HOW DENNY GOT HIS GROOVE BACK – AN INTERVIEW WITH THE ROOM’S PHILIP HALDIMAN

How does it feel to be a part of one of the worst films ever made? Philip Haldiman was a struggling actor when he took the role of Denny; the sweet, slightly confused ward of Tommy Wiseau’s Johnny in 2003’s THE ROOM, and while the actual filming was a unique experience, nobody could have predicted what would come next. Starting from a small cult who loved the film’s unique blend of bizarre dialogue, off-the-wall staging and misguided sincerity, the film’s reputation exploded, marked by a 2008 Entertainment Weekly article which described the movie as “so bad it’s awesome”. Since then the cult has gone global, with monthly screenings  – often paired with skits, ROCKY HORROR-style antics and appearances from the cast – occurring worldwide.

But for Haldiman it was, at first, a bitter pill to swallow. Away from the epicenter of the growing cult, he was nursing a bruised ego. Even as celebrity fans like David Cross, Kristen Bell, and Paul Rudd declared their love for the film, it was hard for an Arizona State University Theater graduate to accept that thousands of people were laughing at his performance.

But a decade later, Philip has made peace with his reputation, and has even written a comic – called MY BIG BREAK – about his initial L.A. acting experiences and meeting Wiseau for the first time. He now works as a journalist for the Phoenix Republic, and was nice enough to take some time out of his schedule to discuss his background, THE ROOM, and dealing with being Denny.

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Sweetback (SB): Let’s start with talking about your background a bit. You grew up in Phoenix?

Philip Haldiman (PH): Right.

SB: When was the point in your life where you decided that acting was something you were going to pursue?

PH: The first play I ever did – a musical – was my freshman year in High School. And it was CAMELOT. And I played Sir. Tom,  who is sort of like the great hope at the end of the movie, basically. Really short part. Only three or four pages. But kind of an important part, and, so my High School theater director at the time searched me out because .. I’m a pretty small guy anyway, but at the time I was really small. I mean, at the time I played Denny I was 24, and Denny was 18. It was even a bigger difference in High School, and this was kid was probably eight or ten. So, I was 15 at the time, and I looked younger than everybody else during my freshman year. So, she searched me down and I was like “I don’t want to do this”.

At the time, acting freaked me out and being onstage in front of a 100 people freaked me out. She kind of twisted my arm, and I’m glad she did. It was a really great experience, and I got that acting bug. And doing that – and getting more involved with theater – that was the first exciting action.

The second thing I remember was PULP FICTION was playing during my junior year. And it came to the dollar theater, and I saw it and I was just blown away by it. I was like.. movies are amazing. To do movies like Quentin Tarantino.. I kept going back. You know how Pulp Fiction is. You have to piece it together. So I brought all my friends, and we saw it eight or nine times.

CAMELOT was my introduction to acting. PULP FICTION was what made me want to go to Hollywood.

SB: Did that start an obsession at that point? Where you began acting as much as you possibly could?

PH: Pretty much. From 15 or 16 on I was doing a lot. It kind of was non stop. I got into college and even more into it and did a lot of local theater. It was kind of an ongoing thing since, basically, I was a freshman in High School.

SB: You went to college for theater?

PH: Exactly. I got a theater degree. I had it all planned out. I was going to get my degree at ASU (Arizona State University). Graduate. And literally like a month or two after I graduated in 2000 was when I moved to L.A.

SB: What was your family’s reaction? Was that their expectation about how you would pursue things?

PH: My mom is very cool. She’s very open to anything me and my brother ever wanted to do. So, now she’s got one son who was into acting and is now a journalist, and she’s got my younger brother, who teaches improv at a local theater here in Phoenix.

She didn’t want to see me move to L.A. because she knew how hard and difficult it would be. But she wasn’t going to keep me from doing what I wanted to do.

SB: I come from a really small town in Canada. The idea of packing up your entire life and moving to L.A. to pursue something you’ve been working towards for years already sounds like a movie to me.

PH: Yeah! It’s almost cliche in a way, I guess. When it comes down to it, most people just sort of stay where they’re at. They don’t move.

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SB: How were those early, lean days in Los Angeles?

