Wait, Is ‘The Room’ Tommy Wiseau’s Version of ‘The Crow’?

Wait, Is ‘The Room’ Tommy Wiseau’s Version of ‘The Crow’?

Wait, Is ‘The Room’ Tommy Wiseau’s Version of ‘The Crow’?

2024 was the year the world finally got a remake of The Crow. This update of the 1990s’ most extravagantly goth superhero stars Bill Skarsgård as Eric Draven, a bad tattoo enthusiast who is murdered along with his fiancé Shelly, and then returns to life to “put the wrong things right.”

The new Crow was directed by Rupert Sanders, but over the last 15 years, directors ranging from Stephen Norrington to Joan Carlos Fresnadillo to Corin Hardy tried to bring their own takes on the material to the screen. They all failed. But one director might have succeeded where those others did not; one man who may have gotten away with directing (and starring in!) his own thinly veiled, highly unauthorized take on The Crow without anyone noticing.

His name is Tommy Wiseau. His film is called The Room.

Hear me out on this.

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Sure, I’m being a little hyperbolic. The Room is not, strictly speaking, a remake of The Crow. I know that. The latter is a superhero fantasy about an indestructible man who rises from his own grave to kill a bunch of Detroit underworld types. The former is … The Room. The Crow is hyper-stylized, set in a world of seedy urban rot and perpetual darkness. The Room was shot simultaneously with side-by-side film and digital cameras because Wiseau was confused about the difference between the two formats and thought it could be informative to shoot one movie two different ways at the same time. (That’s not a joke; that’s what Wiseau said in his director’s interview on The Room DVD.)

So they are very, very different movies. But rewatching The Crow recently in anticipation of the remake, I was struck by some surprising similarities to Wiseau’s famously disastrous domestic drama. Consider, for example, some of the imagery in the sequence embedded below, as the recently revived Eric Draven (played by the late Brandon Lee) flashes back to his life with his beloved Shelly prior to their murders.

What little we see of Eric and Shelly’s relationship mostly transpires in a single room lit by candles. They laugh and embrace. They tell each other how much they love each other. Then suddenly Sarah, a young and ostensibly parentless girl who’s friends with Eric and Shelly, is there. She admires Shelly in her wedding dress. She sniffs a bouquet of roses in slow-motion.

Director Alex Proyas’ impressionistic montage blends together romantic scenes with moments where Eric, Shelly, and Sarah act like a surrogate family. In one shot, Sarah and Shelly are having a pillow fight; in the next Eric and Shelley are flirtatiously spraying each other with shaving cream.

Compare this moment to one of the stranger elements of The Room. Wiseau stars as Johnny, a banker madly in love with his girlfriend Lisa, who will ultimately betray him and sleep with his best friend Mark. Johnny and Lisa have an inexplicable relationship with Denny, their neighbor, whose exact age is nebulous at best. The actor looks like a mature adult, but the characters treat him like a minor — which makes it even weirder when he interrupts Johnny and Lisa bedroom foreplay by inserting himself into their pillow fight. (Lisa later tells her mother Johnny “wanted to adopt Denny” because “it’s really a tragedy how many kids out there don’t have parents.” Kids in their mid-to-late 20s?)

The way these sequences are staged, shot, and edited are totally different, because one was made by Alex Proyas and one was made by Tommy Wiseau. But if you look at them side by side, it’s hard not to note similarities. All the same elements are there; right down to the curious fixation on roses. If you watched The Crow while doing something else, and then decided to pay homage to it (or rip it off), and you were so unsure about moviemaking logistics that you were confused about the difference between film and digital video, you might wind up with the Johnny/Lisa/Denny scene from The Room.

Certainly it would not be out of character for Wiseau to pay homage to (or rip off) films he admired. The Room’s most famous moment — Wiseau howling “You’re tearing me apart, Lisa!” — is also the most famous moment in James Dean’s Rebel Without a Cause, when he moans the same line (minus the Lisa part) to his squabbling parents.

Wiseau has long acknowledged his James Dean fandom. (In The Disaster Artist, the fiction film about the making of The Room, James Franco’s Wiseau and his co-star and pal Greg (Dave Franco) visit the site of Dean’s fatal traffic accident to pay their respects.) Wiseau doesn’t look like Dean in The Room. But with his long black hair and preference for back shirts and jackets, he does look a little like Brandon Lee in The Crow — minus the black-and-white face paint, of course.

Again, the two films are clearly not 1:1. That said, both movies are, at their cores, tragic romances and fantastical revenge stories. Both are set in extremely artificial realities; The Crow takes place in Detroit, but you wouldn’t know it from the bleakly art-directed sets, it seems like a fictional reality where the sun never shines and half the city is perpetually on fire. The Room’s location is ostensibly San Francisco, but it was shot on a dingy green screen and a couple shabby sets in Los Angeles. It feels like Wiseau saw The Crow, liked it, absorbed a few stray elements from it, and threw them into the pot of melodramas and romances he drew from when writing The Room screenplay.

I did look around to see if Wiseau ever mentioned being a fan of The Crow. I didn’t turn anything up, although I did find a Reddit page filled with illustrations of Tommy Wiseau as the Crow. That alone makes me feel like I’m on to something. I’m gonna go out back and toss around the football in the alley while I contemplate what this all means.

The Crow remake (starring Bill Skarsgård, not Tommy Wiseau) is scheduled to open in theaters on August 23.

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