According to Greg Sestero, Tommy Wiseau submitted the film to Paramount, hoping to get them as the distributor. They rejected the film within 24 hours. Usually, it takes about two weeks to get a reply.
Greg Sestero stated in his book, The Disaster Artist, that Tommy Wiseau took thirty-two takes to say the lines, "I did not hit her! It's not true! It's bullshit! I did not hit her! I did not! Oh, hi, Mark!" Wiseau sometimes needed cue cards to help him with his lines.
After a very limited theatrical run, the film has become popular as a "midnight movie," with a cult following. Audience members dress up as the characters, throw plastic spoons at the screen, and toss footballs to each other. Tommy Wiseau attends many screenings, and holds Q&A sessions with the audience.
Tommy Wiseau claims to have financed the film by importing and selling leather jackets from South Korea. He refuses to further elaborate on this. However, according to Greg Sestero's book "The Disaster Artist," he said Tommy financed the film from working in real estate and entrepreneurship.
Shot simultaneously on 35 mm film and high-definition video. Tommy Wiseau was confused about the differences between the formats, so he used both cameras on the same mount. He also purchased the cameras, instead of renting them as film productions usually do.
According to Juliette Danielle, when Tommy Wiseau said the line, "In a few minutes, bitch," everyone on the set began laughing at him. Wiseau came out of the bathroom and demanded to know what was so funny.
A billboard for the film was erected on Highland Avenue in Los Angeles, where it stayed for five years. Later, the same billboard was used to promote the book The Disaster Artist, written by co-star Greg Sestero about the film's making.
Tommy Wiseau was adamant about only using English in the movie. While shooting the 'Mark and Johnny play catch' scene Greg Sestero said 'catch this' in French and Tommy lost his cool and tackled him saying 'No French dammit!'.
According to Greg Sestero, Tommy Wiseau intended for the film to contain a subplot in which Johnny was revealed to be a vampire, due to Wiseau's own fascination with the creatures. Sestero recounts how, at the outset of production, Wiseau tasked members of the crew with figuring out a way to execute a sequence in which Johnny's Mercedes-Benz would lift off from the roof of the townhouse and fly across the San Francisco skyline, revealing Johnny's vampiric nature. Wiseau eventually decided to drop the subplot after learning that there was no practical way to film the flying car scene on the production's budget.
Mark (Greg Sestero) is named after Matt Damon. According to Sestero, Tommy Wiseau misheard the actor's name despite his obsession with the actor. Coincidently, there is a notable actor/producer named Mark Damon - whether Wiseau confused the two remains to be seen.
The woman in the flower shop was not an actress but the woman who actually worked there. According to Greg Sestero, Tommy Wiseau, upon seeing the dog, asked if it was "the real thing". Tommy wanted to know if it was a real, living, actual dog.
The original script was significantly longer than the one used during filming and featured a series of lengthy monologues. It was edited on-set by the cast and script supervisor, who found much of the dialogue incomprehensible. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, one anonymous cast member claimed that the script contained "stuff that was just unsayable. I know it's hard to imagine there was stuff that was worse. But there was."
After filming the first love scene, Tommy Wiseau decided to write in a second love scene, but the actress playing Lisa was uncomfortable. As a compromise, the second love scene between Johnny and Lisa was created from unused shots from the first love scene (which is why the candles are already lit when they arrive).
Many of the crew members had to conceal their laughter about what they were witnessing. The cameraman began to laugh so hard the camera would shake during takes. The first Director of Photography had his own tent where he could laugh out of sight, while ostensibly watching the footage.
Much of the furniture and decor for the living room set was a complete display room taken from the window of a thrift shop. The glass-top television table supported by white pillars belonged to Tommy Wiseau. When the cinematographer complained that the set was too sparsely furnished, Wiseau sent the art department out to buy new items. They returned with framed pictures of plastic spoons, which Wiseau, impatient to continue filming, ordered hung up. Plastic spoons have become a staple of midnight screenings of the film, often being thrown at the screen upon the occurrence of a spoon shot. There are thirty-four spoon shots.
Tommy Wiseau was so pleased with the sex scene footage that he wanted all of it in the film, before an editor talked him out of it. The first sex scene between Johnny and Lisa was nearly six minutes before it was cut in half. Juliette Danielle was shocked by the lengthy sex scenes; she thought they were going to last a couple of seconds
Kyle Vogt had to leave before all his scenes were shot because of a prior acting commitment. He told Tommy Wiseau about it months prior, and Wiseau assured him filming would be wrapped by that time. That explains why his character, Peter, is not at the party at the end. Peter's lines were given to Steven (Greg Ellery), a completely new character who unexpectedly shows up at Johnny's birthday party. One of Peter's last lines is "That's it; I'm done."
Michael Rousselet and Scott Gairdner started the cult movement in 2003 upon seeing the first initial run of The Room in theaters. Mesmerized and obsessed, they brought a hundred friends to the final four screenings during the last three days of The Room's theatrical run. They ran amok in the theater bringing props such as spoons, football, and roses as a sort of "Viking funeral" believing the film would never be seen again.