PH: Yeah, man. L.A. was tough. I did know a few people out there, but really I was alone. So that’s sort of what the comic book thing grew out of. I met great people and had amazing stories, but especially at the beginning L.A. was not the best place for me. It didn’t welcome me.

Which is not to say I didn’t have a great time. L.A. is a big and tough place, and the Hollywood industry is kind of cut-throat.

SB: Were you going on a lot of auditions at that point?

PH: I was. I had a theatrical audition before I even moved out there. So, that was a good thing. Some people spend a year or two just getting an agent. So I had a leg up. But your agent only does so much for you, One of the things that got me THE ROOM gig was that I joined this submission service. Basically you pay this service $100 a month and they send your headshot and resumes out to everyone. It’s like a blanket thing.

But I got a lot more auditions because of that. It was well worth the hundred bucks a month.

Yeah, I got a decent amount of auditions. And they were only smaller type indie things, but I still got some big stuff. Most of it was sort of like indie to middle of the road commercial and movie things.

SB: When you got the audition for THE ROOM, was the expectation that it would be a step towards bigger projects?

PH: Oh no. *laughs* It was a fairly small movie at the time when I auditioned for it. I didn’t know about the budget until afterward. As far as I know, when we first started shooting the movie it was only a million dollar budget. The audition for me – I didn’t see it as any big movie. I just saw it as a paying gig. So, I was never going to refuse an audition for a paying gig.

SB: Of course. And what was your first experience meeting Tommy Wiseau like?

PH: Interesting. *laughs* And, actually, this is Issue #1. I’ve been working on a comic book for the last almost two years at this point. I’ve done issue one, and issue two is almost completed. It’s about my life in L.A. and Issue #1 is about me meeting Tommy Wiseau.

Have you ever met him?

SB: Never met him. I’ve certainly seen enough interviews to know he’s a unique character.

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PH: He is. It’s sort of.. what you’ve seen is kind of the way he is. The accent is.. What you see is what you get. Which is actually kind of nice in a way.

SB: Did you get the impression upon your first meeting that this is someone competent? That this is someone who can steer the ship?

PH: From meeting him, I didn’t gather that he had a whole lot of experience directing film.

SB: So, you felt like this was going to be a learning experience for everyone.

PH: Kind of. It’s cool because I was getting paid, and it was a long term – at first it was a month, but it got longer. I didn’t have to wait tables. I was getting paid decent money. And, so, I was pretty freaking happy.

SB: How was the Denny character explained to you when you were first auditioning?

PH: Well, it wasn’t really explained. The audition was basically an improv, which is definitely not my stronger suit. There was a couple sitting on the couch, and I would be on the sidelines, and “Be Crazy!” was the only direction I got. I think I knew my character was Denny at the time of the audition, but I didn’t have a script until we actually started shooting.

SB: “Be Crazy” seems like an interesting direction, considering “crazy” isn’t the first word I’d use to describe Denny.

PH: I’ve worked with a lot of directors in theater, and a good director will sort of lead you along the right path as opposed to just telling you to go out and do something. That’s why I didn’t think he was experienced as a director. “Be crazy” doesn’t tell me anything. It doesn’t tell me where I am, or where I’m at. You know?

SB: Sure. When you did get the script, what was your impression from it for the first time?

PH: Well, we never got a full script. Never ever. He would give us the sides for each scene as we moved along. So, that made it hard too because you didn’t know who your character was in the totality of the story. I kind of just had to go on stuff on my own. Come up with the answers myself, we all kind of had to do that. That kind of made the movie what it is, in a way.

SB: It does sort of seem that some of the scenes are so disconnected from the rest of the movie that it’s sort of hard to see how they were ever supposed to go together.

PH: Yeah, and that’s why I was never sure if there was a full script in a way. I had seen all of the scenes that you’ve seen as a full movie, but I haven’t seen anything in between that might have connected them together.

SB: To your memory, was there much cut out of that script? Material that didn’t make it into the movie?

PH: I don’t think so. From talking to other cast members and knowing the sides that they had, I don’t think anything was really cut out.

SB: Now, if you had to describe the Denny character to someone who has never seen the room.. How would you go about it?

