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An interview with Greg Sestero of The Room

Copy of CHS-Q+A-Feature Image

Next Saturday, Oct. 9, the Terrace Theater will host writer + producer Greg Sestero — known for the cult classic film “The Room,” which inspired “The Disaster Artist.” You may also know Greg from Netflix’s gothic-drama mini-series, “The Haunting of Bly Manor.”

The Terrace Theater event will feature a showing of his new movie — a horror film, just in time for spooky season — called “Miracle Valley,” followed by a showing of “The Room.”

You can get tickets here. Tickets for the event include a Q+A before each film showing, as well as a meet + greet opportunity for each ticket holder.

Speaking of Q+A — we talked to Greg about his success as a writer, becoming a meme, and what his go-to meal is while visiting SC.

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A still from The Room | Photo provided

What’s your job + what are 3-5 things you want people to know about you?
I’m an L.A based writer and actor. The things that come to mind that I’m passionate about are adventure, family, and humor. A foundation of these things can get you through a lot. I love to tell stories, read about unique true life stories, and share my creative work with a live audience.

What was it like working on The Room?
It was a truly insane, beautifully chaotic experience for me. Luckily, I was 24 and you’re definitely more receptive to madness at that age. Going to set back in 2002 — every day was a surprise. For starters, we were filming in the parking lot of an equipment rental shop. One day you’d show up and it was an entirely new crew, replaced actors. The shoot lasted for several months and we had so many unique personalities on set. Most of the cast and crew were in such different phases of life. It served up a fascinating blend of comedy, pathos, and believing in your vision against all odds.

How long have you and Tommy Wiseau been friends + collaborators?
I’ve known Tommy for 23 years. Ever since I saw him perform in that San Francisco acting class, I knew there was something there. We are polar opposites, and I think that adds a funky dimension when we are on screen together. I really enjoyed working with Tommy on BEST FRIENDS (2017-18). He plays Harvey — a vampire mortician — that really highlights his eccentric persona. Tommy can be an intriguing character actor when he embraces his persona.

What is something people would be surprised to learn about Tommy Wiseau?
Surprisingly, there is some method to the madness. He has a way of entering disaster situations and escaping unharmed. He thinks deer are monsters. And, he originally wanted to be a rockstar. Something that was intriguing to me about Tommy was that he had been trying to become an actor in Los Angeles since the late 1980’s. It was touching to find out that our meeting in the SF acting class gave him the push to try again. Second time was the charm. Lucky for all those late night theatre spoon clean ups, too.

The Disaster Artist (movie) came out almost 15 years after The Room — what made you want to turn this book into a movie? Was it always the goal to make the book a movie or did that come later?
Back in 2009, when The Room became a cult hit, I went on tour with Tommy around the U.S. I met such gracious fans that had so many questions. WHY? HOW? It always made me laugh, because I thought if fans knew the story behind the movie, it might be even more fascinating. I took the challenge of trying to take my experience of being in the worst movie ever made, and have my story be turned into an Oscar caliber film. With Tommy having submitted The Room for Oscars consideration, I thought am I morphing into him? One thing Tommy always preached was do your research.

I watched Ed Wood, Sunset Blvd, and Boogie Nights. I really believed that our friendship, and Tommy’s certifiable uniqueness would fall into the vein of odd, lovable Hollywood stories. I was lucky to get a great publisher in Simon & Schuster. The president, who had never heard of The Room, loved the story and really got behind the book. Three weeks after the book was released, I got the call from James Franco and Seth Rogen from the set of The Interview that they wanted to adapt it into a movie.

What was it like for you when the “oh hi, Mark” meme blew up?
When I saw The Room and my picture on the cover of Yahoo homepage back in 2009 — then also featured on ABC World News and Jimmy Kimmel — that’s when it became real. My family and friends couldn’t believe what they were seeing. Back in 2002, I had shown them film dailies and while we all agreed the footage was like an alien made a melodrama, we agreed that it would never be seen. So fast forward to 2009, It was almost like having your crazy secret home video released into the world and people actually loving it!

