Who is Tommy Wiseau, and why did James Franco make a movie about him?

At South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, last month, James Franco’s latest project received a standing ovation at its premiere. His latest film’s subject matter is a far cry from the raunchy comedies that Franco usually accepts.

“The Disaster Artist” stars Franco as cult movie director, producer and actor Tommy Wiseau. So, the question is: Who is this largely unknown person that inspired one of Hollywood’s top comedic talents to devote an entire film to him?

In the early 2000s, hopeful filmmaker Tommy Wiseau landed in L.A. with dreams of cinematic success. With 1980s rock star hair, an accent that remains unidentified and mysterious streams of income, the man stood out among most L.A. transplants. In 2003, he singlehandedly raised millions of dollars to fund his personal pet project: “The Room.” Wiseau wrote, produced, directed and, of course, starred in the indie film — despite having zero experience in any of these fields. The result?

“The Room” is a disaster of a film that Entertainment Weekly once described as “the Citizen Kane of bad movies.” It tells the story of San Francisco banker Johnny (Wiseau), who suffers through a never-ending stream of betrayal. Jilted, bizarre dialogue, horrible acting and shoddy production values bring the weak plot to life.

Wiseau believed in his craft, however, and self-funded a Los Angeles premiere. Its intended short theater life was unexpectedly prolonged once word spread of how awful this movie was. It wasn’t long before “The Room” — and its creator — gained cult status. The eccentric, bizarre and still very unskilled Wiseau became an underground legend. Wiseau’s best friend and co-star, Greg Sestero, wrote a book chronicling his experiences making the movie. This book, “The Disaster Artist,” was picked up by “Room” fanatic Franco.

While a release date has not yet been set for Franco’s movie, you won’t have to wait long to see the film that inspired it all. Tommy Wiseau himself will be appearing at midnight screenings of “The Room” at the Ritz Bourse in Old City. There, he will meet fans, sell “Room” merchandise (like Tommy Wiseau underwear) and host Q&A sessions. Thanks to Wiseau’s unorthodox personality, the sessions are as unintentionally hilarious as the film itself.

The screenings will be held at midnight on April 14 and 15. Tickets are $15 and are available online atlandmarktheatres.com

More from our Sister Sites