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Succeeding The Disaster Artist

Succeeding The Disaster Artist Although many critics praise James Franco the actor, they frequently dismiss Franco the director as a privileged, pretentious dabbler who (ab)uses his cultural and financial capital to reduce Great American Novels to unnecessary, insubstantial, and even parasitic vanity projects. In recent years, Franco has branded himself as a twenty-first century Renaissance man with Masterpiece Theater-style adaptations of William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying and The Sound and the Fury, Cormac McCarthy’s Child of God, and John Steinbeck’s In Dubious Battle. Ignoring Franco’s insistence that his desire to adapt these books preceded his critically acclaimed performances in Freaks and Geeks (1999–2000), Spider-Man (Sam Raimi), and Milk (Gus Van Sant), critics such as Kristen Yoonsoo Kim accuse him of using these adaptations to feign earnestness, seriousness, and authenticity—and thereby conceal his ignorance of anything except his own celebrity: ‘[T]he gates of annoyance crashed open when Franco took on director-writer-actor duty of adapting William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, posing himself as that pretentious, faux-intellectual Literary Bro we all try to avoid at parties (YOU KNOW THE ONE)...’ Bucking against these charges of pretentiousness, Franco’s newest adaptation trades canonical literary texts for a seemingly less prestigious source: Greg Sestero’s 2013 memoir, The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made. Instead of reenacting Sestero’s recollections about Tommy Wiseau’s doomed production of The Room (2003), Franco transforms his source into an autobiographical manifesto that compares and contrasts his privileged, pretentious, and not-so-prestigious adaptations with another ‘bad’ auteur’s mangled efforts to appropriate tropes from such Tennessee Williams-authored films as A Streetcar Named Desire (Elia Kazan). However, ambiguities within Franco’s interviews with, direction about, and Golden Globe-winning performance as Wiseau have produced critical disagreements about whether to compare or contrast the two actor-writer-director-adapters. For example, Richard Brody has speculated that Franco’s almost myopic concentration upon his ‘superficial, anecdotal, insubstantial, and utterly disingenuous… impersonation of Wiseau’ betrays his overidentification with his subject’s ‘self-centeredness and … obliviousness’. By contrast, Nathan Rabin has read the film’s readiness to mock Wiseau’s dependence upon his mysterious multimillion dollar fortune as Franco’s self-reflexive admission that his other films are misguided, embarrassing vanity projects that owe less to his talent than his cultural capital and what Rabin calls his ‘poignant and funny and weirdly enduring need to understand and be understood as well as adored and admired’. As if to clarify that he admires Wiseau’s dedication, enthusiasm, and heedless disregard of naysayers but lacks his privilege, pretentiousness, and obliviousness, Franco complements—but also complicates—these correspondences with his adaptation’s subject by identifying himself with its original author (and Tommy’s ‘best’ friend), Greg Sestero (Dave Franco). (Hereafter, I will use ‘Greg’ and ‘Tommy’ to refer to The Disaster Artist’s quasi-fictional characters and ‘Sestero’ and ‘Wiseau’ to refer to their real-life counterparts.) In addition to casting his younger brother, Franco emphasizes that Greg’s struggles to become an actor during the late 1990s parallel his own rise to prominence. Indeed, the shots of Greg wearing James Dean’s famous red jacket from Rebel Without a Cause (Nicholas Ray) seem like calculated reminders that Franco’s breakout performance was an uncanny impersonation of the actor in the TV movie James Dean (Mark Rydell). For viewers who recognize that Franco filters Sestero’s memoir vis-à-vis his own star-text, the numerous scenes of Tommy encouraging Greg to suppress his insecurities and fears of embarrassment become mini-documentaries of Franco encouraging himself to ignore his critics and express himself as fearlessly as—and through—Faulkner, Steinbeck, and Wiseau. Franco further underscores his identification with Tommy’s passion and disavows his pathological narcissism by replacing the intertextual references to Sunset Blvd. (Billy Wilder) and The Talented Mr. Ripley (Anthony Minghella) through which Sestero’s memoir contextualizes and repudiates Wiseau’s codependent behavior with allusions to such Judd Apatow-produced bromantic comedies as Knocked Up (Judd Apatow), Pineapple Express (David Gordon Green), and I Love You, Man (John Hamburg). These substitutions soften the memoir’s insufferable creep into a lovable big brother figure (not unlike Franco’s characters in some of those films) whose uninhibited wackiness and eccentricities inspire Greg to outgrow his fears of public embarrassment. However, these substitutions distance Franco from Wiseau’s most stalkerish behaviors at the risk of assuming The Room director’s narcissistic impulse to remake the world in his image. As if to repudiate Wiseau, Franco’s reenactments of The Room’s production retain the memoir’s distance from Wiseau’s sociopathic overidentification with such master adapters as Hitchcock and Kubrick, whose auteur-status, as Thomas Leitch suggests, owes less to their self-expressiveness than their willingness to pick and win fights with competing auteurs (236–256). ‘Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock—You think he nice man?’, Tommy says (in an exchange of dialogue absent from Sestero’s memoir) when Greg tries to stop him from subjecting Juliette (‘Lisa’) Danielle (Ari Graynor) to his tone-deaf approximation of a poetic love scene, which Greg rightly worries will become one of film history’s most uncomfortable, humiliating sex scenes. In addition to rewriting Sestero’s dialogue, Franco further disavows Tommy’s—not to mention Hitchcock’s and Kubrick’s—decisions to sacrifice professionalism and basic decency for auteurist mastery by adding handheld camerawork and chaotic mise-en-scene. Moreover, in an interview for ‘Talks at Google’, Franco insists that his decision to direct the film while imitating Tommy’s voice and mannerisms was a professional, rather than pathological, handicap that helped him step out from behind the camera: I directed as James … filtered through the funny voice and all the prosthetics … Tommy’s direction was absurd … Greg would tell us when he was auditioning people, [Tommy] would be like: ‘OK, your sister lesbian, and she just died. Go.’ That’s literally what he said. So I wasn’t doing that… I wasn’t going that far; it was just sort of the voice. Although these reassurances seem disingenuous in the wake of Franco’s recent sexual harassment scandal, their intended purpose is to encourage viewers to watch this scene and other scenes about the production of The Room with a doubled consciousness: as they watch Tommy berate his friends and collaborators, they are asked to imagine that Franco was a much easier director with whom to talk and collaborate. Franco’s ambivalence about Wiseau’s auteurism also informs the film’s style, which takes pains to distinguish itself from The Room. By attributing that film’s nonsensical narrative and flat performances to its director’s egomaniacal, even misanthropic fears that his collaborators would sabotage his work, Franco links his relatively unpretentious adaptation of conventions from Apatow-esque buddy comedies to his greater understanding of Hollywood aesthetics, economics, and decorum. Franco’s affected superiority permeates the film’s frequent cameos by such A-list celebrities as Bryan Cranston, Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, and Sharon Stone, the most memorable of which shows Tommy serenading a Hollywood producer, played by Apatow himself, with passages from Hamlet at an upscale restaurant. This cameo enables the scene (also missing from Sestero’s memoir) to contrast Wiseau’s and Franco’s positions within Hollywood’s social networks. When the producer tells Tommy that he will ‘never make it, not in a million years’, the knowledgeable viewer imagines that these remarks playfully invert the real Apatow’s first meeting(s) with Franco, which led to the actor’s casting in Apatow’s cult television series Freaks and Geeks. Moreover, these allusions underscore that Franco understands how and why moviegoers respond to his various personae—that they prefer laughing with his early roles as potheads and burnouts than laughing at his more recent persona as a twenty-first century Joseph Strick—better than Tommy, who only belatedly realizes that audiences enjoy mocking his delusions about playing Shakespearean heroes and all-American everyman characters like The Room’s Johnny. As the producer castigates Tommy, however, Franco punctures this ironic distance with more empathetic close-ups of his counterpart’s unusually clear-headed disappointment about the unlikelihood of becoming a star. Indeed, because the producer’s criticism recalls critics’ cold-hearted dismissals of Franco’s other adaptations, these close-ups seem to conjure conversations in which Apatow encourages Franco to abandon his dreams of directing ‘quality’ adaptations for the vocation that originally made him famous. However, these shots’ fleetingness