The actor and director talks about what he learned from making his new movie, and how it’s kind of like Sunset Boulevard.

James Franco has had a peripatetic career, with roles in movies large and small and on television, too (most recently in HBO’s The Deuce, in which he plays twins). He’s written columns, pursued four graduate degrees at the same time, and directed movies, including esoteric and critically derided literary adaptations of William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury and Cormac McCarthy’s Child of God. He’s always been a bit of a gadfly.

But his latest project, The Disaster Artist, is hardly esoteric, though it’s about a film most people haven’t seen. It’s a hilarious comedy that’s getting critical acclaim and has begun raking in awards as well. Based on a book about the making of The Room — a cult hit widely considered the worst film ever made — The Disaster Artist was directed by Franco, who also stars as its strange subject: Tommy Wiseau, who wrote, directed, produced, and starred in The Room. A bevy of Franco’s famous friends co-star, including his brother Dave Franco, who plays Wiseau’s best friend (and the book’s co-writer) Greg Sestero.

The Disaster Artist is a rollicking, satisfying comedy about one of the weirder stories in Hollywood, and Franco talked with me by phone about it, as well as his love of Sunset Boulevard and the ways he and Wiseau are kind of like Spider-Man and Venom.

The following interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Alissa Wilkinson

When was the first time you saw The Room? What did you think of it at the time?

James Franco

I actually wasn’t a part of the whole Room phenomenon in its early days. I came to this whole thing through Greg Sestero’s book Read More Here