The Room Audition Was "Just Another Tuesday" For Co-Star Mike Holmes

Mike Holmes and Robyn Paris in The Room.
Mike Holmes and Robyn Paris in The Room. WISEAU-FILMS

Unlike most terrible passion projects, Tommy Wiseau’s The Room wasn’t destined for obscurity, instead becoming one of the most legendary cult movies ever made, certain to endure in the same pantheon of dreck as Ed Wood, maybe even unseating Plan 9 From Outer Space as the canonical “worst movie of all time.”

But, as it was being made, there was no way of knowing that The Room would become what it is now. So what must it have felt like, in the moment, trapped on a soundstage by an ambiguously-accented egomaniac with $6 million to burn and a complete inability to remember his lines? We spoke with Mike Holmes (a stage name he adopted after Wiseau miscredited him), who appears in The Room as “Mike,” about what it was like creating the worst movie of all time and how it felt before it was canonized.

Part of The Room ’s appeal is its fever-brain narrative logic, establishing plot threads like breast cancer, drug-deal debts and unexplained shavings, never to be mentioned again. But while its central plot is off-kilter and bafflingly constructed it’s at least straightforward: Johnny (Wiseau) is a great guy that everybody loves, but then his girlfriend Lisa (Juliette Danielle) starts cheating on him with his best friend Mark (Greg Sestero). Holmes’ character, Mike, is the boyfriend of Lisa’s best friend, Michelle.

The first surprise in speaking with Holmes is just how normal it all seemed. At first. “All struggling actors are used to not exactly the most professional atmosphere in the world,” Holmes told Player.One. “I had been part of so many crazy auditions that it was like, just another Tuesday.”

Still, Wiseau, with his signature accent, which combines Schwarzenegger’s umlauts and double-Ss with an Orajel slur (after claiming for years to have grown up in Louisiana, it’s now thought that he was born in Poland), had a few audition practices that stood out, even among the infinite, cloistered casting rooms dotting West Hollywood.

“There was a portion of the audition where he’d hand you a little treasure chest and say,” and here Holmes switches seamlessly into a perfect Wiseau imitation, “‘Okay, honest reaction: you won lottery, yay!’”

Or, “You open box, you find out mother dead!’”

“That was the first day of the audition,” Holmes said.

Wiseau immediately cast Holmes for The Room, but Holmes found himself hanging around the auditions for several more weeks, acting as a scene partner during Wiseau’s prolonged search for women cast members. Some of their first picks for Lisa refused the role after learning they’d be romantically coupled with Wiseau in the movie. “I cannot speak to how I would feel if I were a female around Tommy,” Holmes said.

Holmes returned repeatedly to the auditions, as Wiseau evaluated his chemistry with a stream of potential Michelles. “I just made out with whoever was auditioning for the female part, which was fantastic from my point of view, but not the best audition environment,” Holmes said.

But even the prolonged audition process didn’t work to Wiseau’s satisfaction. After shooting the entire movie with one actor in the Michelle role, Wiseau fired her. They found her replacement, Robyn Paris, during emergency auditions held in a parking lot.

If the audition process was chaotic, it couldn’t hold a candle to actually filming The Room. “As crazy as the movie is, the shoot was crazier for sure,” Holmes said.

Wiseau was notoriously finicky, often about odd details, like his constant spritzing requests from the makeup team. “Tommy would generally show up hours late and kind of wonder why we weren’t starting,” Holmes explained.

Holmes recounting of the shoot is a mix of frustration and wistfulness, with as many abrupt tonal shifts as the movie itself. “I had a wonderful time, making a few hundred bucks a day, I’m hanging out with cool people off this strange parking lot in Hollywood,” Holmes said. “There’s not a lot of manual labour involved in acting. We’re not saving the planet. It was free food and a fun summer hanging out. And we got along really well.”

Production delays were frequent and much of the shoot was poorly coordinated, not surprising considering Wiseau’s constant hiring and firing of crew and cast members. But Wiseau seemed to like Holmes, even contemplating giving him a double role as drug dealer Chris-R, distinguishing him from Mike with a pair of sunglasses.

“That would have been amazingly hilarious,” Holmes said. “Tommy was like ‘I’ll be able to beat up on you and you’ll wear sunglasses.’ It would have been incredible.”

The cast and crew quickly bonded around the absurdity of the production and Wiseau’s simultaneously exacting and haphazard vision. And, of course, the mystery of Wiseau himself. “I wanted someone to take me aside and go ‘here’s the deal,’ and no one ever told me what the deal was,” Holmes said. “We were as fascinated about it as anybody in the public. We were the first Tommy investigative team.”

Though Holmes describes himself as a “footnote,” his character is dead-center in several of the movie’s most baffling and memorable creative choices. He’s probably most famous for his preemptive O-face:


“My scenes were intended, in some ways, to be the comedic breaks, but in a different way than I think they were intended. So I just tried to chew up every line I was given,” Holmes said. “I don’t recall any direction. I was just trying to over-act it a bit.”

Had Wiseau had his way, Holmes makeout scene with Michelle would have featured one The Room’s other directorial signatures: male nudity. “There was a lot of contention over whether or not I would show my ass,” Holmes said. “In the end I won out.”

While The Room felt like a disaster throughout the shoot, Holmes and the much of the rest of the cast became its first devoted fans. “You’re tearing me apart Lisa!” and long shots of the Golden Gate Bridge cracked them up.

The Room premiered June 27, 2003. “It really hit: this is a dark, serious movie,” Holmes said. Spoiler alert: it ends with Wiseau’s character Johnny shooting himself, an innocent man persecuted to his end by the callousness of others. But despite its intended darkness, the very first audience responded as audiences still do.

“It was sort of this groundswell. People here and there having a chuckle, here and there laughter, but sort of stifled,” Holmes recounts. “But we know what’s in store. By the end of it everybody else is laughing so hard and we’re like, ‘Oh, they get what we get.’”

“We were the biggest fans of The Room before anybody heard about The Room,” Holmes said. “The only thing that people glommed on to right away that I didn’t catch were all the spoons.”

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