reveals that Franco can only acknowledge that his privilege, pretentiousness, and passion outpace his talent through ironic, self-reflexive posturing. The Disaster Artist’s climax, in which Tommy discovers his film’s failure to be serious, reinforces that postmodernist irony and self-reflexivity are the best means for sensitive, emotionally fragile Romantics to forestall rejection. To engineer this catharsis, Franco expands Sestero’s memoir’s brief recollections of The Room’s premiere, which conclude before the film starts playing, with material from two uncredited sources: (1) loud, boisterous screenings of The Room and (2) Hollywood’s most famous biopic about a ‘bad’ auteur, Ed Wood (Tim Burton), particularly the scene in which audiences jeer Bride of the Monster (Edward D. Wood, Jr.) before chasing its director from the theater. Although the diegetic audience’s mockery seems calculated to address cultists who have also mocked (and thrown spoons at) The Room, the scene supplants ironic snark with Romantic sincerity—thereby complicating our identifications with our supposed surrogates—when it inserts close-ups of the heartbroken Tommy that resemble Ed’s (Johnny Depp) anguished confusion about Bride’s failure. However, far from simply scolding viewers for laughing at Tommy, as Burton does with Wood, Franco validates both the auteur and his audience when Tommy suppresses his initial heartbreak about the film’s riotous reception and pretends that he always intended to make a comedy—a statement that elicits affectionate laughter from audiences inside and outside the film who enjoy the director’s awareness of the joke. However, even though Franco further valorizes Tommy’s adaptability by dissolving to archival footage of the real Wiseau playing football with fans at packed screenings of The Room in London and Paris, audiences’ laughter at Tommy’s desire for people to believe his retroactive declarations of comic intent once again distances Franco from his counterpart’s desperation about holding the limelight. Ironically, this scene underscores not Franco’s greater understanding of human behavior so much as his greater reluctance to reveal himself. Whereas Wiseau only embraces self-protective irony after his film’s premiere, as an ex post facto way of adapting his self-serious persona to its campy reception, Franco’s self-reflexive insistences that he understands Wiseau’s psychology well enough to avoid repeating his fate transforms The Disaster Artist into a confessional manifesto about his tendency to hide behind various shields, including ‘quality’ adaptations of modernist literature and show business memoirs (not to mention an inadvertent admission that he shares more of Wiseau’s obliviousness than he cares to acknowledge). Although these revelations might lead critics to disparage Franco’s other adaptations, including such forthcoming films as Bukowski and Zeroville, for relying more heavily upon preexisting sources than The Room, it is also plausible that displacing their attention from his adaptations’ textual properties to his paratextual insecurities about adapting them will make Franco more relatable. Instead of being an auteur who arrogantly and reductively transforms these novels into vanity projects about his celebrity, Franco becomes another fan whose adaptations serve the same purpose as his literary criticism: they allow him to explore and share his favorite authors’ earnest passion while also protecting himself from the risks of excessive self-revelation. REFERENCES As I Lay Dying . Dir. James Franco . RabbitBandini Productions , 2013 . Bride of the Monster . Dir. Edward D. Wood , Jr . Banner Pictures , 1955 . Brody , Richard. “Why The Room Is a Better Movie than James Franco’s The Disaster Artist.” The New Yorker 4 Dec. 2017 . 9 Jan. 2018. https://www.newyorker.com/culture/richard-brody/why-the-room-is-a-better-movie-than-james-francos-the-disaster-artist. Child of God . Dir. James Franco . Spotlight Pictures , 2013 . The Disaster Artist . Dir. James Franco . A24, 2017 . Google Scholar PubMed PubMed Ed Wood . Dir. Tim Burton . Touchstone Pictures , 1994 . Faulkner , William. As I Lay Dying . 1930. New York: Vintage International Press , 1990 . Faulkner , William. The Sound and the Fury . 1929. New York: Vintage International Press , 1990 . Feig , Paul , creator. Freaks and Geeks . Apatow Productions and DreamWorks Television , 1999–2000 . Franco , James. “boy me/girl me” i-D 28 Sept. 2015. 9 Jan. 2018. https://i-d.vice.com/en_uk/article/8xnka4/james-franco-boy-me-girl-me. I Love You, Man . Dir. John Hamburg . DreamWorks Pictures , 2009 . In Dubious Battle . Dir. James Franco . Momentum Pictures , 2017 . James Dean . Dir. Mark Rydell . Turner Network Television , 2001 . “James Franco: The Disaster Artist | Talks at Google”YouTube, uploaded by Talks at Google 7 Dec. 2017. 