Tommy Wiseau esoterically addressed several fan questions in a special Q&A feature filmed for the DVD release. Among these are "Why is it called 'The Room'?" (to which Wiseau replies that the title is meant to evoke a safe place for viewers) and "Why is everyone playing football in tuxedos and standing only three feet apart?" (which Wiseau doesn't answer except to say that football is fun and that playing it without protective gear is a challenge).
The famous "Oh hi doggy" line was improvised on the spot when Tommy Wiseau noticed the tiny pug dog sitting on the counter of the flower shop he was filming the scene in. Nobody else in the crew noticed the dog, as it sat perfectly still on the counter (probably because, according to the flower shop lady, the dog was really old). He took a liking to "doggy", fascinated by its quietness and cuteness.
During the filming of the party confrontations and the "trashing the apartment" scenes, Tommy Wiseau had been taking heavy dosages of NyQuil to counter a stuffed nose and sore throat, coupled with a severe lack of sleep. In the movie he looks convincingly drunk or stoned, slurring and barely awake, but the reality was that he was just exhausted.
There are eight instances of the phrase "Don't worry about it," plus one "Don't worry about that," one "Don't worry about me," two "Don't worry about Johnny"s, one "Don't worry about those fuckers," and two plain old "Don't worry"s.
While writing one scene with Lisa and her mother, Tommy Wiseau had Lisa talking on the phone with Claudette, and it ended with Lisa walking her mother to the door because he forgot they were on the phone.
Greg Sestero stated in his book The Disaster Artist that Tommy Wiseau took his movie so seriously during production, that he told Sestero that the lines he wrote were so amazing that they would be able to put people to sleep. Ironically, Sestero found some truth in that.
A lot of the film's dialogue was dubbed in, which is why there are many out-of-sync scenes, particularly those involving Johnny. Tommy Wiseau was said to be unable to memorize lines, necessitating the use of cue cards, and the sound crew was reportedly plagued with difficulties.
The budget for the film reached $6 million, all of which was spent on production and marketing. Tommy Wiseau has claimed that the reason the film was relatively expensive was because many members of the cast and crew had to be replaced, and each of the cast members had several understudies.
While filming the fight between Johnny and Mark, Tommy Wiseau really was hurting Greg Sestero. By the end of it, the latter had bruises all over his arms and wrists from the former's hands, which have apparent "cyborg-like strength".
Greg Sestero's venomous delivery, "Keep your stupid comments in your pocket," is due to him channeling all the frustrations of the shoot and imagining he was actually saying to Tommy Wiseau, "Why are you doing this to me?"
The film was promoted almost exclusively through a single billboard in Hollywood, located on Highland Avenue just north of Fountain, featuring an image Tommy Wiseau refers to as "Evil Man": an extreme close-up of his own face with one eye in mid-blink. Although more conventional artwork was created for the film, featuring the main characters' faces emblazoned over the Golden Gate Bridge, Wiseau chose the "Evil Man" for what he regarded as its provocative quality; around the time of the film's release, the image led many passers-by to believe that The Room was a horror film. Despite the film's failure to enjoy immediate success, Wiseau paid to keep the billboard up for over five years, at the cost of $5,000 a month. Its bizarre imagery and longevity led to it becoming a minor tourist attraction. When asked how he managed to afford to keep the billboard up for so long in such a prominent location, Wiseau responded: "Well, we like the location, and we like the billboard. So we feel that people should see The Room (2003). [...] we are selling DVDs, which are selling okay."
In his book "The Disaster Artist," Greg Sestero describes being originally hired as a line producer (despite having no knowledge of what that entailed, let alone experience). However, Tommy Wiseau always intended Sestero to play Mark, and since the role was already cast, he devised a scheme to force out the original actor. Sestero originally refused the role because the love scenes made him uncomfortable. Wiseau compromised by allowing him to wear jeans.
On the first day of filming, Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero showed up to the set several hours late. Greg arrived to pick up Tommy on time, but Tommy has a very different biological clock. Tommy's first act as director was to bark orders at the production crew, saying they were too slow and unprofessional.
After his scene had been reshot, Dan Janjigian's boots got scuffed and he had to replace them. Tommy Wiseau initially refused to replace his $80 boots, even though the scene they just filmed cost a thousand times as much.
According to Greg Sestero, Tommy Wiseau was already independently wealthy at the time production began, having amassed a fortune over several years of entrepreneurship and real estate development in and around Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Originally, Chris-R was going to be played by Scott Holmes, who already played Mike, wearing a hat and glasses. Holmes convinced Tommy Wiseau to give the role to his roommate, Dan Janjigian, whose performance so impressed Wiseau that he thought about writing more scenes for Chris-R, but never did.
After low ticket sales, the film was almost immediately pulled from cinemas. Tommy Wiseau paid to keep it open in one cinema for two weeks so the film would be eligible for Oscar nominations. It did not receive any nominations.