PH: The thing going around the internet was that Denny was retarded.

SB: I just watched a youtube clip of an interview with Tommy where he actually says that he was.

PH: Yes. And there was no mention of that. There’s no stage direction in any descriptions of who Denny was as a character. To me he might not have been the smartest guy, but I think he tries hard. He wants to do the best he can. He might not have the tools to do it and that might be why he wants to go to college and become a better person

SB: It always came off to me more like a naivete rather than mentally challenged.

PH: Thank you. I appreciate that.

SB: I know you’ve addressed that in interviews before, but that must be difficult to hear sometimes.

PH: You have to have a sense of humor with THE ROOM.

SB: That’s actually an interesting point in and of itself. When you talk to people who have been involved with movies whose reputation is based on their lack of certain qualities, people can get a little bit standoffish about it. Or maybe even a bit resentful about the reputation.

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PH: It was hard for me for a little while. It was hard in the sense that there’s this.. I had studied acting, and gotten a theater degree. And then.. boom, I’m in the worst movie ever made. And everyone is saying how bad the acting is and then I became famous for that. Like, globally famous now. And so for the first little while when it started to take off, I was kind of.. I didn’t know how to handle it. Because it is sort of a blow to your ego, but at the same time it makes you famous.

SB: Yeah, to me it must be a real double edged sword. Almost a nightmare scenario. You’ve waited your entire life to get this opportunity for people to see you perform. Finally, thousands of people.. tens of thousands of thousands of people are seeing it, but they are seeing it in this context of “Look how bad he is”.

PH: Right. It did take a little bit of adjustment. You truly make your own decisions in life, and make your decisions in how you want to react to something.

SB: There have been some stories of turmoil on the set. Of actors being fired. Was that something you encountered much of?

PH: I was never worried about losing my job, or anything like that. But the thing that made it difficult was there were at least two – possibly three – crew changes. And that’s almost the whole crew, basically. And when that happens it’s really.. it probably has a little to do with the disjointedness of the whole thing. The movie. But I know at least two times Tommy fired the entire crew, and that made it hard. Aside from just the aesthetics of producing the film, it made it hard as a cast member just working with everybody. Because you would have new people it’s harder.. not to get along, but it’s just a readjustment. So maybe you’re not doing your best work, because you’re surrounded by new people all the time.

SB: With the changes in crew that were happening, did that help you bond with the other actors since you knew at least they would be there?

PH: Definitely we all bonded. And I think that was part of it, and it was just the experience of working on THE ROOM. Because it was just not your normal sort of production. Like, that whole tuxedo thing was just new. We would go to set one day, and we would be doing something completely different than we thought we were doing. You’ve got to roll with the changes when you’re shooting stuff and shit changes all the time, but I think we all became a lot closer because of the circumstances. I think a lot of casts bond regardless of what the show is, but the fact that it was THE ROOM made it a little more interesting..

SB: Were there ever conversations? Questions about the movie? Questions about the strangeness of.. say.. the turnover with the crew, or even with the fact that you didn’t have a strong sense of the story?

PH: It was more during the thing. Because we never got full scripts, so we never knew what was going on. There were a couple of times when we all got together and we tried to piece together all of our scenes to make a cohesive script. And there was never any cohesiveness. But we did things like that.

SB: You mentioned the tuxes a moment ago. You find, I guess, that people sort of fixate on certain scenes in the movie and almost obsess over them. Its become a cult thing. When you did go to the set and found out you would be wearing tuxes that day, how was that explained to you? Because in the context of the movie it is a little bit confusing, whether it’s a rehearsal for the wedding, or if they all just happened to be trying on tuxes on the same day.

PH: I don’t remember too much of that. Yeah, you know. One of my problems probably as an actor is that I didn’t ever question Tommy. It’s fair enough to ask why would we dress up in tuxes.  It’s a very fair question to ask. But I’ve always been… “No, don’t both the director. The director is very busy” Figure out what you can on your own, and if you have to have to have ask the director, then do that.

Well… We’re dressing up in tuxes! I don’t have any lines to have to remember so it’s going to be an easy day on the set. That was kind of how I looked like it.

