There are three questions at the heart of James Franco’s new movie, The Disaster Artist, and they all revolve around the enigmatic filmmaker, Tommy Wiseau: Where is he from? How old is he? And where did he get the money to make The Room?
As for the first question, Wiseau has long maintained that he is from New Orleans, despite his Eastern European–sounding accent. But during a joint appearance with Franco on Jimmy Kimmel Live on Wednesday, Wiseau had a plain answer: “I am originally from Europe, but right now I am American like everybody else.” (The closed captioning on the video quotes Wiseau as saying he’s from Rio, but that’s definitely a mistake.)
That doesn’t sound like much of a revelation, but even Franco, who directed an entire movie about Wiseau, seemed stunned. “Wait, wait,” he said, interrupting Kimmel before he could move on. “This is news! He has never said this before.” That’s not quite true—Wiseau has at least acknowledged living in France in the past, and we know he’s probably Polish. Franco must not have read the New York Times interview published on Wednesday, in which Wiseau was unequivocal:
“It’s not important, and No. 2, it’s a personal question,” he said. “Long story short, I grew up in Europe a long time ago, but I’m American and very proud of it. Do you have any questions about the movie?”
As anyone who’s ever lived in another country for an extended period of time knows, being constantly asked “Where are you from?” is incredibly annoying, particularly if you’ve lived there for so long that you don’t consider yourself foreign anymore. Maybe I’m just projecting, but having to explain your accent on a daily basis, especially to strangers, gets old real fast, and Wiseau’s “New Orleans” answer has always carried the subtext of “fuck you.” His casual admission on Kimmel seemed just as calculated, only this time, the joke was on Franco.