The movie has received a theatrical release in very few countries, almost always going direct-to-video instead. According to a Spanish distributor, Tommy Wiseau maintains tight control over the film's exhibition, making international distribution difficult. The film has never been dubbed, even in countries where dubbing is mandatory by law.
While filming establishing shots in a high-end residential area of San Francisco, Tommy Wiseau got into an argument with a police officer, who asked to see their permit (which Tommy insisted they wouldn't need). After a few minutes, the crew packed their gear and fled.
Greg Ellery has claimed that Juliette Danielle was just "off the bus from Texas" when shooting began, and that on the first day of shooting, "the cast watched in horror" as Tommy Wiseau jumped on Danielle and immediately began filming their "love scene". Greg Sestero has disputed this chronology, stating that the sex scenes were among the last to be filmed.
According to Greg Sestero, the character of Lisa is based on a woman to whom Tommy Wiseau once proposed with a $1,500 diamond engagement ring, but who "betrayed [him] several times", resulting in the breakup of their relationship. Sestero further postulates that Wiseau based Lisa's explicit conniving on the character Tom Ripley, after Wiseau had a profound emotional reaction to The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999).
The famous "hospital on Guerrero Street" was thrown in by Greg Sestero because that was where Tommy Wiseau's San Francisco apartment was. Even though no one who saw the film would ever get the reference, Tommy was furious (yet kept the take since it was the best one they had).
Greg Sestero maintains that Tommy Wiseau was adamant characters say their lines the way they were written, but that several cast members managed to slip in ad libs that ended up in the final cut of the film.
The furniture in the film was purchased from a thrift store display window and Tommy Wiseau insisted to keep it exactly as it was, which is why the living room does not look like it would be inhabited. Sandy Schklair offered his own house to use for the living room set, but Tommy refused as he "didn't want Sandy seizing control of the film."
Greg Sestero, who played Mark, wrote a critically acclaimed book about his friendship with Tommy Wiseau and his experiences making the film entitled "The Disaster Artist." The book was published in 2013, the 10th anniversary of the film's premiere. It was later adapted into a film, The Disaster Artist (2017), directed by and starring James Franco as Tommy Wiseau and Dave Franco as Greg Sestero.
According to Juliette Danielle, the original actress cast to play Lisa was closer in age to Tommy Wiseau and had an accent Danielle described as "random." According to Greg Sestero, the actress was Latina and came from an unidentified South American country.
Tommy Wiseau had the alley set rebuilt so he could film the football/Mike falling down scene. This move took two days and cost thousands. He also wanted to rebuild the rooftoop set for the "We're expecting!" subplot.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, script supervisor Sandy Schklair claimed that it was he who actually handled the direction of the film. According to Schklair, Tommy Wiseau was too busy with his acting duties leaving Schklair to do the directing. Schklair's claim was corroborated in the article by a cast member who remained anonymous. Greg Sestero partially corroborates Schklair's version of events, describing him taking charge of numerous sequences in which Wiseau found himself unable to remember lines properly or adequately interact with the rest of the cast; Sestero further questioned Schklair's desire to receive a directorial credit, equating it with bragging about "[working] on the Hindenburg". Wiseau said of Schklair's assertion, "Well, this is so laughable that... you know what? I don't know, probably only in America it can happen, this kind of stuff."
The first cinematographer, Rafael Smadja, left after only three days, accusing Tommy Wiseau of being unprofessional and impossible to work with. His replacement, Graham Futerfas, quit when Wiseau refused to pay the still photographer after trying to cancel her call time at 3:00 am, and because Wiseau wanted to get rid of the generator that was powering the set, even though they were still shooting in there.
The rooftop scene ("Where is my money?") was a reshoot because Tommy Wiseau thought it would be "more dramatic" on the roof rather than its initial location in an alley. The reshoot cost $80,000 and took two weeks to shoot.
Among the numerous differences between the film and the stage script on which it was based is the treatment of Denny's character. In the play, he is called "Billy", and is described as Lisa's homosexual younger brother who is romantically interested in Johnny.
It was mainly shot on a Los Angeles soundstage, but some second unit shooting was done in San Francisco. The film's many rooftop sequences were shot on the soundstage, with exteriors of San Francisco later greenscreened in.
According to "The Disaster Artist," Greg Sestero broke up with his girlfriend just before second unit filming began for outdoor scenes in San Francisco. Tommy Wiseau, to Sestero's horror, decided to use this as inspiration and wrote a few new scenes between Johnny and Mark to film in SF, such as the talk in the coffee shop and the football game in the park.
According to Greg Sestero, the spiral staircase sex scene, was filmed on a day when it was 100 °F (37 °C). Also, the song that plays was originally supposed to be an Alicia Keys song, but Tommy refused and said "We are not here to promote other people's work".
This movie wouldn't exist if it wasn't for Retro Puppet Master (1999), as Tommy was jealous that Greg had a role in that movie. At the time Tommy thought that Retro Puppet Master was a big Hollywood movie, and not a low budget movie so Greg helped fund The Room to give his friend the chance to be a star.