SB: I guess in a case where a director already has so many things he has to be dealing with you want to be a team player. You want to be making sure that you’re giving your full effort at any particular time. Especially when you don’t have a strong sense of what the entire plot is going to be. It would be easy to think “I guess that’s just going to be explained later”.

PH: Right. Or I’m just going to figure it out on my own. That was fully the attitude that I took. Looking back on it, I’m like.. Why didn’t I ask questions? But what can you do? *laughs*

SB: Asking questions, who knows where we would all be right now?

PH: It would be a totally different thing, right? *laughs*

SB: The other thing that people fixate on when it comes to Denny is the drug subplot with Chris R. And that’s sort of your big emotional moment in the movie. But it also seems to be one of those subplots that gets dropped immediately. Knowing that you were trying to be a team player, was there a sense in your mind that it was supposed to go somewhere?

PH: Yeah, I made it up in my mind. And I actually have it written down somewhere. I remember taking notes on it back in the day. I know Denny wanted to sell drugs to get money to do something. And I forget what it was. I wish I remembered, but there was definitely something there in my mind that I had at the time. It was definitely on the side of trying to do good for something, as opposed to really truly trying to sell drugs. Trying to get stoned or something like that.

Denny didn’t like to do drugs. I think he wanted to sell drugs so he could, you know, buy Lisa a new red dress or something.

SB: See, that makes sense. At least there’s some sort of context there. He’s obsessed with the red dress. He’s going to buy something for her. That sort of fits all of these pieces together.

PH: Yeah! And I think that scene I had something in my mind along those lines, but I can’t remember the specifics.

SB: When did you start to get the feeling that there was something bubbling up with the reputation of this movie? The first time I heard about it, it sort of came out of the L.A. comedy scene. With Tim and Eric, and I heard Paul Rudd was an obsessive fan. People like David Cross and Patton Oswalt. After the premiere I imagine you thought it was just going to fade away.

PH: Exactly. Yeah, the premiere was… they laughed in places they were not supposed to laugh. I was like… I got paid for it, nobody will ever see it again and that’s that. But then… when did I see this as something bigger?

There were two times. I was moving back to Phoenix from L.A. in 2004 and literally I was driving back with my car full of a bunch of crap and Scott Holmes who played Mike, I think that was his name. The chocolate guy. We were buddies and hung out quite a bit after. We became friends.

SB: We always refer to him as the “me underwears guy” in my household.

PH: *laughs* He called me up when I was driving back. He said “Phil, they’re cheering when you come on the screen!”. And I was like “What are you talking about?”. He said that he went to a screening recently and there were a lot of people there. So this was, like, 2004. He was like.. When Denny came on the screen, people would scream “Yay! Denny!” I never ever would have thought that.

And then I was interning at the Arizona Republic around 2008. This was a bit afterward. And my editor came in one day and he brought the Entertainment Weekly from his dentist. He had had a dentist appointment the day before. He brought in the Entertainment Weekly.. It was like the lead story. Did you ever catch it?

SB: Oh yeah!

PH: That sort of brought THE ROOM to the next level. And there I was in the Chris R scene with Tommy. And that’s when I was like: Whoa. Something really off the wall is happening here.

SB: That has to be the most surreal possible thing to happen. Someone bringing you a copy of Entertainment Weekly and was like.. Here YOU are.

PH: For as long as it’s been popular, it’s still pretty surreal.

SB: I think one of the things that might make THE ROOM’s reputation a little more palatable to the people involved with it, is that I think the people who love it are not generally mean spirited about it. They are honest about its faults, but they respect that there’s a certain amount of sincerity that went into its creation.

PH: Yeah. There’s a definite genuine love for it. I was going through this ego bruise about how bad the movie was, but then I came to terms with the fact that there are some real true fans. How can you not be taken aback by that and really be thankful in a way for people that are totally into something that you did for a couple of months in 2003?

SB: And you think about someone who goes to see a 200 million dollar movie. They watch it once and never think about it again. But then people watch the ROOM ten or twenty times. And love it more with each viewing.