9 Jan. 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KahzatXW5B0. Kim , Kristen Yoonsoo . “ We Must Stop James Franco ” Complex 16 Feb. 2016. 9 Jan. 2018. http://www.complex.com/pop-culture/2016/02/stop-james-franco. Knocked Up . Dir. Judd Apatow . Universal Pictures , 2007 . Leitch , Thomas. Film Adaptation and Its Discontents: From Gone with the Wind to The Passion of the Christ . Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP , 2007 . Milk . Dir. Gus Van Sant . Focus Features , 2008 . McCarthy , Cormac. Child of God . 1973. New York: Vintage International , 1993 . Pineapple Express . Dir. David Gordon Green . Columbia Pictures , 2008 . Rabin , Nathan. “Scalding Hot Takes #3: The Disaster Artist” Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place 4 Dec. 2017. 9 Jan. 2018. https://www.nathanrabin.com/happy-place/2017/12/4/scalding-hot-takes-3-the-disaster-artist. Rebel Without a Cause . Dir. Nicholas Ray . Warner Bros , 1955 . The Room . Dir. Tommy Wiseau . Wiseau Films , 2003 . Saltz , Jerry . “ In Conversation: James Franco ” New York Magazine 16 Apr. 2016. 9 Jan. 2018. http://www.vulture.com/2016/04/james-franco-jerry-saltz-converstaion-c-v-r.html?mid=nymag_press. Sestero , Greg and Tom Bissell . The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made . New York: Simon & Schuster , 2013 . The Sound and the Fury . Dir. James Franco . New Films International , 2014 . Spiderman . Dir. Sam Raimi . Columbia Pictures , 2002 . Google Scholar PubMed PubMed Steinbeck , John. In Dubious Battle . 1936. New York: Penguin International , 2006 . A Streetcar Named Desire . Dir. Elia Kazan . Warner Bros , 1951 . Sunset Blvd . Dir. Billy Wilder . Paramount Pictures , 1950 . The Talented Mr. Ripley . Dir. Anthony Minghella . Paramount Pictures , 1999 . Williams , Tennessee. A Streetcar Named Desire . 1947. New York: New Directions , 2004 . © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/open_access/funder_policies/chorus/standard_publication_model) http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Adaptation Oxford University Press

Succeeding The Disaster Artist

Adaptation , Volume 11 (2) – Aug 1, 2018

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Oxford University Press
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© The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com
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Abstract

Although many critics praise James Franco the actor, they frequently dismiss Franco the director as a privileged, pretentious dabbler who (ab)uses his cultural and financial capital to reduce Great American Novels to unnecessary, insubstantial, and even parasitic vanity projects. In recent years, Franco has branded himself as a twenty-first century Renaissance man with Masterpiece Theater-style adaptations of William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying and The Sound and the Fury, Cormac McCarthy’s Child of God, and John Steinbeck’s In Dubious Battle. Ignoring Franco’s insistence that his desire to adapt these books preceded his critically acclaimed performances in Freaks and Geeks (1999–2000), Spider-Man (Sam Raimi), and Milk (Gus Van Sant), critics such as Kristen Yoonsoo Kim accuse him of using these adaptations to feign earnestness, seriousness, and authenticity—and thereby conceal his ignorance of anything except his own celebrity: ‘[T]he gates of annoyance crashed open when Franco took on director-writer-actor duty of adapting William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, posing himself as that pretentious, faux-intellectual Literary Bro we all try to avoid at parties (YOU KNOW THE ONE)...’ Bucking against these charges of pretentiousness, Franco’s newest adaptation trades canonical literary texts for a seemingly less prestigious source: Greg Sestero’s 2013 memoir, The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made. Instead of reenacting Sestero’s recollections about Tommy Wiseau’s doomed production of The Room (2003), Franco transforms his source into an autobiographical manifesto that compares and contrasts his privileged, pretentious, and not-so-prestigious adaptations with another ‘bad’ auteur’s mangled efforts to appropriate tropes from such Tennessee Williams-authored films as A Streetcar Named Desire (Elia Kazan). However, ambiguities within Franco’s interviews with, direction about, and Golden Globe-winning performance as Wiseau have produced critical disagreements about whether to compare or contrast the two actor-writer-director-adapters. For example, Richard