Posts Tagged ‘Tom Bissell’
October 29, 2013 | by Hope Reese
Ten years ago, Tommy Wiseau produced, wrote, directed, and starred in one of the best worst movies of all time. The Room, a six million dollar endeavor, was conceived as a “Tennessee Williams-like” drama, its insight into human relationships sure to place it in the running for an Oscar. The film, however, was not received as the auteur intended. Instead of winning accolades, its hilariously inexplicable writing, cinematography, and performances have earned it a devoted cult following.
But even stranger than the film itself is the story behind The Room. How did Wiseau, whose age, past, nationality, and financial means are shrouded in mystery, create this spectacular catastrophe? To begin unraveling the mystery, journalist Tom Bissell (who first wrote about the film in a piece for Harper’s) teamed up with Greg Sestero (costar of The Room and close friend of Wiseau) to write The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made. Their book pieces together anecdotes from Sestero’s friendship with Wiseau with the story of the production (the entire crew was fired four times over, for example).
With insight, appreciation for the bizarre, and genuine humanity, Bissell has helped create a book almost as hilarious as the film itself. Bissell is best known for his long-form nonfiction on subjects ranging from Chuck Lorre, the creator of popular TV shows, to the video game Grand Theft Auto, to the films of Werner Herzog. He now writes scripts for a video game company and is working on a book on early Christianity. I spoke with him over Skype from his office in Los Angeles.
It’s a bizarre experience watching The Room for the first time. What was it like for you?
I’d just moved to Portland. I was sitting in an empty apartment on an air mattress waiting for my girlfriend and all my stuff to arrive in a U-Haul. I spent the day looking on the Internet for something to occupy myself. I stumbled across clips of The Room and watched them in various states of amazement. It’s unlike any movie I’ve ever seen. Through a stroke of coincidence I’ll never understand, it turned out that the movie was premiering in Portland that night at a theater five blocks from the apartment I’d rented. What’s really funny is that someone was recording an audience-reaction documentary there that night, so on YouTube there’s a clip of me being interviewed before I saw it for the first time. I felt so exhilarated by the movie, by its combination of complete incompetence and utter confidence. It swept me up, and my aesthetic life has never been the same since. I’m obsessed with it. I love it. Whether you want to call it outsider art or bananas art or disaster art, the movie has something that movies made with infinitesimally more precision and expertise will never have. It has a big beating heart. Read More »
September 13, 2013 | by The Paris Review
Forty-three years after his death, John O’Hara still holds the record for the most stories published in The New Yorker (247), a record all the more impressive when you consider that he spent a decade boycotting that magazine over a negative review. Wherever he published, one of O’Hara’s favorite subjects was New York City. He specialized in speakeasies, but he also took an interest in gentlemen’s clubs, Park Avenue apartments, dressing rooms, tenements—like Balzac, he aimed at a full panorama, in his case of the years before World War II. Now O’Hara’s New York stories have a volume of their own, thanks to the scholar Steven Goldleaf. My favorite is “Bread Alone,” about a father and son at a ballgame. Something tells me that it inspired the first chapter of Underworld. At least, it would be a worthy inspiration. I read The New York Stories as homework (Goldleaf and I will be discussing O’Hara this coming Monday with the novelist Lawrence Block) but it was a labor of love. —Lorin Stein
“Imagine a movie so incomprehensible that you find yourself compelled to watch it over and over again. You become desperate to learn how (if) on earth it was conceived: Who made it, and for what purpose?” These words could only refer to The Room, a cult phenomenon frequently described as the Citizen Kane of bad films; they come from The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made, by Greg Sestero and the peerless Tom Bissell. Sestero was coerced into participating in the project by its enigmatic, megalomaniacal writer-director-star, Tommy Wiseau, and served as reluctant intern, cameraman, casting director, and, ultimately, costar (“Mark,” to the initiated.) The book is hilarious, and the stories behind the making of The Room are even more bizarre than one might expect; truly, like the film itself, they must be seen to be believed. —Sadie Stein Read More »
March 21, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
- Over at Ploughshares, an interview with book artist Melissa Jay Craig.
- Putting his money where his mouth is, so to speak, writer Tom Bissell has written a video game, Gears of War: Judgment, the fourth in a military sci-fi series. This trend has endless possibilities. (Cue Joyce Carol Oates for Xbox 360.)
- An algorithm finds that the emotional content of books is on the decline. (Although there’s probably more sex.)
- Conversely! “Morn shows that he was not immune to the forces that had so dramatically acted upon his father, though his own political convictions would thrive within the rococo folds of his language.” Two new books allow us to see a new, less detached side of Nabokov.
- Horror writer James Herbert has died, at sixty-nine.
June 17, 2011 | by The Paris Review
Every summer the good people at Oxford Classics sponsor a reading group in the Reading Room at Bryant Park. I joined them this week to discuss New Grub Street (1891), George Gissing’s novel about freelancers who haunt the British Museum. What I remembered—what everyone remembers—is the scary depiction of writer’s block. (George Orwell: “To a professional writer it is ... an upsetting and demoralizing book, because it deals, among other things, with that much-dreaded occupational disease, sterility.”) What I noticed this time was the love story between Jasper Milvain, a slick young critic on the make, and shy, scholarly Marian Yule, the nicest, toughest, smartest person in the book. —Lorin Stein
Galleys of the two-volume Letters of T. S. Eliot just landed on my desk. And everyone who’s anyone is here: Ezra Pound, Lytton Strachey, Edmund Wilson, and Conrad Aiken, but also Wyndham Lewis, Jacques Riviere, and James Joyce. How disarming, though, to see a letter addressed to Bertrand Russell as “Dear Bertie” and signed “Affectionately, Tom.” —Nicole Rudick
I had the chance to do a Q & A with Carmela Ciuraru this week, the author of Nom de Plume: A (Secret) History of Pseudonyms. The book is a series of portraits of literary figures throughout history—the Brontes, George Eliot, O. Henry, Georges Simenon—who for one reason or another adopted pseudonyms. It’s fascinating—and, incidentally, piqued my interest in an author I hadn’t read, Fernando Pessoa. —Sadie Stein
Aaron Sorkin and David Carr talk about cocaine, journalism, and The New York Times. —Thessaly La Force
New Directions Pearls are small books on large topics: Fitzgerald on booze, Garcia Lorca on duende, Borges’s Everything and Nothing. The books are about the size of postcard, which means they fit in your back pocket and can also be used as fans or as bookmarks for bigger books. Right now I’m reading Joseph Roth’s The Leviathan, a longish short story about the coral merchant Nissen Piczenik and his holiday in Odessa. It’s a gem. —Robyn Creswell
Molly Lambert takes on Kanye West over at Grantland and produces this glorious footnote: “Almost all classic West Coast rap is about being the world’s worst boyfriend. Too Short and Eazy-E would not be very good boyfriends.” —Cody Wiewandt
I reread From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, which I remembered even less well than Grub Street, but which brought to mind David Grann’s piece on Peter Paul Biro. —L. S.
Tom Bissell reviews the video game L. A. Noire. —T. L.
Because you can’t watch this too many times and, well, it’s Friday. —Peter Conroy