PH: I’ve always loved the communal aspect of theater or film. Just sit in a theater and enjoy the movie, but you also enjoy it because you’re enjoying it with everyone else. And THE ROOM is… You don’t get that opportunity. You can go to church, or go to the baseball game or football game. It’s harder to find those opportunities as much these days. That’s another cool thing about it. Just these groups of people sharing something together.

SB: The thing is, if you go to Church or a Baseball game you have these divergent people who are all coming to see this same thing. With THE ROOM you have these people with similar mindsets and sense of humor. There’s already a sort of relationship going on between everybody. So everyone is sort of in it together.

I was going to say that it could only have been born out of the internet age, but..

PH: You know.. ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW.

SB: Of course.

PH: And, like, a lot of John Waters movies were like that.

SB: And he sort of supported that idea, too. With the odorama gimmick with POLYESTER.

PH: I interviewed John Waters, actually. I brought up THE ROOM, and he had never seen it. But he was curious about if it would have the staying power of a ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW or a POLYESTER or something like that. And I said It’s already been around ten years and it’s still pretty strong.

SB: That seems like the test, right? If people were going to get burnt out on it, I think it would have happened at this point.

PH: Because it happens all the time with pop culture today.

SB: The shelf life on these cult phenomena. Just think about that SHARKNADO thing a couple of weeks ago..

PH: Right! They came up with a sequel like a week after it came out.

SB: I think there’s something to be said that it’s probably good that we’re not watching THE ROOM 2 or THE ROOM 3 because this phenomena sort of occurred gradually and naturally.

PH: It was really organic. Definitely.

SB: What prompted your move back to Phoenix?

PH: First of all, it was really, really hard to meet good people in L.A. For me at least. I don’t want to bag on it too much, but it was a very superficial environment. And I did come to find some really good friends out there. But then all around that time they left. And there was kind of nothing in L.A. for me. And I didn’t know what I was going to do. It’s funny that THE ROOM thing happened literally right when I left.

But, if I’d stayed I would be a completely different person. Maybe not the type of person I want to be. Part of that is living in L.A after four years… I started to become a person that I just didn’t like in a way. I think I maybe became a little bit superficial myself. And I’ve never been that way. So that was part of it, too. I just think the environment that I was living in was not the best for me. So I had to go back home and regroup and decide what I wanted to do next.

SB: Was that a depressing decision for you, or was it a process of finding yourself again. To refresh.

PH: More the latter. It was a little bit bittersweet, I guess. It was more depressing to stay, I think.

SB: Once you got back, you said that you didn’t have a plan at first. At what point was journalism seen as viable option?

PH: Yeah, I got back in town for a few months and I was really up in the air. Six months, probably. And I didn’t like that feeling at all. And interestingly enough, I told you I was a theater major at ASU. I entered ASU as a freshman as a journalism major, because in high school I was on the newspaper and I had won writing awards, and had a really good experience. I’ve always been a writer. I really always have. Acting came into my life when I was 15, but writing is something I was doing in, like, kindergarten and in first grade I was writing stories.

And that never stopped, really. It was on the back burner for a while because of the acting thing. But I didn’t know what to do. I liked school, I’ve always done well in school and I’ve always been happy in school. I thought about getting my masters, but instead I got a second degree in journalism. And it’s worked out for me so far.

SB: Now, has there ever been a time when you were doing something having to do with covering a story where someone has recognized you from THE ROOM?

PH: Occasionally, somebody will recognize me out, but actually what more happens is … because The Republic is a pretty big newspaper — it’s owned by Gannett — it’s one of the larger newspapers in the country in terms of employment and stuff like that because we’ve got our arms in all kinds of different publications. And, every so often I’ll hear about somebody that does the online work for AZ Central and is a fan of THE ROOM, or there’s a designer that’s a fan of THE ROOM, you know what I mean?

SB: Sure!

PH: So, that’s more common, because there are so many employees that work where I work. I would never necessarily pass them every day or anything like that, so friends of friends have told me that “this person is a big fan” so I’ll IM them randomly and say “Hey blah blah blah this is Denny… OH HAI”

SB: It’s an interesting kind of fame because not everyone is going to recognize you, but the people who do–

PH: It’s a really good kind of fame, I think.

