Friday, September 24, 2010

Pizza with Tommy

The theater where I work part-time as a projectionist, the Red Vic, has been having monthly sold-out or near sold-out midnight shows of The Room for a little over a year now. If you don't know what The Room is, or who Tommy Wiseau is, start your education with the trailer, and then my favorite scene.

The Red Vic has been negotiating with Tommy for awhile to get him to appear in person at some shows, but it usually doesn't work out because the Red Vic shows the movie the last weekend of every month, which is the same thing a theater in L.A. does, and he goes to every one of the screenings in L.A. There were also monetary issues because the Red Vic is not that big, and when these deals are made, a certain minimum price comes up and they wanted to be sure they could meet it. Anyway, eventually someone who knew Tommy (and who acted in his TV pilot The Neighbors) came to one of the screenings, and he was able to help negotiations along, and he also got one of the film's stars, Greg Sestero, to appear before some shows a couple months ago. So anyway, the Red Vic realized that they could show The Room on a different weekend besides the last of the month, and they could also program it earlier. They set up four shows, Friday and Saturday, at 8pm and midnight, and once those sold out, they added a midnight show on Sunday night, which also sold out.

I went on Saturday night. I'm not interested in watching the movie with a raucous audience that makes fun of it, so I just wanted to see the Q&A. I showed up around the time the 8pm show would be getting out, only to find out that he did the Q&A before the screening, rather than after. But he still did a meet and greet in the lobby, and I helped them sell merchandise, and watched him interact with his fans. He's very friendly, and incredibly energetic, and will sign anything and everything for free, and pose for a million pictures, and he has a guy who helps with pictures, so he can pull in the person with a camera, so everyone gets photos with their friends. He's also more than happy to toss a football with people (it relates to the movie), and try different poses (if people were small, he would sometimes pick them up and hold them). It's pretty amazing. And for someone whose fans tend to think he made a terrible movie, he's awfully gracious and appreciative.

The Red Vic wanted me to stay and help sell merchandise for the midnight show, but I wasn't able to because we had planned a midnight screening of Deep Blue Sea at the Balboa. As soon as the 8pm crowd was clear, they were about ready to let in the midnight, so there wasn't a good spare moment for me to say hi and get my picture with him. Since he was so enthusiastic and willing to indulge people, and since as an employee I have some leeway on the circumstances under which I met him, I really wanted something special. I knew I was working the midnight show the next night, so I decided to give myself an extra day to be less nervous. I generally hate meeting celebrities, because I get really nervous and am extra awkward and extra devoid of general conversational skills, so no matter how exciting it should be, instead I say "I like this movie you were in, will you sign the DVD?" and then they do, and I take a picture, and then it's over.

I came back Sunday night, and this time I also remembered to get my DVD back from Doug, so I could get that signed. Greg Sestero was around too, and I talked to him a bit before we opened the doors. He asked me my thoughts on The Room, and then what my favorite movies were. When I told him Showgirls was #1, he asked what made Showgirls better than The Room. I had never thought about this comparison all that deeply, so my immediate answer was "More tits." Which is true enough, but "better pacing" would also be accurate. Tommy was around in the lobby at this time, but I wasn't comfortable just walking up and introducing myself, even though I had the projectionist angle to open with. Next thing I knew, doors were opened, he was meeting and greeting again, and I was selling more merchandise. Then I had to take care of the mics for the Q&A, and after that, get the movie started. I asked Sam (the manager who set all this up) not to let him leave before I got my picture, and he said it'd be no problem, he wouldn't be bolting out the door or anything.

The Q&A was incredible and hilarious. The majority of questions asked are ones he's been asked before, and is known for refusing to answer. Such as "Where are you from?" To this one, he asked if any Room fans were in the audience. When someone raised their hand, he asked them to answer where he was from. "New Orleans?" "That is a good guess hahaha [his laugh in the movie is truly how he actually laughs]. But let me educate you. The truth is it is a ridiculous question. Moving on, next person!" Someone asked why he set the movie in San Francisco. "That is a very dumb question, you are selling yourself short! This is a wonderful city, full of diversity, of course I want to shoot here. Why do you not appreciate this great city you live in?" At a previous Q&A, someone asked about the football scene and Greg compared Tommy to Joe Montana. Apparently, later on at their hotel, while Greg was trying to fall asleep, Tommy yelled at him, "Why do you tell lies to these people?! I am not anything like Joe Montana, he is so full of himself!"

After the Q&A ended, and the movie was started, Tommy went back up to the office, and a pizza was ordered for him (half Hawaiian, half pesto, my two favorite toppings as well!) I asked Sam if we could go up to hang out with him. As soon as we entered, he saw that we were holding DVDs, and started yelling, "Sam, what do you need? What do you want me to sign? Tell me, I'm ready!" Sam introduced me, "This is our projectionist, he really wanted to meet you." I told him I really loved his movie and would like to get a picture. The environment was perfect for my nerves. I didn't have to feel pressured by a line behind me or anything, and it was much more personal. He bolted up from his chair and untied his ponytail for taking pictures. I told him I'd love to get a prom-style photo. "Whatever you want! No problem! Just tell me how to pose!"

The next two poses were his. He wanted to make sure we got a close-up.

This one was his too, surprisingly. I put my hands on his to make it more romantic.

After that, pizza came, and we talked for awhile about projection and film vs. digital, since he shot the film on both simultaneously (I still don't understand which one he prefers). He said he's still working on producing The Neighbors as a tv show, and his next movie will be about vampires, and may have a scene shot inside the Red Vic.

I love how the pictures came out, and the whole experience was as amazing as I ever could've hoped for. He signed my DVD with "May all your dreams come true!" At least one of them already has, Tommy.

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