Entertainment

Madness at TIFF's midnight screening of The Disaster Artist

Fans queue up to 10 hours to see James Franco's homage to The Room but mostly for eccentric auteur Tommy Wiseau.

Dave Franco as Greg Sestero and James Franco as Tommy Wiseau in The Disaster Artist.

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THE CANADIAN PRESS/Handout

Dave Franco as Greg Sestero and James Franco as Tommy Wiseau in The Disaster Artist.

In honour of what many consider the greatest worst movie ever made, zealous devotees of the cult classic The Room lined up for as long as 10 hours for a Midnight Madness glimpse at James Franco’s homage The Disaster Artist on Monday night.

As the Toronto International Film Festival queue wrapped around Ryerson Theatre, fans in custom The Room T-shirts clutched The Room-themed bobbleheads while a promotional team dressed in frizzy black Tommy Wiseau wigs distributed plastic spoons and toy footballs.

One woman walked up and down the line offering $300 for a pair of tickets to the hotly anticipated debut — and surprisingly few seemed to have their interest piqued.

Inside the theatre, another inflatable football bounced around the crowd before a hoarse Franco took the microphone to end the wait.

“Of any movie that has played Midnight Madness,” he bellowed, “this is the f—ing movie that should be playing Midnight Madness!”

Uninitiated? Don’t worry about it: 2003’s The Room was a bizarre indie drama about a doomed love triangle that starred and was written, directed, produced and financed by Wiseau, an endlessly eccentric showbiz outsider with a thick and untraceable accent, a mysteriously bottomless bank account and a love of serious drama.

Eventually, the film found an appreciative audience and became a favourite of both midnight movie buffs and celebrities, many of whom turn up in Franco’s starry, buzzed-about comedy, which casts the Oscar nominee as Wiseau himself and is based on a book of the same name by Wiseau’s co-star and real-life best friend, Greg Sestero.

Screening traditions include hurling plastic spoons, wearing poorly fitted tuxedos and tossing around a football.

“When the wave of spoons (first) happened above me, it was absolutely magical,” said Arnaud Weissenburger, an 18-year-old Ryerson student clad in a “Don’t Worry About It” T-shirt, remembering his first time seeing the movie. “It was one of the best experiences of my life.”

Weissenburger and five friends lined up at 4 p.m. for the midnight screening. To pass the time, they crowded around a laptop and watched The Room. One friend, Jon Loeppky, had become obsessed upon watching it as a 17-year-old.

“I heard it was the worst movie ever made so I found it online, watched it, and at first I thought it was a porno,” said Loeppky, whose shirt featured Wiseau’s hunched torso and the quote: “Anyway, How Is Your Sex Life?”

“I Googled it to make sure it wasn’t, then I sat through the whole thing. I didn’t know what to make of it. Since then I’ve seen it 15 times. I think I have it almost memorized.”

No spoons or footballs flew once Monday’s screening got underway (the line to get the biggest response was Franco’s in-character “Hi doggy”). Afterward, Franco said he read Sestero’s book and felt “moved by these outsider artists trying to make it in a really hard business.”

Though Franco was joined onstage by brother Dave (who played Sestero), Alison Brie, Ari Graynor and Sestero, the star of the Q&A was Wiseau himself, clad in a vest, tie, dress shirt and typical array of belts.

After emerging to swelling applause, he introduced the rest of the cast and shot impromptu questions at them that they didn’t seem to know how to answer, like, “So what’chyou wanna say about Disaster Artist?”

A grinning Franco slid back and forth between his spot-on portrayal of Wiseau, recalling Wiseau’s original reaction to the idea of Franco playing him: “Ah, James I see your stuff. You do some good things, some bad things.”

Despite the way the movie relentlessly pokes fun at pretty much every aspect of Wiseau, he said he liked it “99.9 per cent,” objecting only to the depiction of his throwing around a football. He seemed rightfully convinced the film would only help the cause of bringing eyes to his mistake masterpiece.

“I love you all guys,” he told the crowd. “Thank you very much from the bottom of my heart.”

Seeing Wiseau in person seemed like the evening’s main event for many, but Navid Daraeifar and Erin Empey queued for eight hours without a ticket even though it wasn’t to be their first brush with him. Daraeifar recalled once meeting him at a screening of The Room at the Carlton, when Wiseau signed the “You’re Tearing Me Apart, Lisa” T-shirt he was wearing.

“He was just as weird as expected, which really made the movie even better,” Daraeifar recalled.

He’s probably seen the movie 60 times now. So why does it still hold such fascination?

“It’s hard to say,” he replied. “I don’t think you could ever plan to make something like this. It’s a comedy of errors. So many bad things had to happen to make it so perfect.

“It is the worst movie I’ve ever seen,” he added. “And I say that as a huge fan of it.”

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