11 Surprising Facts About The Room

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At this point, it’s a bona fide cultural phenomenon. Thirteen years after a lackluster opening weekend, The Room—lovingly known as “the Citizen Kane of bad movies”—now draws huge crowds in theaters all over America. Be advised that, if you attend a screening, there’s a good chance you’ll get hit with a barrage of fan-thrown plastic spoons. More on those after the jump. 

1. IT WAS CONCEIVED AS A STAGE PLAY.

The Room sprung from the mind of Tommy Wiseau, its mysterious co-producer, screenwriter, director, and star. At first, he wanted it to be a play but decided that a feature film would be more profitable. Before tackling the script though, Wiseau turned his tale into a 500-page novel. “It’s the same story but it’s much more detail-oriented,” he told The Portland Mercury. What became of this tome? Wiseau says, “Eventually we will publish. I’m pretty sure, 100 percent.” Apparently, one publishing company has expressed an interest in putting it out—if he can reduce the length to 300 pages. 

2. TOMMY WISEAU WANTED TO INCLUDE A FLYING CAR.

The main character in The Room is Johnny (Wiseau), a banker who loves tossing footballs, imitating chickens, and hanging out with his best buddy, Mark (played by Greg Sestero). But is there more to Johnny than meets the eye? In 2013, Sestero released The Disaster Artist, a tell-all book about The Room and its bizarre production. Inside, we learn that Wiseau often ambushed the crew mid-shoot with ideas for brand-new scenes. One of these—which was never filmed—would’ve involved Johnny’s car levitating up off his roof and into the sky. “It’s just possible side plot,” Wiseau elucidated. “Maybe Johnny is vampire.”

3. TO PREPARE FOR THE ROLE OF LISA, JULIETTE DANIELLE WATCHED EYES WIDE SHUT.

Throughout the film, Mark is having an affair with Johnny’s fiancée, Lisa. Originally, the part was given to an unidentified actress whom Wiseau later fired. Once she left, Danielle took over—even though she had already been cast as Michelle (Lisa’s best friend) when she was handed this very different character. To help her get inside Lisa’s head, Wiseau had the actress watch Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut—but he never explained why. “I still don’t know what he was trying to do there,” Danielle admitted.

4. THE ROOM’S INFAMOUS SPOON PICTURES WERE STOCK PHOTOS.

Johnny and Lisa really seem to like cutlery. For reasons the movie never makes clear, their apartment is decked out with pictures of spoons. These actually came with the frames that Wiseau’s team had bought to decorate the set. Instead of replacing the throwaway photos, he kept them in. Why? Sestero says that Wiseau just wanted to “get on with the filming” and didn’t think there’d be time to find new pictures. On the other hand, the director himself swears that these spoons have a deep symbolic purpose—namely, they represent America’s unhealthy dependence on disposable products.

In any event, whenever The Room is presented in theaters nowadays, those stock photos steal the show. Every time they appear, fans yell “Spoon!” and throw plastic ones at the screen.  

5. GREG SESTERO INSISTED ON REMAINING HALF-CLOTHED DURING MARK AND LISA’S SEX SCENE.

“Tommy … definitely wanted to show some flesh,” Sestero told Rolling Stone. “I was like, ‘Uh, that’s not going to happen with me.’ So, luckily, he made the exception so I could have my jeans on.” When the movie later premiered, Sestero got up and left before the scene began. Even today, the actor claims that he can’t stomach this sequence—which oddly takes place on a spiral staircase. “It’s a part of the movie at which I always fast-forward or run for the exit because it’s just painful to watch.”

6. AN ALL-NEW CHARACTER WAS CREATED FOR THE CLIMAX BECAUSE ONE ACTOR LEFT EARLY.

The Room has a 97-minute runtime. “Steven”—a character who’s never referred to by name—doesn’t show up until the 76-minute mark. When he finally appears at Johnny’s climactic house party, the man repeatedly confronts Lisa about her affair. Because we’re never told who Steven is or how he knows any of the other guests, his sudden arrival baffles viewers.

Originally, he wasn’t in the script. Instead, his lines were supposed to be delivered by an established character named Peter. A psychologist played by Kyle Vogt, Peter makes several appearances in the movie’s second act—and even gets into a shoving match with Mark over Lisa’s two-timing ways. Unfortunately, prior engagements forced Vogt to leave The Room before it finished filming. Wiseau’s solution? Cut out Peter and give his lines to a never-before-seen character. After a casting call, Wiseau hired Greg Ellery, telling him, “Peter left. Now you are like Peter, but you are Steven.”

