Tommy Wiseau visits Portland for “The Room” screening, Q&A

The audience met Tommy Wiseau at the screening of his cult classic “The Room.” Photo by Adelaide Kaiser

Lines are long when Tommy Wiseau, filmmaker and actor, comes to town. At Cinema 21, where Tommy Wiseau made appearances on Oct. 18 and 19 before screenings of “The Room,” the line reached halfway down the block despite the pouring rain. 

“The Room,” Wiseau’s most famous movie, has gained a cult following since its release in 2003 and has been dubbed by many as “the best bad movie ever made.” It was created as a drama but unintentionally drifts into comedy. For this reason, it has even garnered international attention. A screening of “The Room” goes beyond just watching the movie; they can only be described as a unique experience, due in large part to the tremendous amount of audience participation. When Wiseau makes an appearance (he has been “touring” most of the year), naturally that experience is amplified.

The scene inside the theater is, in an almost bizarre way, very casual. There was no table for autographs, no one to control the line of fans inside, just Wiseau chatting with people as they had their picture taken. Obtaining a picture with and an autograph from Wiseau himself only required that you purchase an item of merch. For me, that item was a three-foot tall poster with Wiseau’s face front and center. He signed it with four large hearts and a message to be positive (a recurring theme of Wiseau’s appearance) before taking multiple pictures with me and commenting about my height. 

After everybody had gotten their pictures and filtered into the theater, the Q&A session began. Through his thick accent (no one knows where he or the accent is from), Wiseau answered questions from fans. His responses were succinct, often followed with a statement of “move on.” The questions covered a wide array of topics. When asked what he thought about the first time he saw “Rebel Without a Cause,” he said, “Who cares, move on,” before quickly following with, “But I did like it.”

At various times, Wiseau was asked about things that he would change if he could go back in time. Responding to questions specifically asking about “The Room,” he said, “Don’t use two cameras.” This is a reference to his shooting scenes for the movie on both a digital and film camera simultaneously.

When one audience member asked Wiseau what he would do if he had a time machine and could change anything in the past, Wiseau said, “No more taxes for anybody.” He clarified that he was referring to when Abraham Lincoln was president, stating that there were no taxes back then.

In the Q&A, Wiseau also settled two of the longest-lasting debates in modern society. When asked if a hot dog is a sandwich, he said, “Yes.” Another audience member asked him if water is wet, and Wiseau said (while laughing), “No, it’s not.”

Despite the chaotic nature of the session, the overriding theme of Wiseau’s statements can be boiled down to two words he frequently repeated: “Be positive.” The final question posed sought advice for aspiring creatives, to which Wiseau said, “Just do your stuff man. Be original. Be positive.”

After the Q&A, advertisements for Wiseau’s line of underwear and his new movie “Big Shark,” the crowd was ready for the main event: the screening of “The Room.” If one is hoping for a quiet movie-going experience, a showing of “The Room” is something they should skip, as the theater started to riff on the movie as soon as the first scene began.

Fans exclaimed “Water!” whenever water appeared on screen and narrated “Meanwhile, in San Francisco” with each shot of the city. When there was a shot of the Golden Gate Bridge, with the camera panning slowly from one side to the other, people shouted “Go! Go! Go! Go!” and celebrated when the other side of the bridge was shown. People chanted, “Sports! Sports! Sports!” as characters threw a football around. 

One of the more famous “The Room” viewing traditions is plastic spoon throwing. The legend goes that Wiseau needed extra set decorations for the movie and bought an assortment of picture frames to do so. Instead of replacing the stock photos, he left in the pictures that came with the frame, which happened to be spoons. Thus, anytime one of the pictures was shown, audience members threw plastic spoons at the screen. 

Almost everyone in the crowd knew all the famous lines (such as “Oh hi, Mark,” or “Anyway, how’s your sex life?”) and blurted them out alongside the characters on screen. Audience members begged the characters to close doors, as they seemingly never do so once they enter a scene. 

At the end of the night, fans left the theater behind, the floor covered in plastic spoons and popcorn, and stepped out into the pouring rain laughing and smiling, having just experienced something truly unforgettable. 

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