Brody has speculated that Franco’s almost myopic concentration upon his ‘superficial, anecdotal, insubstantial, and utterly disingenuous… impersonation of Wiseau’ betrays his overidentification with his subject’s ‘self-centeredness and … obliviousness’. By contrast, Nathan Rabin has read the film’s readiness to mock Wiseau’s dependence upon his mysterious multimillion dollar fortune as Franco’s self-reflexive admission that his other films are misguided, embarrassing vanity projects that owe less to his talent than his cultural capital and what Rabin calls his ‘poignant and funny and weirdly enduring need to understand and be understood as well as adored and admired’. As if to clarify that he admires Wiseau’s dedication, enthusiasm, and heedless disregard of naysayers but lacks his privilege, pretentiousness, and obliviousness, Franco complements—but also complicates—these correspondences with his adaptation’s subject by identifying himself with its original author (and Tommy’s ‘best’ friend), Greg Sestero (Dave Franco). (Hereafter, I will use ‘Greg’ and ‘Tommy’ to refer to The Disaster Artist’s quasi-fictional characters and ‘Sestero’ and ‘Wiseau’ to refer to their real-life counterparts.) In addition to casting his younger brother, Franco emphasizes that Greg’s struggles to become an actor during the late 1990s parallel his own rise to prominence. Indeed, the shots of Greg wearing James Dean’s famous red jacket from Rebel Without a Cause (Nicholas Ray) seem like calculated reminders that Franco’s breakout performance was an uncanny impersonation of the actor in the TV movie James Dean (Mark Rydell). For viewers who recognize that Franco filters Sestero’s memoir vis-à-vis his own star-text, the numerous scenes of Tommy encouraging Greg to suppress his insecurities and fears of embarrassment become mini-documentaries of Franco encouraging himself to ignore his critics and express himself as fearlessly as—and through—Faulkner, Steinbeck, and Wiseau. Franco further underscores his identification with Tommy’s passion and disavows his pathological narcissism by replacing the intertextual references to Sunset Blvd. (Billy Wilder) and The Talented Mr. Ripley (Anthony Minghella) through which Sestero’s memoir contextualizes and repudiates Wiseau’s codependent behavior with allusions to such Judd Apatow-produced bromantic comedies as Knocked Up (Judd Apatow), Pineapple Express (David Gordon Green), and I Love You, Man (John Hamburg). These substitutions soften the memoir’s insufferable creep into a lovable big brother figure (not unlike Franco’s characters in some of those films) whose uninhibited wackiness and eccentricities inspire Greg to outgrow his fears of public embarrassment. However, these substitutions distance Franco from Wiseau’s most stalkerish behaviors at the risk of assuming The Room director’s narcissistic impulse to remake the world in his image. As if to repudiate Wiseau, Franco’s reenactments of The Room’s production retain the memoir’s distance from Wiseau’s sociopathic overidentification with such master adapters as Hitchcock and Kubrick, whose auteur-status, as Thomas Leitch suggests, owes less to their self-expressiveness than their willingness to pick and win fights with competing auteurs (236–256). ‘Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock—You think he nice man?’, Tommy says (in an exchange of dialogue absent from Sestero’s memoir) when Greg tries to stop him from subjecting Juliette (‘Lisa’) Danielle (Ari Graynor) to his tone-deaf approximation of a poetic love scene, which Greg rightly worries will become one of film history’s most uncomfortable, humiliating sex scenes. In addition to rewriting Sestero’s dialogue, Franco further disavows Tommy’s—not to mention Hitchcock’s and Kubrick’s—decisions to sacrifice professionalism and basic decency for auteurist mastery by adding handheld camerawork and chaotic mise-en-scene. Moreover, in an interview for ‘Talks at Google’, Franco insists that his decision to direct the film while imitating Tommy’s voice and mannerisms was a professional, rather than pathological, handicap that helped him step out from behind the camera: I directed as James … filtered through the funny voice and all the prosthetics … Tommy’s direction was absurd … Greg would tell us when he was auditioning people, [Tommy] would be like: ‘OK, your sister lesbian, and she just died. Go.’ That’s literally what he said. So I wasn’t doing that… I wasn’t going that far; it was just sort of the voice. Although these reassurances seem disingenuous in the wake of Franco’s recent sexual harassment scandal, their intended purpose is to encourage viewers to watch this scene and other scenes about the production of The Room with a doubled consciousness: as they watch Tommy berate his friends and collaborators, they are asked to imagine that Franco was a much easier director with whom to talk and collaborate. Franco’s ambivalence about Wiseau’s auteurism also informs the film’s style, which takes pains to distinguish itself from The Room. By attributing that film’s nonsensical narrative and flat performances to its director’s egomaniacal, even misanthropic fears that his collaborators would sabotage his work, Franco links his relatively unpretentious adaptation of conventions from Apatow-esque buddy comedies to his greater understanding of Hollywood aesthetics, economics, and decorum. Franco’s affected superiority permeates the film’s frequent cameos by such A-list celebrities as Bryan Cranston, Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, and Sharon Stone, the most memorable of which shows Tommy serenading a Hollywood producer, played by Apatow himself, with passages from Hamlet at an upscale restaurant. This cameo enables the scene (also missing from Sestero’s memoir) to contrast Wiseau’s and Franco’s positions within Hollywood’s social networks. When the producer tells Tommy that he will ‘never make it, not in a million years’, the knowledgeable viewer imagines that these remarks playfully invert the real Apatow’s first meeting(s) with Franco, which led to the actor’s casting in Apatow’s cult television series Freaks and Geeks. Moreover, these allusions underscore that Franco understands how and why moviegoers respond to his various personae—that they prefer laughing with his early roles as potheads and burnouts than laughing at his more recent persona as a twenty-first century Joseph Strick—better than Tommy, who only belatedly realizes that audiences enjoy mocking his delusions about playing Shakespearean heroes and all-American everyman characters like The Room’s Johnny. As the producer castigates Tommy, however, Franco punctures this ironic distance with more empathetic close-ups of his counterpart’s unusually clear-headed disappointment about the unlikelihood of becoming a star. Indeed, because the producer’s criticism recalls critics’ cold-hearted dismissals of Franco’s other adaptations, these close-ups seem to conjure conversations in which Apatow encourages Franco to abandon his dreams of directing ‘quality’ adaptations for the vocation that originally made him famous. However, these shots’ fleetingness reveals that Franco can only acknowledge that his privilege, pretentiousness, and passion outpace his talent through ironic, self-reflexive posturing. The Disaster Artist’s climax, in which Tommy discovers his film’s failure to be serious, reinforces that postmodernist irony and self-reflexivity are the best means for sensitive, emotionally fragile Romantics to forestall rejection. To engineer this catharsis, Franco expands Sestero’s memoir’s brief recollections of The Room’s premiere, which conclude before the film starts playing, with material from two uncredited sources: (1) loud, boisterous screenings of The Room and (2) Hollywood’s most famous biopic about a ‘bad’ auteur, Ed Wood (Tim Burton), particularly the scene in which audiences jeer Bride of the Monster (Edward D. Wood, Jr.) before chasing its director from the theater. Although the diegetic audience’s mockery seems calculated to address cultists who have also mocked (and thrown spoons at) The Room, the scene supplants ironic snark with Romantic sincerity—thereby complicating our identifications with our supposed surrogates—when it inserts close-ups of the heartbroken Tommy that resemble Ed’s (Johnny Depp) anguished confusion about Bride’s failure. However, far from simply scolding viewers for laughing at Tommy, as Burton does with Wood, Franco validates both the auteur and his audience when Tommy suppresses his initial heartbreak about the film’s riotous reception and pretends that he always intended to make a comedy—a statement that elicits affectionate laughter from audiences inside and outside the film who enjoy the director’s awareness of the joke. However, even though Franco further valorizes Tommy’s adaptability by dissolving to archival footage of the real Wiseau playing football with fans at packed screenings of The Room in London and Paris, audiences’ laughter at Tommy’s desire for people to believe his retroactive declarations of comic intent once again distances Franco from his counterpart’s desperation about holding the limelight. Ironically, this scene underscores not Franco’s greater understanding of human behavior so much as his greater reluctance to reveal himself. Whereas Wiseau only embraces self-protective irony after his film’s premiere, as an ex