Actress Ari Graynor Chats Her New Film, The Disaster Artist

The Room has been called the worst movie ever made yet it somehow became a beloved cult classic.

Whether you’ve seen the much-bashed 2003 film or not, you may want to put biographical comedy-drama The Disaster Artist – a new James Franco-directed film that documents the true, strange story of the making of The Room– on your winter movie list.

The Disaster Artist – which hits theatres in Toronto on December 1 – stars James and Dave Franco alongside a supporting cast that includes names like Seth Rogan, Alison Brie and Ari Graynor.

We caught up with Graynor, who plays Juliette Danielle, during a round table interview when she was in town for the film’s Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) premiere.

Was it fun or stressful to play this role?
I think every single person that was involved with this movie was so psyched to be there and it was like being at movie camp because Seth and Evan and James are such old friends, and I’ve worked with Seth and James – a lot of us knew each other. There were three different pockets of shooting this movie in a sense. There was the filming of the movie, of the making of the movie, and then there was someone walking around capturing footage of the making of The Room, and then there was the remaking of the scenes of The Room, if that makes any sense. So, at any given moment, you would show up to set and someone would say “hey, we have some down time so, like let’s shoot the scene with you and Greg on the stairs, or let’s go do this behind-the-scenes thing” Or, you would shoot these scenes and it was the making of these scenes…they got so complicated. James would let the cameras roll for as long as possible. Sometimes, he would do 6-10 page scenes with no cut and twenty people in them, which is a very rare thing to do. You would get to live in this world and play around and James was essentially in character the whole time. He was always in that voice, so then you would hear him say, “OK, let’s go it again…do it faster,” and I would think “Is this Tommy? Is this James?” and then you would see him flash a James smile saying “nah it’s James”…It was a very wild and hilarious experience.

Where do you see this film kind of fitting into the whole phenomena that is The Room? Do you see it like it’s a companion? Or as an entry into The Room or ..?
I think for different people it will be different things. I think for people that know of The Room and love The Room, this is an incredible prequel to that experience, to see everything that went into making it. I think for people that don’t know The Room, it will be an incredible and wild introduction to the movie that I suspect most people will think, can this even be real?

The film really looks at the desperation and the hunger and angst of people who are trying to get into a film career.
Yeah and that excitement and hope –  no one sets out to make a bad movie. I think that’s something important to remember with everything you watch – Netflix, films in the theatres, from the eighties, etc, not everyone is setting out to make a movie that’s going to win Best Picture, but nobody sets out to make something bad. No one sets out to give a bad performance. No one sets out to write a bad script – everything that is out there is a piece of entertainment someone has produced with this sense of hope and belief. I think that’s a really amazing takeaway; not that it means that you have to fall in love with every movie you watch, but that everything is infused with a belief. It’s sort of miracle that any movie gets made because it takes an enormous amount of time to believe collectively in one thing…you have no idea how it’s going to turn out.

If you were you able now to go back to when you were starting out and give yourself advice, then what advice would you give?
I think all women – especially young women and especially when you’re on a movie set – you want to make people happy. You want to follow direction, especially when you’ve never been on a movie set before. And you don’t know what’s OK and what’s not. In terms of advice- if something doesn’t feel good to you in the moment, it’s OK to say, “I don’t want to do this” and “I want to leave”.

You have a T.V. show, you have a film, you do stage. A lot of times people think these are just acting jobs, but those can be very different industries. What is your secret to success and balancing all those different worlds?
It just comes from an inherent place of needing to express different things, and I think the good and the bad news about me in life and in my career is that I feel comfortable in a lot of different places and sort of have my hands in a lot of things. Sometimes over the course of my life that’s felt hard because I’ll think…where do I belong? I belong everywhere and nowhere, which I think is actually a really freeing wonderful place to be. The challenge of being on stage verses being in a comedic movie, versus doing something dramatic on a television show – they’re all an access to different parts of myself and I think each of those parts are very excited and relieved to get their outlet.

What are the things that help you balance your schedule?
I’m not that busy. I don’t have assistants. I think it’s just about trying. I hate all those words like, ‘grounded and centered’ but I just try to feel the most OK within myself. I’m somebody that needs quiet time so whether I’m working sixteen hours a day or in a play it’s really important to take a lunch break or some time during the day to sit quietly by myself… doing some writing. It’s that time and that moment that allows me to sort of step out from the world because I’ve only recently realized that I think I’m an extroverted introvert. I always thought ‘oh I’m just such an extrovert’ because I love being around people and I love being social and collaborating – there’s a real energy and life force to that. But I also realize that I when left to my own devices I need a lot of like quiet internal time and I hit a wall being around people.

I guess with that quiet time it probably feeds back into your work?
I started realizing the more time I spent being quiet… either sitting, reading, writing, thinking, etc the more connected and deeper I felt my work was growing somewhere differently. I think this year has been a very different career year for me in a lot of ways because I felt like I had sort of gotten down the track that I didn’t necessarily mean to get down a couple of years ago, and I’ve always loved everything I’ve ever been a part of, but I never really set out specifically to do just comedy. So, I worked really hard to sort of reset my career in a way that felt like I wasn’t just playing similar characters over and over again. It was interesting this year to sort of test those boundaries a little bit.

***The interview has been condensed for word restriction purposes.
The Disaster Artist is in theatres December 1st, 2017. Enjoy!