poor you are. But I think what counts and what I’m very strong about, about your vision, you as a director, you as a writer or whatever you do, if you have a vision in your work, I think eventually somebody appreciate it.

An example, The Room, that’s an example of what I always preach. I always say: you can laugh, you can cry, you can express yourself, but please don't hurt each other. I say, look at what’s behind the words. And people say, "Hey, what's he talking about?" *Ha Ha Ha* So some of it started like deja vu with The Room, The Neighbors, but I am optimistic for the future, so.

Right. Are you planning on making more episodes in the future? Yeah yeah, we actually, we’ll be releasing more, and I’m trying to figure out [if it'll] work with TV people. So I think The Neighbors should be on TV, and you know we can change everything around, all the characters. And definitely, we will be releasing also probably on DVD later on as well.

Have you had any real interest from networks? Yeah, we do actually, you know, just before Hulu. I don't want to talk too much about it because it's just like...oh yeah, you know what I'm saying, but yeah, interest is there. And also internationally—I was in London the time we screened The Room and The Neighbors [at] the same time, and people really had a groovy time.

Now that you've made both movies and TV do you prefer one medium? Do you like the episodic nature of television? You know what, as an artist, whatever comes your way you have to adjust accordingly. Especially if you wanna be in entertainment. The industry is so changed right now—look at YouTube you know, perfect example, right? And another aspect of the business [that] is not like it used to be. But again, original material counts, and I always say, compare Shakespeare. With the Shakespeare, if he lived right now, he would not appreciate somebody to say, "Hey, I grabbed your material and I don’t give you compensation, I don’t recognize you."

So to respond to your question you know by doing something different, you can be much more stronger with conversation, as well as with the art, you see, so that’s [how] I see it. And also, the more skill you have the better I would say that you know. So I say nobody [is] born a writer or director or actor, you have to study this job. What I learned these past 12 years is that sometimes you hear, "Oh this actor's so talented, he never took a school class," but that's bullshit, that doesn't exist. It doesn't.

Because you as an actor for example, if somebody gave you a script, you actually have to read the lines, you have to study the lines. Even though you may have good instincts, maybe you didn’t go to school, but you have good instinct, you still have to put yourself in certain situation. And I noticed some of the actors for example, they do have a natural way to adjust. But still you need a certain experience.

Do you think you've improved, you've grown as a writer/actor over the course— Absolutely. Yeah I'm very strong about it and actually you know I wanna do the open mic. Actually I was talking to one of my friends and he said maybe we should do open mic at The Laugh Factory or whatever, just for fun. You know, because I do enjoy it.

And absolutely I learned a lot, I learned through doing The Neighbors, doing The Room, and that's what I'm very strong about entertainment, and someone, okay, they don’t want to talk to me, fine, maybe someday I would talk to them, vice versa, you as an artist, me as an artist, I'm always open about it, and I hate to criticize people, but sometimes I have to say enough is enough, with for example the script. You as an artist, you have to stand for your rights, you as an individual as well. You probably hear about the script, I was very touchy because they said the script [of The Room] does not exist, whatever, I say enough is enough, you have this in the video, it’s there, because we have a lot of footage behind the scenes from The Room, for example.

To me it's very shocking that after 12 years I always say, "Where you been 12 years when I need you, you know?" After 12 years some people, I don’t even know where they come from, you know: "Hey! I did this for you! I did this!" I say, what? I don’t even know you!

People coming out of the woodwork, I suppose. Yeah, so you see, again are you telling me you have respect for my work because you’ve been here 12 years?

So to me it’s laughable but then it does hurt in the sense like, it’s really disappointing with people sometimes but I will say you know what, don’t be too disappointed. It is what it is, you know. And entertainment is very difficult overall, you look at big picture. Create something, and that’s about the creative process. So as an actor or director, you asked me what I prefer for example, TV or movie, I personally think that the more variety you have the better you are. Because if you put me on the stage right now compared 12 years ago it’d be two different things. Because I know what I’m talking about. When I'm talking about cameras you know, I learn about it, what is the best camera, for example.

