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LAist Interviews Tommy Wiseau, The Face Behind The Billboard

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If you've passed through Hollywood enough times, you can’t have failed to notice the bizarre billboard on the West side of Highland just North of Fountain. And if you're like me, every time you pass by, you idly wonder about the man whose leonine countenance gazes benignly on weary travellers. What is that guy staring at so intently? Why have I never heard of his movie? And how the hell can he afford to keep that billboard up so freaking long?

The man is Tommy Wiseau, the self-taught auteur who wrote, directed, produced and starred in The Room, a movie that pitches itself as "an electrifying American black comedy about love, passion, betrayal and lies," but is more aptly described as an unholy fusion of melodrama, softcore and unintentional comedy. And those are the movie's good points.

In The Room Wiseau plays Johnny, a naïve banker who's inexplicably intent on marrying his whiny turd of a fiancée, Lisa (Juliette Danielle). Between visits from Lisa's meddling mom, Claudette (Carolyn Minnott), marathon sex sessions set to cringeworthy R&B and pillow fights with earnest teenager Denny (Philip Haldiman), Lisa starts a steamy affair with Johnny's best friend, Mark (Greg Sestero, who also served as line producer on the film).

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Despite savage reviews -- Variety described it as, "A movie that prompts most of its viewers to ask for their money back -- before even 30 minutes have passed," NPR called it a "cinematic train wreck," and one Amazon reviewer wrote, "SO awful, I scream-laughed through the entire movie" -- The Room has steadily built a loyal cult audience. Every month since the film premiered in the summer of 2003, Wiseau has held a midnight screening of The Room at Laemmle's Sunset 5, where he is usually on hand to answer questions and greet fans.

As word of mouth spread about the self-distributed movie, audiences flocked to the screenings with a Rocky Horror Picture Show-like gusto. Fueled by a passion for movies that are so bad they're good and (I'm guessing) plenty of booze, The Room acolytes dress up as characters from the scene, bring props, act out scenes and shout out their favorite lines during the screenings. The hands-down winner: Wiseau's anguished delivery of "YOU ARE TEARING ME APART, LISA!!!"

Wiseau for his part approaches these monthly events (held at midnight on the last Saturday of each month) with relentless good humor and a DIY spirit that belie the seriousness of his message. As he likes to say in his Eastern European accent of unknown provenance (Wiseau won’t reveal where he's from, but I'm guessing Austria): "You can laugh, you can cry, you can express yourself, but please don’t hurt each other!"

Many things have been written about Tommy Wiseau, so I thought it would be best to let him speak for himself. Back in October I interviewed him on the phone, and (shamefully) I am only getting around to posting it now.

This Saturday, April 28, at midnight, you too can enter The Room... AND LEAVE FOREVER CHANGED!Interview after the jump.

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