Tommy Wiseau’s cult hit is a bad movie. It’s also an incredible study in mythmaking.
For more than five years during the mid-2000s, an incongruous billboard loomed over Highland Avenue in West Hollywood. It was a mostly black-and-white movie ad, and its only prominent features were the name of its subject, a website, and a phone number to “RSVP” for a showing at one of the film’s only two release locations. Most striking of all was the billboard’s sole photo, a mug-shot-like headshot of a man with a morose scowl and a widow’s peak.
The lack of context surrounding the ominous photo made the ad difficult to parse. Was The Room a noir crime thriller? A gothic horror? A scam ad for a bail bondsman or perhaps a vampire cult LARP?
The Room was, in a way, all of this and much more.
The man in the now-infamous billboard headshot is Tommy Wiseau, The Room‘s writer, producer, director, star, and savant. Although The Room played for only two weeks in the summer of 2003, reportedly grossing a mere $1,900 in just two theaters, Wiseau continued to spend a reported $5,000 a week to bankroll the Highland billboard. This odd and exorbitant expense was one of many examples of apparent wastefulness that would come to fascinate fans of The Room, and help earn Wiseau a reputation as “the Orson Welles of crap.”
But amid all the nonsense associated with The Room — its inexplicable $6 million production budget; its awkward, endless sex scenes and vanishing subplots and characters; its incoherent dialogue slurred by Wiseau’s thick, nebulously European accent — the everlasting billboard may have in fact evinced stealth marketing savvy. For by the time the billboard finally came down in 2008, a true Hollywood miracle had occurred: The Room had Read More Here