Like we are shooting The Neighbors right now, we do much more improvement, at least 20-30 percent between episode five or six, it's better than [the pilot], technical things. By the way that’s another issue, people don’t realize that it is a different approach for TV, you know, even technical aspects when you work with the big sharks, as I call it. But it’s very exciting to create something when people enjoy it, so.

Yeah, yeah...did you say before you were interested in doing stand-up comedy at some point? Yeah, a long time ago when I was taking my classes, you know, I always had a reaction from people. *Ha Ha* Don’t ask me why! But I was always like, affecting people somewhat, I don’t know [where] this comes from to be honest with you.

You can give me the words, Ben, if you want, and then I can give you the scene. I would say that to some of the reporters. Actually a couple of people challenged me, so if you wanna challenge me be my guest—if you give me the words, I give you the scene. But I love people, you know? I think that if people are laughing, I’m laughing with them. It’s not like people say they’re laughing at you, no, I’m laughing with them. So we have to change the statement people have been preaching for 12 years, and especially the bad apples, you know.

So I think that comedy is also a leap towards drama, so how do you define comedy? It’s the same like somebody asked me, "What's the worst movie ever?" And I said, "How do you define that?" I’d like to know. Because I really don’t know. I wish I could tell you, but I don’t know actually. Because it’s also as an individual how you define, and we have a tendency to go by reviewers, this person says, "Oh this is good, this is bad, okay I’ll go with this or whatever." But for me it’s extremely difficult to define, except I would say you may define: is it good if somebody provokes you in a positive or negative way and you’re still talking about it? In The Room you have everything there, so Ben, if your friends didn’t like it, this 25 percent, I cannot guarantee you, but I’ll tell you one thing—eventually they will watch the movie The Room again, and say, "You know what, I hate this movie, but you know what, it’s maybe something which I really enjoyed." *Ha Ha Ha*

Do you think The Room is a great movie? I believe so, yes. I will always preach that.

I don't know if you've read Greg Sestero's book [The Disaster Artist], it's also a put down, basically. I created something which I think is personally unique. If you look at my script, 127 pages, the words—where I put them—was done intentionally to provoke the audience, you know? And I did have actually a couple friends who [have asked why], for example, I'm taking a shower, talking to a girl whatever, so some people say, "Why’d he put it this way?" I always say, The Room is a little Caesar salad. We have all the ingredients, good and bad at the same time. And you decide if it’s bad or good but you know what, if I provoke you even one percent, I did my job well, I think.

To respond to your question, I personally think The Room is a unique movie, something different, and it’s sometimes difficult to digest it. You as a new audience for example. I’ve been in many events and I see some of the audience, some are not comfortable, but ironically speaking, we have new audiences all the time. So it’s something unique. If I’m outside it, I don’t know about The Room and see it for the first time, I also question too, "God, what’d this guy make," you know? At the same time maybe I'd think hey, maybe I should yell at the screen and throw a spoon or a football, and this is the thing: we forget about how we interact with the people, you know? And I think it’s very disrespectful that some of the critique like I say, not just the critique but some of the people trying to take advantage of The Room and they don’t understand, they actually don’t know what they talk about, basically.

Yeah, yeah... Because you can study the psychology behind it, and you see, you may argue that it's the bad of the bad or whatever you say, right, but at the end of the day you still say, hey wait a minute, let me interview some of these people, why are they watching it over and over, what is the reason for it? You know?

So again, I myself discover in a few years it’s nothing wrong if you watch the movie, the same movie, a few times. I myself watch some of the movies a couple times and I say, hey I discovered something different. And I think that’s what the industry is changing into, you know? Some of the theaters, we actually started midnight screenings of the movie, I think I’m pioneer. I don’t want to be self-centered, eventually somebody [will] write about it and they'll say, hey you know what, he actually started the first, and it happened because I would say not [an] accident, but just some kind of destiny.

