Tommy Wiseau initially wanted Johnny Depp to play him in The Disaster Artist, James Franco – who eventually landed the gig – has revealed. Wiseau is, of course, the creative behind “the Citizen Kane of bad movies”, The Room. A cult classic renowned for its all-out awfulness, the early friendship between Wiseau and Greg Sestero will be dramatized by Franco’s new film.
James writes, directs and stars in The Disaster Artist, based on Sesterio’s book on the production, working with frequent collaborator Seth Rogen and his younger brother Dave. The Francos play the leads of the project with James taking on Wiseau, while Dave portrays Sestero. The film has garnered great early responses and could – ironically – push Franco into the Best Actor race at this year’s Oscars.
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Earlier this week, Dave and James were both in attendance for a screening for The Disaster Artist. During a post-viewing Q&A portion (via /Film), the older Franco recalled an interesting conversation with Wiseau during the time when he was still courting the actor for his permission to do the movie, revealing Johnny Depp was his first choice:
“We had to get his life rights. So I did talk to him and Greg on the phone. He wanted Johnny Depp. I laughed, and he was like, ‘Why are you laughing?’ And I didn’t want to offer myself or my brother because we didn’t have a contract, but Greg brought it up, and then Tommy was like, ‘Yeah, maybe James. I see some of your stuff. You do some good things, some bad things.’ And then what I learned later is, he thinks he’s James Dean. He famously quotes Rebel Without a Cause in The Room: ‘You’re tearing me apart, Lisa‘ is directly from Rebel Without a Cause… I think he actually [thinks he’s James Dean]. And I had played James Dean [in a 2001 movie], so the two people he wanted were Johnny Depp or me, I guess.”
It’s not hard to imagine Depp as Wiseau, especially with the former’s knack for being able to play odd-type characters who are still grounded and relatable – something that would have worked great with the narrative that The Disaster Artist is trying to tell. Having said that, Franco’s portrayal of The Room director and actor in the biographical comedy-drama film is evidently impressive; even Tommy Wiseau agrees in his “review”.
With a tight race when it comes to this year’s Best Actor category containing veterans like Tom Hanks (The Post) and Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour), and possibly even Hugh Jackman (The Greatest Showman), Franco has tough competition. Looking at the bigger picture, it’s not impossible that The Disaster Artist could be a darling of this upcoming awards season given that the Academy having a soft spot for films that shine a spotlight on the inner workings of the industry.