SB: Yeah, right? There’s that affinity that’s sort of built in.

PH: Yeah and it’s totally not a hindrance from your everyday life, you know what I mean? But it’s something that pops up every now and then … just when you’re feeling like crap, somebody’s like, “Oh my god! I love you!” And then you’re like … “Oh wow, life’s not so bad anymore.”

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SB: So let’s talk about “My Big Break”. At what point did you decide that a comic book format is going to be the best way to tell this story?

PH: A couple of years after coming back from L.A. … L.A. does mean a whole lot to me, it really does. So, one summer — and you know the summer’s are so hot here you don’t want to do a damn thing, you know? So one summer I just decided I’m going to write my L.A. memoir, basically, and I did pretty good. I wrote 20-30,000 words and that was pretty good — but then I just hit a block.

I was having a drink with a friend of mine at a bar and I was telling him about my block, and he’s like, “You know, Phil? You should do a comic book.” And it was like a big epiphany, because a lot of the fans seem to like comic books and have that kind of lean to them/ And I’ve known a lot of people in the art scene here. I was telling my brother about it and he said, “You know you should check out Tommy Cannon”. He’s a local artist here — he’s a puppeteer, he’s an improviser, and I looked at some of his work online and I was like “Hmmm, that could work.” So we just started talking, and I knew him on-and-off, you know, meeting him at parties and shows and stuff like that. And I told him about it, and I was like, “Do you want to do it?” and I gave him a couple of pages of text and he mocked something up and I thought it was pretty good. So, now Tommy Cannon does all the art and it’s been tough because we all work and making a comic book takes a lot. I never realized that it was basically starting a new business.

But, we sat down and it’s been just a really great collaboration. It was a very organic attempt at making a comic book. It was really cool holding issue #1 in my hands. It took a year to do the first issue, literally. Before that, I was like, “You know, this is a lot of work, I don’t think I have much time for it. Maybe we’ll just do the one issue and we’ll call it a day” … but I held that issue #1 and was like, “This is freaking cool … this is my life.” I just thought it was really cool and I thought that Tommy captured a really strong essence of my experience.

SB: That’s such a unique thing to be able to have an autobiographical comic about this singular experience. Ideally, if you wanted to make more issues, how many could you see it going?

PH: I don’t know, it’s one of those things … because we’re all so busy, it’s one of those ongoing projects that will never end, probably. I’ve had people ask me, “When’s issue #2 coming out?” and I say it’ll probably be the end of the summer, but it could be 10 issues over like 15 years. And whether people will put up with that — I think people are interested — but whether they’ll keep an interest that long … My point is, I guess, is that it can go on forever.

SB: Sure. As long as your life continues, right?

PH: Yeah. I always need a creative outlet, you know what I mean? And so, if I’m busy with work or something like that and I have to postpone it, or whatever comes up in life … that creative outlet is always going to come back to me. So that’s a beautiful thing because I have that option.

SB: For people who are reading and want to pick up a copy of the first issue of “My Big Break”, what’s the best way for them to do that?

PH: Probably philiphaldiman.com, and they will have issue #1, it has a trailer that kind of promotes it … have you seen the trailer by the way?

SB: Oh, yes. Absolutely.

PH: Good, good. It’s awesome. That was the other part of the collaboration, too — working on the comic book — we wanted to come up with some sort of promotional material. And, I worked on this short film with a director named Bob Marquis and he’s got a really nice touch when it comes to directing, and we collaborated on that. And then Juliette (Danielle) came out, too, which was amazing. So, the whole journey aspect — the creative journey and collaboration is really the best part.

SB: Absolutely. And, it’s not only a great marketing tool — I think it’s one of those things where, when fans of THE ROOM see it, they get a little excited and it kind of breaches that interest level, and it’s like, “Yeah, I want to pursue this. I want to see what this is all about.”

PH: That’s the thing, we’ve gone to THE ROOM part 2, you know? The Denny post-story!

SB: I mean that’s a question in and of itself … What happens to Denny after THE ROOM ends?

PH: Right! Well, that’s kind of what it was … Denny goes goes out and is totally rejected by everything … and then finally Lisa brings him back to his senses.