7. TO PROMOTE THE MOVIE, WISEAU PERSONALLY SPENT $5000 PER MONTH—FOR FIVE YEARS—ON AN ENIGMATIC BILLBOARD.

There’s no shortage of odd sights in Hollywood, but this one really stood out. Perched on the west side of Highland, a cryptic billboard spent half a decade advertising The Room. Being a man of means, Wiseau paid for it himself. Design-wise, this thing was rather straightforward. The sign mainly consisted of a scowling Johnny close-up with a plug for the movie’s official website. Far more intriguing to most passersby was its location: Just a few blocks away stands the Dolby Theatre, home of the Academy Awards ceremonies. As The Room’s cult following grew, the sign became a minor landmark of sorts. Then, long after Wiseau had the image removed in 2008, Sestero advertised The Disaster Artist on this exact same billboard.

8. THE ROOM’S ORIGINAL RUN ONLY MADE $1900.

On June 27, 2003, Wiseau’s masterpiece arrived in theaters—two of them, to be precise. The Room’s initial run was confined to the Laemmle Fallbrook and Fairfax cinemas in Los Angeles. By the time it was pulled from both just 14 days later, the film had grossed a meager $1900. Yet, all was not lost. B-movie history was about to intervene.

9. ONE CINEPHILE ALMOST SINGLE-HANDEDLY KICKED OFF THE ROOM’S CULT FOLLOWING.

One of the few people who saw the film during that two-week original run was screenwriter Michael Rousselet. At an “absolutely empty” theater, he found himself enthralled by The Room and its mesmerizing, laugh-out-loud ineptitude. Toward the end of the film, Rousselet started ringing his friends and telling them “You have to come see this movie.” Three days later, he’d amassed a crowd of more than 100 people. Many emailed Wiseau to personally thank him for his work. Encouraged, the director set up an encore, midnight showing at Laemmle. The turnout exceeded even his wildest expectations and—without hesitation—Wiseau arranged to have it screened monthly.

10. WISEAU HAS RETROACTIVELY CALLED THE ROOM A DARK COMEDY.

To hear Wiseau tell it, the film was supposed to be a humorous, tongue-in-cheek farce all along—which means that The Room’s narrative blunders, according to Wiseau, were deliberate. Yet an anonymous cast member disputed this claim in a 2008 conversation with Entertainment Weekly. “He was trying to put together a drama,” claimed the source. “It was basically his stage to show off his acting ability.”

11. JAMES FRANCO JUST MADE A MOVIE ABOUT THE ROOM—AND WISEAU MIGHT HAVE A CAMEO.

Scheduled for release sometime this fall, The Masterpiece is a big-budget film adaptation of The Disaster Artist. James Franco is directing and will also be playing Wiseau—and, evidently, he got to share a scene with the man himself. “Tommy was involved contractually,” Franco said. “We had to give him a cameo opposite me which was very weird because I was playing him. I don’t know if that’ll end up in the movie or not, but it was a surreal experience.”

17 Things to Look for the Next Time You Watch Office Space

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Twenty years ago (yes, you’re really that old) Office Space forever changed how we look at cubicle life. Like a much funnier Dilbert meets Beavis and Butt-head meets the then-largely misunderstood world of Silicon Valley, the comedy movie from Beavis creator Mike Judge ably skewered everything from didactic middle-management bosses to chain restaurant uniforms. And it gave us a charming Jennifer Aniston love story plus a rap mini-music video dedicated to the destruction of malfunctioning printers.

For all that and more, the 1999 film that originally performed poorly at the box office has become a widely quoted cult sensation. Here are the interesting facts and references to look for the next time you watch Office Space.

1. It was shot very, very far from Silicon Valley.

A still from 'Office Space' (1999)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Office Space keeps its setting purposefully vague, but the opening driving shots clue a perceptive viewer into the location: Notice the sign for Preston Road on Highway 289 in the background, which indicates that we’ve been dropped around Plano, Texas. The movie was shot in and around Austin, where Mike Judge lives, making him something of a Hollywood outsider. But Office Space is clearly attuned to the rituals and lingo of Silicon Valley’s tech scene. In fact, Judge worked as an engineer in the California area in the 1980s, which would go on to inform much of his satire, especially his popular HBO show Silicon Valley.

