Prepare for ‘The Disaster Artist’ with a Long-Ago Episode of ‘How Did This Get Made?’
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How Did This Get Made hosts Paul Scheer, Jason Mantzoukas, and June Diane Raphael are super-popular bad movie podcasters but they’re also prolific writers, directors, and actors. Sometimes these jobs overlap, as when Scheer took a break from humorlessly dissecting the many terrible motion pictures of American treasure Nicolas Cage to co-star with the Oscar winner in the dreadful comedy Army of One.
The trio’s podcasting and professional lives overlapped in a much more fruitful and entertaining way when the entire How Did This Get Made gang scored choice roles in the obscenely star-studded cast of the recent film adaptation of The Disaster Artist, Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell’s book about the making of The Room. Scheer is hilarious as Raphael Smadja, a cinematographer flummoxed by Tommy Wiseau’s unique approach to filmmaking, and also life and communication.
Smadja is understandably displeased to learn that he’s working with someone who has no idea what he’s doing. A smartly cast Mantzoukas plays a rep for the company that rents stages and equipment to Wiseau and is understandably overjoyed to be working with a rank amateur who has no idea what he’s doing but somehow possesses seemingly unlimited resources and no one to answer to other than himself.
Raphael, meanwhile, is perfectly cast as Robyn Paris, the actress with the surreal fortune and misfortune to play Michelle, bargain basement femme fatale Lisa’s sole friend and confidante. Scheer, Mantzoukas, and Raphael disappear in the heightened reality of The Disaster Artist, which shouldn’t be a surprise considering that they’ve been lovingly spreading the gospel of the life-changing awesomeness of The Room even before they had Sestero on as a very special guest on The Room episode of How Did This Get Made back in 2011.
Scheer introduces himself as a Room super-fan who’d seen, and loved, and cherished the movie in multiple forms. The Room had been around almost a decade by that point, but it’s still a little weird to hear it defended as a movie whose bizarre charm endures. Mantzoukas was a Room newbie when the episode was recorded with Sestero and guest Steve Heiseler, a former colleague of mine from the A.V Club of yore. Mantzoukas sounds giddy with the thrill of discovery, as any bad movie-loving person who had just stumbled upon The Room would be. The hosts seem a little star-struck to be in Sestero’s presence. He is Mark, after all, Johnny’s very best friend.
Scheer treats The Room less as a singularly bad movie than as the trash movie equivalent of an urban legend, the weird vanity project with the creepy billboard with the nightmare man’s unblinking visage that could be anything—a vampire movie, a porno, a psychological drama—but turned out to be what Scheer calls “the best worst movie” (to paraphrase the title of Michael Paul Stephenson’s own wonderful movie about the making of an all-time turkey, in this case Troll 2) and, in the form of The Disaster Artist, the juicy inspiration for a terrific tell-all and a hilarious and heartbreaking movie.
The Room is such a singular cultural phenomenon that it’s a little weird hearing the hosts and guests talk about the plot of the film as if it were both just another independent film and not the craziest shit ever. Six years and many, many viewings on, it’s still hard to believe The Room exists. You get a sense of the intense cognitive dissonance the movie engenders through a clip of the legendary “Hi doggie!” sequence, which, despite lasting about two sentences, seems to be the product of about fifteen different splices, yet still sounds monotone and artificial in a way that remains hilarious no matter how many times you’ve heard it.
Sestero teases the book that would become The Disaster Artist when happily recounting the unlikely story of how he came to be artistically joined at the hip with everyone’s favorite New Orleans heartthrob. The hosts and guests discuss the many mysteries of Wiseau: How old is he? Where does he come from? How did he make his fortune? Why is he so intent on recording for posterity his ass muscles mid-flex? Is there a real-life Lisa? Does Wiseau have any sense how ridiculous he seems?
Like all good pop culture enigmas, these mysteries can never truly be solved, these questions never really answered, even when they are being conclusively answered.
The hosts are overjoyed by the prospect of a whole book about The Room and probably could never have envisioned that that book would become not just a movie with all of them in it, but a movie with all of them in it that looks likely to become a surprise box-office hit and Oscar contender.
It turns out the actor who played Mark really did have a hell of a story that soars in book, film, and podcast form.
Can a Broadway musical be far behind?
Nathan Rabin is a father, the author of 5 books, a columnist and the proprietor, owner, Editor-in-Chief and sole writer for Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place, which can be found at nathanrabin.com.