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The Real Reason Tommy Wiseau Owes A The Room Documentary Almost $700K

When enigmatic filmmaker Tommy Wiseau released his debut movie, The Room, in 2003, it was a failure by every metric possible. The film made a total of $1,900 at the box office (via Entertainment Weekly) and was eviscerated by critics for its bizarre script and laughably bad acting. As with notoriously awful movies like Showgirls and Troll 2 before it, however, The Room soon morphed from strange box office bomb to beloved cult classic.

In 2017, the production of The Room was chronicled in the film The Disaster Artist, which was directed by James Franco, who also played Wiseau. The film sparked a renewed interest not just in The Room, but in the enigmatic filmmaker, himself. Around the time that The Disaster Artist premiered, a documentary about Wiseau and the making of The Room, titled Room Full of Spoons, was nearing completion.

Before the documentary could drop, however, Wiseau sued for an injunction against its release. Now, three years later, the film still hasn't seen the light of day. On May 5th, 2020, though, a judge not only found in the documentarians' favor, but also ordered Wiseau to pay nearly $700,000 as part of the ruling. Exactly why Wiseau is being forced to cough up so much money is yet another odd chapter in the filmmaker's life.

Tommy Wiseau was originally involved in the making of Room Full of Spoons

Room Full of Spoons is directed by Rick Harper, who began working on the film after meeting Wiseau and pitching him the idea of a documentary about The Room. According to Harper, Wiseau was enthusiastic about the film and agreed to participate. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Harper said of Wiseau's involvement, "He was on board for about a month, and after that we had a difference of opinions."

Harper went on to say that he battled Wiseau for creative control of the filmmaking. "I think he just wanted me to go from theater to theater and interview fans," Harper said. "So once he found out that I was coming to L.A. for more than a screening — that I'd started scheduling in interviews — he started to get scared."

According to Harper, Wiseau also demanded that the film portray him in a positive light, including having the producers of the documentary film themselves saying nice things about him. When Harper wouldn't comply, Wiseau broke ties with the producers. He released a series of videos on YouTube titled "Shame On You," meant to defame Harper. One clip even included Wiseau shooting and blowing up a poster for Room Full of Spoons.

The reasons Tommy Wiseau tried to stop the release of Room Full of Spoons

Wiseau did not stop at releasing retaliatory videos. In 2017, he successfully sued for an injunction against the documentary's release, claiming that the film violated his right to privacy and had committed copyright infringement stemming from its use of clips from The Room (via NY Daily News).

In his Hollwood Reporter interview, Harper detailed his battles to make a deal with Wiseau to use scenes from The Room. "[H]e said he would license The Room to us for $500 ... And literally the next day he asked for $995," Harper said. "And I was like, that's fine, I can do that, send me an invoice. He absolutely refused to send me an invoice, instead telling me to go on the website and click 'donate' and donate $995. I can't bring that to court. There's no receipt or invoice. And now we're at a point where he's asking for $150,000 for licensing."

As for the privacy concerns, they likely stem from Wiseau's notoriously secretive nature, especially as far as his background is concerned. Many details he's given about his personal life, including his name, are thought to be fabrications (via Vulture). According to Harper, Room Full of Spoons reveals several of the truths about Wiseau's past, including his true nationality and age.

Why a judge ordered Tommy Wiseau to pay nearly $700k to the Room Full of Spoons filmmakers

Wiseau may have had concerns about the documentary, but Ontario Superior Court Judge Paul Schabas didn't see it his way. On May 5th, 2020 he put an end to the injunction and ordered Wiseau to pay restitution to the filmmakers, saying of the lawsuit, "In my view, this action was brought for the improper purpose of preventing the release of a documentary disliked by Tommy Wiseau" (via NY Daily News).

Wiseau was ordered to pay $550,000 for lost revenue, given that the filmmakers were unable to profit from the movie they had already finished, and were prepared to release when the injunction came down. Additionally, Judge Schabas ordered Wiseau to pay another $140,000 in damages for dragging the matter to the courts in the first place.

As for Room Full of Spoons, no release date has been announced. Considering the continued interest in Wiseau, however, especially in light of the attention the lawsuit, itself, brought to the documentary, you can probably expect it to find a distributor soon.