2. It was Mike Judge's first foray into movies ... and it didn't work out as planned.

A still from 'Office Space' (1999)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Starting out as a self-taught animator in Texas, Judge made his name in entertainment with cartoons that aired on Saturday Night Live and, eventually, turned into his own MTV show. Beavis and Butt-head premiered in 1993, when the cable network’s scripted offerings were still in their infancy, and quickly became both a commercial hit and a cause of nationwide controversy. He went on to co-create Fox’s slightly more family-friendly King of the Hill, but Office Space marked his live-action directorial debut in film (he previously helmed the movie adaptation Beavis and Butt-head Do America). Made on an estimated $10 million budget, it earned only slightly more than that at U.S. theaters. Sadly, that failure has become something of a pattern for Judge’s movie work: Future efforts Idiocracy and Extract failed to catch on with initial audiences, though the former has also grown into a cult hit.

3. It didn't exactly make Ron Livingston a household name.

A still from 'Office Space' (1999)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Office Space had all the makings of a breakout for its handsome, top-billed star, who was coming off a smaller part in the comedy phenomenon Swingers. But given its early commercial disappointment, he continued to seek out smaller parts and interesting, left-field projects like Adaptation. and The Cooler. He finally got his mainstream cred as the boyfriend of Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City (he's the one who broke up with her via Post-it note) with the massively popular horror flick The Conjuring. He's currently starring in two series: A Million Little Things and Loudermilk.

4. Initech has a very symbolic statue.

A still from 'Office Space' (1999)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

The statue outside the Initech office shows a square peg in a round hole. No coincidence, it’s a reference to the common idiom referring to an individualist who doesn’t fit into a particular social mold. That could describe Livingston’s Peter, his co-worker friends, Jennifer Aniston’s Joanna—or, more self-referentially, Judge himself, who has always made movies and series about outsiders.

5. You can tell a lot about Bill Lumbergh from his vanity plate.

A still from 'Office Space' (1999)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Everything you need to know about Division V.P. Bill Lumbergh (Gary Cole) is established in an early shot of him pulling into his reserved parking space at Initech in a blue Porsche with a customized license plate that reads, “MY PRSHE.” Low-key. (Also notice the lack of any regional designation on the license plates in the film.)

6. "TPS" has a real meaning.

A still from 'Office Space' (1999)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Lumbergh’s single-minded obsession with the details of “TPS reports” drives much of the cubicle-set humor, but what exactly is a TPS report? Potential meanings abound, especially given that companies love an abbreviation, but Judge revealed that TPS refers to Test Program Set reports, which dated back to his engineering days.

7. The food at Chotchkie's sounds less than appetizing.

A still from 'Office Space' (1999)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

A sign at the restaurant promotes its “shrimp poppers,” a food name that leaves a lot to the imagination. Later, chipper server Brian highlights “pizza shooters” and “extreme fajitas.” Whatever a pizza shooter is, it can’t be good.

8. Diedrich Bader had a very specific look in mind for Lawrence.

A still from 'Office Space' (1999)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Diedrich Bader, who plays everyone’s favorite beer-guzzling neighbor Lawrence, came to his Office Space role with clear inspiration. “What I really wanted to look like was somebody who loved the Allman Brothers,” he told The A.V. Club in 2012. Sounds about right.

9. There's a real Milton out there.

A still from 'Office Space' (1999)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Judge based the vengeful staffer, also the focus of several of his animated shorts, on one of his real-life co-workers when he was an engineer. Judge asked the man how he was doing, and he responded that he was going to quit his job because his desk had been moved around too many times.

10. Jennifer Aniston helped the movie get made.

A still from 'Office Space' (1999)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

The cast of Office Space has one instantly recognizable name: Jennifer Aniston, who was by then of course already a superstar for playing Rachel on NBC’s Friends. In a reunion for the film, Judge thanked Aniston just for signing on (though he added that she was great in the part), saying, “It helped us put the studio at ease a little bit—at least they had one famous person."

11. Michael Bolton has embraced the punchlines about him.

A still from 'Office Space' (1999)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Peter’s co-worker Michael Bolton (played by David Herman) hates the fact that he shares a name with a musician who is, in his words, a “no-talent ass-clown." While the real-life Bolton initially seemed peeved about the mockery, he now signs Office Space DVDs for fans.

12. Chotchkie's is a thinly veiled TGI Fridays.

A still from 'Office Space' (1999)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

The chain restaurant by the office is notable not just for its fried food but for its emphasis on “flair” worn by the servers (15 pieces of flair is the minimum). Office Space is clearly mocking TGI Fridays, whose staff used to dress with seemingly endless buttons and ornamentation. TGI Fridays actually phased out flair by 2005, supposedly as a result of the movie.

13. Y2K makes a cameo.

A still from 'Office Space' (1999)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Peter tells Joanna while having lunch that in his job he updates software for the “2000 switch.” In 1999, the impending change of the millennium was in fact a massive headache for tech companies and their programming of dates, a phenomenon that became known as Y2K.

