Alison Brie Enters the Weird World of ‘The Room’ in The Disaster Artist
The acclaimed Community star reveals how she is connected to Tommy Wiseau’s cult classic.
Alison Brie is having a hell of a year: she’s appeared/is appearing in three acclaimed films — The Little Hours, The Disaster Artist and the upcoming The Post — and also has the lead role in GLOW, the Netflix series about a fictionalized version of the 1980s Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling organization. Today we’re talking with her mainly about The Disaster Artist, in which she plays Amber, the sensible yet compassionate girlfriend of actor Greg Sestero (Dave Franco, Brie’s real-life husband, with whom she also starred in The Little Hours). The Disaster Artist is based on Sestero’s book about his involvement with alleged filmmaker Tommy Wiseau (played by James Franco, who also directs) in Wiseau’s 2003 cult bad movie, The Room.
The Disaster Artist is a comedy/drama about pursuing one’s dreams, the cost of friendship and the nature of creative talent, and Brie seems to be able to find the sweet spot between the humor and the more sobering aspects of the tale — something she’s also been able to manage in a lot of her other projects, whether it was her breakout role on Community, her extensive voice work on BoJack Horseman or parts like Amber in The Disaster Artist. We spoke with her about this, as well as the second season of GLOW and The Post, on the phone recently in Los Angeles.
Den of Geek: You apparently had some sort of six-degrees-of-separation type of thing going on with the actual movie, The Room. The camera operator on Community worked on the film.
Alison Brie: Yes, Todd Barron. He is the actual credited director of photography on The Room because he was the last DP standing, basically. Before I had ever seen The Room, I had heard about it because obviously it was such a major thing in Los Angeles, and by the time we were shooting Community, the midnight screenings were already very popular. And I sort of was like, “Why would I go see this movie if it’s supposed to be so bad?” I was clearly not understanding the full cult status and appeal. Gillian Jacobs actually was reading the book, The Disaster Artist, on set. The topic of The Room kind of came up a lot because the book was so interesting and she would just kinda tell us, “Oh my god, this story is so crazy.”
And then she got to this part in the book where Greg (Sestero) starts talking about Todd, and how the original DP got fired. Todd was sort of the saving grace because he just didn’t really care about quality, so he was the perfect person to be the DP on The Room to just be like, “Yeah, we got it, great,” and kind of do whatever Tommy wanted him to do. Todd was an easygoing guy. We loved him. I loved working with him on Community, and it’s so funny that even having not seen The Room at the time, I became fascinated with it then and then Gillian and I would prod Todd for information about shooting the movie.
So it was almost sort of destiny that you were going to collide with The Room somehow.
I guess so, yeah.
When you actually saw The Room, what were your thoughts on it?
Well by the time I saw it, I had listened to the full audio book of The Disaster Artist, and obviously had had these interactions with Todd. So, I had heard so much behind-the-scenes information before seeing it, and I actually feel like it was kind of a better way to see it. Having already heard a lot about the psychology of Tommy Wiseau was sort of really valuable while watching it, It was everything I expected and so much more. I was still sort of shocked, just by the nonsensical nature of the film as a whole. But I also felt like wow, it’s such a singular vision. It all comes from Tommy’s mind. I think more than anything, it’s like a really interesting look into the psychology of one person.
I’ve met Tommy several times since and he’s quite a character, and I think at this point he knows what the people want. He’s a rock star. He sort of, I think, inhabits his persona more than ever.
He’s embraced his brand.
The night of the premiere he had on a tie, that said, “You’re tearing me apart, Lisa.” (a fan favorite line from The Room) He said he sold them in six different colors.
Is Amber a composite or was she really Greg’s girlfriend?
She was. She’s a real person. It’s not a composite. Basically it’s the girl that Greg was dating while he was shooting The Room. There’s a bit more about her in the book, and we did actually shoot some additional scenes that sort of got cut, because the movie is so much more about the Greg and Tommy relationship. But in the book, you more just get the sense that Greg couldn’t have a relationship with anyone else while he was in so deep with Tommy. And this movie was like an avalanche, just sort of swallowing everyone up in it’s path, and I think that their relationship sort of fell apart as a result.
She’s very much the realist in this scenario. She kind of sees what’s really going on.
Yeah, and that’s what in the other scenes that we shot and in the book, you do get the sense that she was never a fan of Tommy, and she’s always questioning, “Who is this guy? Why does he want to be such close friends with you? Where is he from?” All these same things that we bring up in the movie, that is where she’s coming, she is sort of the realist and even though she was working as a makeup artist at the time, she was just sort of like, “This doesn’t seem normal. This doesn’t seem like the correct process of filmmaking. Are we sure this is going to be okay?”
This is the second film we’ve seen you and Dave in together this year. Has that been a rewarding or interesting dynamic for you two to work together on a couple of projects?
Absolutely. We actually shot this first before shooting The Little Hours. So, this was the first movie that we had done together, and it was so great. I feel like maybe I was a little nervous going into it because it’s funny when you’re so intimate with a person to then go and act intimately with them. You’re like, “Gosh, I hope we have good on-screen chemistry.” Or that would be strange. But it was so wonderful. I think Dave is an amazing actor. It’s really fun to play off of him on set, and of course, I just couldn’t be more comfortable with anyone.
My editor is a huge fan of GLOW, so what can you tell us about season 2?
Well, we’re right in the middle of shooting season 2. And I don’t want to say too much, but I think I can say that while season 1 was all about the girls training, and learning how to wrestle, and building towards shooting the show’s pilot, season 2 is now about them shooting the actual show, GLOW. So it’s much more of the production side of making that kind of wrestling show, and the interesting thing has been being in our wrestling characters and those costumes much more of the time is very funny.
I think that last year when we were building the final look for Zoya the Destroya and the hair and makeup and the costume and the ring, I did not have the foresight to think, “This is what I’ll be wearing every day next year.” So, I do feel a bit like a cos player every day on set, but it’s really fun to kind of be looking at the behind-the-scenes of the making of a wrestling/variety show.
You’re also in The Post, which is coming out next month and entails quite a different type of costume, I would imagine.
It’s set in 1972, so that was really fun to kind of go further back in time to the ’70s, and obviously just so amazing to work with all these incredible icons that I’ve grown up watching and idolizing. It was very surreal.
You’re playing the daughter of Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham, which means you had Meryl Streep acting opposite you while Steven Spielberg directed. Not too much pressure there.
Yes. It was incredible. I sort of still can’t believe it really happened. But it was so fun. I mean, all of my scenes are with Meryl because I play her daughter and she’s just obviously, the greatest actress of our time. It was so, I knew I was in really good hands. I thought I would be so nervous and I was, but it was just so easy because she’s so incredible. It really makes my job easy to just listen and react to Meryl Streep. And Steven Spielberg couldn’t have been more gracious or more excited about making art and that was really inspiring and cool and fun. It was a really fun set for a dramatic thriller, of course. It was a really fun, warm, giving set.
Do you feel like you’re just in a great position in terms of working on things that are really very timely and relevant to what’s going on in society, in terms of the feminist slant of GLOW or the political nature of The Post?
Absolutely. It’s a really great feeling to be a part of projects that have something important and significant and relevant to say, and especially when it comes to feminism and looking at women in a different way in the workplace, it’s been really gratifying to work on such important projects.
The Disaster Artist is out this Friday (December 1).