SB: So what you’re saying is that one day we’ll get “THE ROOM 2: How Denny Got His Groove Back”?

PH: YES! Nice. I like that.

SB: Now, you’ve made yourself pretty available on social networks like Twitter and Facebook. How’s that been for you?

PH: Interesting question, actually. I don’t think anyone has ever asked that. It’s been cool to see people jump on the bandwagon and they are really kind of interested in the fan page. Harder than even the dealing with this whole ego crush of being in the worst movie ever — well, I don’t know if it was harder, but it was close – was listening to some of the douche-bags post shit on my Facebook page and stuff.

It happened very rarely, but when it did happen, I got a bunch of rude comments about looking like I was aging and all this stuff. That kind of got at me for a little bit — but the nice thing was — other fans totally backed me up and outed these basically cyber-bullies. That’s the other part of celebrity that people don’t realize, I think, people say “Oh it’d be really easy to be a celebrity. How great would that be?” They don’t understand — when you’re a celebrity or any time you put yourself out there, you’re at the whim … people can have free reign over whatever they want to say about you. You gotta have a little tough skin to be able to put up with that shit.

SB: And there’s a certain kind of person who they get off on the idea, “I got a rise out of this person that I’ve seen onscreen.”

PH: Totally, yeah.

SB: Even recognizing that that is a vast minority, it must be really difficult mentally to think, “Well I’m putting myself out there, I’m giving my time over to be able to interact with people to a certain extent” and you must feel sometimes when you’re getting some of this negative blowback and it’s like, “Why am I even bothering?”

PH: Right, like you said it is all extra time for me. But at the same time, you really have to make that choice — do I want to let this eat at me or do I want to shrug it off, because it really doesn’t mean anything. I mean who are these people anyway? Somebody who hides behind an avatar is not worth your energy.

SB: Have you had the opportunity to read Greg Sestero’s book yet?

PH: I have not … I read the introduction — I don’t think it’s out yet …

SB: No, I was wondering if maybe since …

PH: I wish I had an advance copy!

SB: *laughs* So what you’re saying is that you demand an advance copy?

PH: *laughs* No no no no. I will definitely read it, because I’m curious. I’m very, very curious to see what he has to say. I have no clue, honestly … people always ask me, “What do you think Tommy” or “What do you think Greg” … I mean I have no clue what’s going through their heads. Greg sent me a note when he saw that issue #1 came out for the comic book and said “Hey man, congratulations, that’s awesome.” And I’ll do the same when the book comes out, but I am really curious to see what’s in it, that’s for sure. That’s for sure. Because I was there!

SB: I think you’d have a pretty unique perspective on things.

PH: For whatever part of THE ROOM he has written about in the book, I can have a perspective on that, because I experienced it as well.

SB: Absolutely. Now, we just talked about the social networking aspect. For people who want to keep up with the work that you’re doing, probably best spot is to go to your website at philiphaldiman.com. Where can they find you online other than that?

PH: The best is Facebook and Twitter. It’s @TheRoomDenny and then Facebook is basically https://www.facebook.com/DennyTheRoom. Those places are where you can go and you will get all kinds of updates. And, I just actually made shipping for “My Big Break” available to Canada … Sorry all you guys, I know some of you had asked but I finally have it available at philiphaldiman.com so you can now get issue #1 internationally!

SB: I know that especially in Ontario there is a rabid ROOM fan base — you know there are theaters that do the monthly screenings and all that. A lot of people would be very happy to hear that. Do you go to screenings yourself often?

PH: No, I mean I have been to a few … I went to a theater in Austin to promote the book and do Q&A’s and stuff. But as far as watching the movie, I haven’t done that in a while. It’s just one of those things … it’s weird watching yourself on the screen but it’s also just that I’ve seen it and I’d rather sit outside and have a beer.

SB: At this point it’s a part of you, it’s not one of those things you need to be sitting in and experiencing.  Well, I feel like I’m part of an exclusive group that got to give you the title for the sequel to THE ROOM … “How Denny Got His Groove Back” … just remember where that came from.

PH: I know, right? I hope they don’t sue me for using that …

Thanks to Ashley Montgomery for help transcribing this interview.

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