Tell us about your new horror movie — Miracle Valley.
Horror is always a genre I wanted to get into. Hills Have Eyes, Hereditary, It Follows. They were all films that blurred the lines with score and shocking moments, but were still terrific films. After The Disaster Artist, I really wanted to try something new. I decided to write a script about cults. I’ve always been intrigued by them. How do they start? Where do the seeds of that devotion, fanaticism, and ambition to join that secret circle, even die for it, derive from? After a deep-dive down the rabbit hole of exploring cults, as well as a few pilgrimages into the underground, I conceived a story of desire and needing to belong like no other. Combining that with my own experiences at the heart of one of the most inexplicable big-screen cults of all time, I was inspired to tell a story that seeks to capture the complicated psychological journey that leads many to embrace beliefs that so many others cannot begin to fathom.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer and an actor + how did you make a career of your calling?
I saw the movie “Home Alone” at age 12. I went home and started writing a sequel, “Home Alone: Lost in Disney World.” I wrote a role for myself, opposite Macaulay Culkin, and set the movie in Disney World. I then tracked down 20th Century Fox and mailed it to John Hughes — truly believing it was going to happen. I received a package back from Hughes. My screenplay was being returned, but a handwritten note for the man himself took me by surprise: “Believe in yourself, have patience, and always follow your heart.” I knew then I had found my calling. I finally got to meet Macaulay Culkin in 2018 and was a guest on his podcast Bunny Ears. He loved the story and I got to visit Disney World thereafter so my plan worked out!

If you could only do 1 for the rest of your life, would you choose acting or writing?
I’d have to choose writing because there’s something very rewarding about creating the world and watching the characters come to life.

What’s your favorite role to date?
My favorite role is probably David in “Miracle Valley.” It was the most comfortable I’d felt playing a role. A headstrong photographer chasing an impossible dream, hoping it would give him validation as an artist and solve all his problems. As Tommy would say, what a story!

What’s your favorite Movie? Album? Book?
My favorite is Back to the Future, timeless and the perfect screenplay. Every plant has a payoff.
My favorite album is The Black Album by Metallica.
My favorite book is In Cold Blood by Truman Capote.

What movie breaks your heart?
I’d have to go with UP (2010). I saw a Sunday matinee show and did not expect to be hit that hard. WALL-E was also one that I found very touching.

If you could only have one southern dish for the entire stay in South Carolina, what are you eating?
Everything I’ve had there is so good, but I’d choose the fried seafood. The biscuits and peach jam as the appetizer.

What are you looking forward to most while visiting Charleston?
I am really looking forward to walking through Charleston’s historic district. There’s nothing quite like it. It feels like Disneyland’s southern sister — the beautiful architecture, horse carriages, and arcade shops. I’d love to go back to Husk for dinner and am super excited to be at the Terrace Theatre. I’ve heard the moviegoing experience is so much fun.

If you were writing a movie based in Charleston — what genre would you choose? Who would you cast?
It would be a dream come true to make a movie in Charleston. I took a Ghost & Graveyard nighttime ghost tour on my last visit and it gave me all kinds of inspiration. I foresee a beautiful Charleston Mansion that is now haunted with a family of ghosts. However these ghosts are enjoying life — lavish parties every night for the past century. That is until a big hurricane hits Charleston, ravaging the mansion’s walls and foundation, forcing them into a dark past that they’d long forgotten. Some of my ideal cast would feature Jack Black, Daniel Kaluuya, Christopher Walken, Madelyn Cline, Alfred Molina, Thandiwe Newton, and Paul Scheer.

What project are you working on next?
During quarantine, I wrote a couple screenplays. One of them is a U.F.O abduction story called “Forbidden Sky.” While I was living in Arizona, I really got into the E.T culture, listened to all kinds of late night talk shows. I even took a U.F.O Night Tour in Sedona. We were out there with night vision goggles, taking it all in, listening to the guide’s wacky stories, including one by Travis Walton (Fire in the Sky). I realize how endless our fascination is with extraterrestrial life and what our imagination does with it. I got inspired to try to capture what this experience was like. My story centers around a small town amateur late-night radio host that receives a frantic call that turns his life upside down. Literally. The more I’ve interviewed people for this story, the more I believe it could actually happen! Also, my other script is a social thriller that will be a polarizing look into modern celebrity culture.

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