14. The movie reintroduced red Swingline staplers.

A still from 'Office Space' (1999)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Milton’s beloved red stapler was actually painted that color by the prop department, so that it would pop on the screen. As it was one of the more hilarious throughlines in Office Space, viewers started to seek it out in real life. The brand Swingline, which had phased out red staplers, decided to bring the product back. Design-minded executive assistants everywhere can thank Judge.

15. Mike Judge is hiding in plain sight.

A still from 'Office Space' (1999)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

In an uncredited role, the writer and director plays Joanna’s boss at Chotchkie's, reprimanding her about her lack of flair. (Though it’s hard to recognize him under the mustache and wig.)

16. Judge is a not-so-secret hip-hop head.

A still from 'Office Space' (1999)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Hip-hop is repeatedly played and referenced throughout Office Space, particularly gangsta rap, which was ascendant in the '90s. The famous printer-smashing sequence is set to the Geto Boys’ “Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangsta.” Also notice Michael Bolton rapping along to Scarface while driving in the movie’s opening. Judge has cleverly curated hip-hop in much of his work, from rap videos in Beavis and Butt-head to a collaboration with Danny Brown for Silicon Valley.

17. Milton foreshadows the climax a lot.

A still from 'Office Space' (1999)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Milton mentions the possibility of burning down the Initech office several times before actually doing it, making it perhaps the least surprising act of arson depicted in film.

15 Facts About Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure on Its 30th Anniversary

MGM
MGM

In 1989, a couple of slackers from San Dimas, California hopped inside a time-traveling phone booth and gathered a gaggle of key figures from the past so they wouldn’t fail their high school history class. In 1991, they were at it again. Now, 30 years after Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter first cemented their place in sci-fi history as the lovable duo, the long-awaited threequel—Bill & Ted Face the Music—has been officially confirmed. Here are 15 things you might not know about the most excellent original film.

1. Bill and Ted were born in an improv class.

The idea for the characters of Bill and Ted came about in 1983, when UCLA classmates Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson formed a student improv workshop with a few of their peers. “One day, we decided to do a couple of guys who knew nothing about history, talking about history,” Solomon recalled to Cinemafantastique in a 1991 interview. “The initial improv was them studying history, while Ted’s father kept coming up to ask them to turn their music down.” (Solomon played Ted, Matheson was Bill.)

2. Originally, it was Bill & Ted & Bob.

When the skit originated, there was a third character, Bob. But “Bob” wasn’t as into it as Solomon and Matheson, so the trio became a duo.

3. Bill wanted to be Ted and Ted wanted to be Bill.

It’s hard to imagine anyone but Keanu Reeves playing Ted Logan, or another actor besides Alex Winter in the role of Bill S. Preston, Esq., but each actor actually auditioned for the opposite role. But when Solomon and Matheson saw their audition tapes, they thought the opposite would work better. In an online chat with Moviefone, Reeves claimed that he didn’t even know their roles had been switched until after he had been cast. “I got a call saying that I got the part,” Reeves recalled. “So I went to the wardrobe fitting… assuming I was playing Bill, and I get there and Alex Winter, who eventually played Bill, went to the wardrobe fitting thinking he was playing Ted. Then we were informed that that wasn't the case.”

4. Pauly Shore also wanted to be Ted.


Getty Images

Pauly Shore was among the hundreds of actors who auditioned for the role of Ted. In 1991, Shore hosted an MTV special, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Premiere Party, in which Shore corners Reeves in a back room to talk about his failed audition. Lucky for America, Shore did go on to find fame apart from Bill & Ted, and bring the phrase, “Hey, Bu-ddy!” into the popular lexicon.

5. No, Bio-Dome is not Bill & Ted's threequel.

Speaking of Pauly Shore ... For years, rumors circulated that the script for 1996’s Bio-Dome—starring Shore and Stephen Baldwin—was actually written as the third film in the Bill & Ted franchise. In 2011, Winter laid this rumor to rest when he told /Film that the story is “total urban legend as far as I know. No one involved in that movie had anything to do with Bill & Ted. So unless they were just going to try and reboot the franchise with that concept and different actors, I can’t see a connection.”

6. Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter weren't quite nerdy enough.

The casting of Reeves and Winter posed a problem for the script. “Bill and Ted were conceived in our minds as these 14-year-old skinny guys, with low-rider bellbottoms and heavy metal T-shirts,” Solomon told Cinefantastique. “We actually had a scene that was even shot, with Bill and Ted walking past a group of popular kids who hate them. But once you cast Alex and Keanu, who look like pretty cool guys, that was hard to believe.”

