I’m a Brian Wilson fanatic.
I’m also no fan of biopics.
That being said, I’m hoping Love & Mercy proves me wrong.
Because it stars the underrated Paul Dano as the ‘young’ Brian Wilson (aka, the Brian Wilson who spearheaded Pet Sounds and Smile and who wrote something as astonishing as “Surf’s Up”), with John Cusack as the ‘later’, Dr. Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti)-controlled Brian Wilson.
From a Rolling Stone interview with Dano:
RS: How long was it before you met him?
Quite a while — because I didn’t want to seek him out right away. I wanted to hold off on meeting him for as long as I could, because he’s a much different person now then he was during the Pet Sounds era, and I was really intent on channeling that particular person. I wanted to form my own impression first. You hear the energy in his voice during those Sixties session tapes, and it’s like, let me see how I can get close to that first.
Brian is in the music. It might sound weird to say this, but I felt like the truest sense of who this guy was, and is, can be found in the songs. I wanted to really learn how to listen to him first. Plus I was learning how to play the piano and sing, and that was going to take a while. I’m not kidding, playing and singing to those songs he wrote made me feel much closer to him than meeting him early on would have. I’m glad I got to know him that way before I got to know him personally.
So that’s you playing and singing in those scenes?
Most of them, yeah. I played and sang “God Only Knows” live on the set when we filmed. My second day of filming, I had to perform “Surf’s Up” over and over. It remains one of the best days I’ve ever had a film set. Have you ever tried to play that song, by the way? It’s incredibly hard. Thankfully, we only did two minutes of it, and not the whole thing, but it’s tough. I simplified a lot of the left hand work on the piano. Brian’s left-hand work is pretty complicated.
Regarding the conundrum that is Mike Love:
I asked him a number of things about Mike Love; it’s interesting, because for as much turmoil as that relationship had, there was a lot of affection and respect there. It was just very mercurial — and a relationship that echoed things with his dad and with Eugene Landy. I had a lot of trouble sympathizing with Mike, to be honest. You read the biographies, and it’s like, Fuck this guy! But after I talked to Brian, I saw that he still has a lot of love for his cousin. So it did change things in terms of how I played those scenes.
RS: The movie does not paint a very good picture of Mike Love.
A lot of people have said we were too gentle with him, actually.