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There were only “Good Vibrations” last night at the premiere of the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson biopic, Love & Mercy, at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.
The arrivals of the film’s leading actors, John Cusack, Paul Dano and Elizabeth Banks, as well as Tom Felton, Kevin Bacon and former Beach Boys member Blondie Chaplin, created a scene during the red carpet. However, much of the excitement was saved for the man himself: Grammy winner, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and Beach Boys co-founder Brian Wilson, who attended the event with his family.
Love & Mercy sheds light on Wilson’s years in the Beach Boys — as portrayed by Dano — as well as his later and lesser-known years as a solo singer/songwriter, played by Cusack. Several cast members agreed that what happened to Wilson during the “hell hole” that was his post-Beach Boys period would be revelatory for most people.
The film’s director, Bill Pohlad, admitted, “I didn’t grow up as a Beach Boys super-fan or anything like that, and later in life I got into Pet Sounds. But I never knew all of that, all of the story that we’re telling here. So a lot of it was a surprise to me … and I think that helped a lot in depicting the story.”
“I thought I was aware of the Beach Boys and the kind of music they made,” said Jake Abel (who portrays band member Mike Love). “So sitting in the studio, filming the movie, taught me a lot about their recording process. I had no idea, and I think a lot of people don’t know. It was a study in a genius’ music.”
Banks — who shed tears upon seeing her real-life counterpart, Melinda Ledbetter (Wilson’s wife), after the screening — entered the movie feeling excited to have access to the story behind Wilson’s years out of the public eye.
“I didn’t know about where [Brian Wilson] went — it was Hollywood lore that he was a recluse in the Hills, and no one knows what happened to him,” she told THR. “And then we get this script and we get this information telling us exactly what happened to him.”
And after wrapping up the movie, many of the cast and crew were left with a newfound appreciation for Wilson and the Beach Boys’ hits.
“Everything I did made me respect [Brian Wilson] more. It deepened my understanding of him,” said Cusack. “To get into the Smile sessions was kind of revelatory for me. I couldn’t believe how good it was; I couldn’t believe how many influences I heard in that record, in 1966, later. I would track them and I would say, ‘Wow, he pulled sounds out of the past and future!’ He’s a really incredible artist.”
Dano, who plays the younger Wilson, said, “The biggest takeaway from the movie, for me, was [Wilson’s] spirit — going through so much struggle and pain but wanting to make music, make people smile, help them heal. It’s sort of a beautiful way to persevere. That, for me, was super inspiring.”
Echoing the “inspirational” theme, Banks revealed, “I think his battle with mental illness and how he’s overcome that to lead this amazing, charmed life — I think that’s the inspiration that I take away from this movie.”
Yet despite having an “inspirational” biopic dedicated to his life story, Wilson is not one to live in the past, according to the film’s writer, Oren Moverman.
“Brian is not someone who will sit around with somebody and reminisce about the past,” he said. “He’s always about present tense and moving forward. He’s not nostalgic for the past; he’s not waxing poetic about how things used to be.”
Moverman also told THR, “It’s really a movie about the process of making art — the art is music, and it’s forever.” Speaking of the longevity of the Beach Boys’ music, he added, “This movie may or may not be around forever — people may watch it or not — but Pet Sounds and Smile are going to be there forever. People connect to it on such a deep level, and it’s really rewarding to tell the story about him.”
Love & Mercy hits theaters in limited release on June 5.
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