I wanted to ask you a couple of quick questions, if that’s okay? Oh absolutely, let’s move on with your schedule.

Do you feel that you're famous? Do you get recognized a lot? Do people yell catch phrases at you, and do you like that? The answer is yes and the answer is no. Move on, next question.

Are you involved at all with The Disaster Artist film? Are you taking part in it, do you like what they’re doing? The answer is yes, and I’m partially involved, and the answer is no. *Ha Ha Ha*

Because you see, what it is about Disaster Artist, Ben—I should write openly or publicly, and eventually I know that ABC or CBS will probably write some big stuff about it, because it’s very interesting actually—but the fact is that I support Greg’s book only 40 percent actually. It's supposed to be 30 but I’m changing between 30 and 40, I’m debating back and forth.

You boosted him up a bit. Yeah I did. The reason for it is, because some of the stuff... let me give you one example: selling jeans, you know? So in his book he claims that I sold counterfeit jeans, and that’s not true. I had a retail store, and again this is the thing where people make up stories about me, and I don’t think it’s nice. And it’s not right. And now everything come out, you know, it’s the same like the script, like I told you in the beginning, that people say the script does not exist. Imagine you writing, we talk about it, somebody says, "Ben you gotta talk to Tommy, that’s not true!" *Ha Ha*

Oh right. Move on, you have more, right?

Do you spend much time in NYC, are there any places you like going to in particular? I love New York. And I don’t know if you know, but let me give you two more sentences about it: I am in love with New York number one. Number two I’ve been coming to New York the past 8-10 years because we have been screening The Room, and I have events [at least] once a year. I'm hopefully coming back next with my new project, it’s called Foreclosure, I’m working on it, it’s a feature movie.

And my plan for New York is to actually put The Room on Broadway. So we’ve been talking about that, and I’m already planning to do that, and I was talking to several people with really great interest, some people who actually wanna work with me, basically, you know. And I’m open about it too.

Would you star in it if it were on Broadway? Yes, I want to. Definitely, yes. Also I would have backup too...but I wanna at least spend six months in New York, definitely.

Would it be a musical, or a straightforward— Musical slash comedy, I think. The Room was originally supposed to be a play, I don’t know if you know that, and I have evidence. Speaking about YouTube, you can see some evidence, where I used to have workshops in Los Angeles for acting, and I used [that] for originating all this stuff. So I love New York, a really, really spectacular city actually. And it’s a lot of history, and you know really the impact of New York I think influenced me so much with my creation to be honest with you. I like building, I like structure thing.

Okay and last question, how's your sex life? Oh pretty good, I enjoy it.

Are there any groupies or anything? Yeah we have groupies...what do you mean by that?

Like, are there women who sort of follow you around, or come to the screenings looking to meet you in particular? I do have that, yes.

I'll be honest with you Ben, The Room actually it's like this, sometimes...okay I will tell you I don't know if you'll print this, if you print this it's fine, I don't care, whatever you wanna do or record or whatever, I'm pro-freedom, let's face it, right?

So I enjoy it. When I’m at the store for example, people do recognize me. But you know what, it doesn’t excite me as much as a screening of The Room with fans. But sometimes it’s funny. I remember the first time people [were] like, "Are you from The Room?" I would say how do you know this, you know? And you always remember the first reaction from public, you know, and I was just like... it's a funny feeling, I’ll be honest with you.

So it’s a good and bad, but at the same token I have respect for people, so I don’t mind. I would take pictures if you wanted, I’m very courteous, and I think [the fans] know about it, you know, I love people. And I think that’s very important for artists, and I think it’s also a commitment with the public. I think it's good and bad at the same time, but if you have respect for them, vice versa they give you respect.

(This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity, to put it mildly.)