post facto way of adapting his self-serious persona to its campy reception, Franco’s self-reflexive insistences that he understands Wiseau’s psychology well enough to avoid repeating his fate transforms The Disaster Artist into a confessional manifesto about his tendency to hide behind various shields, including ‘quality’ adaptations of modernist literature and show business memoirs (not to mention an inadvertent admission that he shares more of Wiseau’s obliviousness than he cares to acknowledge). Although these revelations might lead critics to disparage Franco’s other adaptations, including such forthcoming films as Bukowski and Zeroville, for relying more heavily upon preexisting sources than The Room, it is also plausible that displacing their attention from his adaptations’ textual properties to his paratextual insecurities about adapting them will make Franco more relatable. Instead of being an auteur who arrogantly and reductively transforms these novels into vanity projects about his celebrity, Franco becomes another fan whose adaptations serve the same purpose as his literary criticism: they allow him to explore and share his favorite authors’ earnest passion while also protecting himself from the risks of excessive self-revelation. REFERENCES As I Lay Dying . Dir. James Franco . RabbitBandini Productions , 2013 . Bride of the Monster . Dir. Edward D. Wood , Jr . Banner Pictures , 1955 . Brody , Richard. “Why The Room Is a Better Movie than James Franco’s The Disaster Artist.” The New Yorker 4 Dec. 2017 . 9 Jan. 2018. https://www.newyorker.com/culture/richard-brody/why-the-room-is-a-better-movie-than-james-francos-the-disaster-artist. Child of God . Dir. James Franco . Spotlight Pictures , 2013 . The Disaster Artist . Dir. James Franco . A24, 2017 . Google Scholar PubMed PubMed Ed Wood . Dir. Tim Burton . Touchstone Pictures , 1994 . Faulkner , William. As I Lay Dying . 1930. New York: Vintage International Press , 1990 . Faulkner , William. The Sound and the Fury . 1929. New York: Vintage International Press , 1990 . Feig , Paul , creator. Freaks and Geeks . Apatow Productions and DreamWorks Television , 1999–2000 . Franco , James. “boy me/girl me” i-D 28 Sept. 2015. 9 Jan. 2018. https://i-d.vice.com/en_uk/article/8xnka4/james-franco-boy-me-girl-me. I Love You, Man . Dir. John Hamburg . DreamWorks Pictures , 2009 . In Dubious Battle . Dir. James Franco . Momentum Pictures , 2017 . James Dean . Dir. Mark Rydell . Turner Network Television , 2001 . “James Franco: The Disaster Artist | Talks at Google”YouTube, uploaded by Talks at Google 7 Dec. 2017. 9 Jan. 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KahzatXW5B0. Kim , Kristen Yoonsoo . “ We Must Stop James Franco ” Complex 16 Feb. 2016. 9 Jan. 2018. http://www.complex.com/pop-culture/2016/02/stop-james-franco. Knocked Up . Dir. Judd Apatow . Universal Pictures , 2007 . Leitch , Thomas. Film Adaptation and Its Discontents: From Gone with the Wind to The Passion of the Christ . Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP , 2007 . Milk . Dir. Gus Van Sant . Focus Features , 2008 . McCarthy , Cormac. Child of God . 1973. New York: Vintage International , 1993 . Pineapple Express . Dir. David Gordon Green . Columbia Pictures , 2008 . Rabin , Nathan. “Scalding Hot Takes #3: The Disaster Artist” Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place 4 Dec. 2017. 9 Jan. 2018. https://www.nathanrabin.com/happy-place/2017/12/4/scalding-hot-takes-3-the-disaster-artist. Rebel Without a Cause . Dir. Nicholas Ray . Warner Bros , 1955 . The Room . Dir. Tommy Wiseau . Wiseau Films , 2003 . Saltz , Jerry . “ In Conversation: James Franco ” New York Magazine 16 Apr. 2016. 9 Jan. 2018. http://www.vulture.com/2016/04/james-franco-jerry-saltz-converstaion-c-v-r.html?mid=nymag_press. Sestero , Greg and Tom Bissell . The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made . New York: Simon & Schuster , 2013 . The Sound and the Fury . Dir. James Franco . New Films International , 2014 . Spiderman . Dir. Sam Raimi . Columbia Pictures , 2002 . Google Scholar PubMed PubMed Steinbeck , John. In Dubious Battle . 1936. New York: Penguin International , 2006 . A Streetcar Named Desire . Dir. Elia Kazan . Warner Bros , 1951 . Sunset Blvd . Dir. Billy Wilder . Paramount Pictures , 1950 . The Talented Mr. Ripley . Dir. Anthony Minghella . Paramount Pictures , 1999 . Williams , Tennessee. A Streetcar Named Desire . 1947. New York: New Directions , 2004 . © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/open_access/funder_policies/chorus/standard_publication_model)

Journal

AdaptationOxford University Press

Published: Aug 1, 2018

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