I had directed a bunch of weird, literary indie movies but I just felt like this one, even though it had enough weirdness to appeal to my sensibilities, that it did have potential for a bigger audience and that Seth [who produces and acts in the film] and those guys would be able to guide me into making a movie that appealed to bigger audiences.
What made you think that it would have that kind of broad appeal? Is it just that it’s a comedy?
I think that’s part of it. But also the secret sauce to “The Room” is that Tommy put his heart and soul into it. Yes it’s a bad movie, but underneath you can see and feel that he’s trying so hard. And I think the secret sauce in our movie is that we don’t make it a spoof. We treat Tommy and Greg sympathetically, and in telling their story, we really are trying to tell the story of every dreamer.
Looking back, what stands out to you the most about the experience of making this film?
The first two weeks was when we were shooting all “The Room” re-creations and the scenes behind the scenes of “The Room,” so that was the most meta. I had two and a half hours of prosthetics every morning, and I would listen to these tapes of Tommy talking to himself from 20 years ago. And then I would go to set and our set would be “The Room” set, and then all these actors would show up as “The Room” actors. So I guess what stands out is just how bizarre that was. And I added to the insanity because I stayed in character when I was directing. Not to the extent that I gave Tommy’s kind of direction — “The Disaster Artist” isn’t “The Room.” I was James, but it was just filtered through the Tommy voice and look.
There maybe has never been another movie where the director of the film is acting in it playing a director who is acting in his own film and then staying in character while he was directing.
What was your favorite movie this year other than “The Disaster Artist”?
I love “Lady Bird,” I love “Three Billboards [Outside Ebbing, Missouri],” I love “The Florida Project,” “Get Out,” “Logan,” “Dunkirk.” Those are the ones that jump into my mind right now. Oh and “Call Me by Your Name” also is gorgeous. I’ll say right now my favorite of those is “Get Out.”
On “Saturday Night Live” this weekend, you and Kenan Thompson played characters fired over the kind of serial sexual harassment that has been in the news recently. What was it like to step into a role like that in this moment?
Michael Che wrote it and we all knew when it hit the table. It actually got the biggest laugh in the table read. I think that sketch does what “SNL” does best: it takes a very serious issue and it allows us to address it and engage with it because we’re laughing. That’s what I love about a lot of comedy — it’s candy coating around a pill.
What’s your takeaway from the reckoning over sexual harassment in Hollywood?
The casting couch has been around since the beginning. Women would have to go on dates with executives and go to parties with them. It’s almost like escorts in a way. So this has been going on for a long, long time, and the fact that it is changing — and hopefully this will lead to change — is a great, great thing.
Did you ever think that it would happen? And so swiftly?
No. It’s dramatic. I applaud all the people that came out and told their stories and made it happen.
Has your experience with “The Disaster Artist” informed what you want to do next?
Well I’ve slowed down a lot. I was on a work tear for a long time. Part of that was just learning my trade and trying to get experience, and part of it was, I don’t know, trying to escape or something in my work. Having a movie get recognition like this, it’s kind of like, “All right — look at the kind of results you get if you slow down and put care and attention into something.” And so that is my new approach.