7. George Carlin was a happy accident.


Getty Images

In a 2013 Reddit AMA, Alex Winter called the casting of George Carlin (as Rufus, Bill and Ted’s mentor) “a very happy accident. They were going after serious people first. Like Sean Connery. And someone had the idea, way after we started shooting, of George. That whole movie was a happy accident. No one thought it would ever see the light of day.”

8. The time machine was originally a van.

In Solomon and Matheson’s original script, it was a 1969 Chevy van that served as Bill and Ted’s time machine. But in the course of rewriting the script for Warner Bros., who showed early interest in producing the project, there was concern that a motor vehicle as time machine would ring too closely as a rip-off of Back to the Future, which arrived in theaters in 1985. It was director Stephen Herek who suggested a phone booth, as he thought it could lend itself to something akin to a roller coaster in the visuals. (The phone booth’s similarity to Doctor Who’s TARDIS was apparently not a big concern to the studio.)

9. Some Nintendo lover has that phone booth.

As part of a promotion for 1991’s Bill & Ted's Excellent Video Game Adventure, Nintendo Power magazine gave away Bill & Ted’s phone booth as a contest prize. The lucky winner was one Kenneth Grayson, who Reddit tracked down for an AMA in 2011. Grayson spent much of the chat answering questions about whether or not any X-rated activities had ever taken place in the phone booth.

10. The script was written in four days. By hand.

In 1984, Solomon and Matheson wrote the script over the course of just four days. They wrote it by hand, on note paper, during a series of meetings at a couple of local coffee shops. The 2005 box set, Bill & Ted’s Most Excellent Collection, features some of their handwritten notes.

11. Sci-fi wasn't part of the plan.

Keanu Reeves, Dan Shor, and Alex Winter in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989)
MGM

Though Matheson is the son of legendary sci-fi writer Richard Matheson, author of I Am Legend, he didn’t intend for Bill & Ted to be a science-fiction movie. “I try to consciously fight it, out of a desire to break away, but maybe I have a predilection toward that because of my dad,” Matheson told Starlog Magazine of the inevitable fantasy elements that emerged. “He’s a great writer and craftsman, and always has suggestions.” In fact, it was the elder Matheson’s idea that the time travel story be its own movie. “We were going to write a sketch film, with this as one of the skits, but my dad said, ‘That sounds like a whole movie,’” Matheson recalled, “And he was right!”

12. Bill and Ted almost traveled straight to television.

Shortly after principal photography on the film was completed in 1987, the film’s financiers, De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, went bankrupt. A straight-to-cable release was the most likely path for the time-traveling comedy until Orion Pictures and Nelson Entertainment bought the rights in 1988 for a 1989 release. Because of the delay to theaters, references to the year—which had been filmed as “1987”—had to be dubbed for 1988, resulting in a few scenes where the actors’ lips don’t quite match the sound.

13. Their journeys continued in a variety of media.

In addition to the 1991 sequel, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, the Bill & Ted franchise includes 1990’s Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures, an animated series for which Reeves, Winter, and Carlin provided the voices. It lasted for one season. The title was revived as a live-action series in 1992, which included none of the original cast and ran for just seven episodes. In 1991, Marvel Comics launched Bill and Ted’s Excellent Comic Book, written by Evan Dorkin.

14. Back in the late 1980s, you could eat Bill and Ted.

As a tie-in to the animated series, you could—for a short while—actually start your morning with a bowl of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Cereal, which was touted as “A Most Awesome Breakfast Adventure.”

15. Bill and Ted will ride again.

Over the past several years there has been a lot of buzz about a third Bill & Ted movie coming to theaters. In 2011, Winter tweeted that the script had been completed and that he was getting ready to read it. When asked about the possibility of a threequel in 2013, Reeves told the Today Show, “I'm open to the idea of that. I think it’s pretty surreal, playing Bill and Ted at 50. But we have a good story in that. You can see the life and joy in those characters, and I think the world can always use some life and joy.” Several references to the possible project have been made since then, and it's now been confirmed that the third film, Bill and Ted Face the Music, is currently in pre-production.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, via a report from the Cannes Film Festival, Matheson and Solomon co-wrote the script and Dean Parisot (Galaxy Quest) is attached to direct. Reeves and Winter will, of course, be reprising their roles, which "will see the duo long past their days as time-traveling teenagers and now weighed down by middle age and the responsibilities of family. They’ve written thousands of tunes, but they have yet to write a good one, much less the greatest song ever written." Excellent!

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