Love and Mercy (film)

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Love & Mercy
Directed by Bill Pohlad
Produced by
Written by Oren Moverman
Screenplay by
  • Oren Moverman
  • Michael Alan Lerner
Music by Atticus Ross
Cinematography Robert Yeoman
Edited by Dino Jonsäter
  • River Road Entertainment
  • Battle Mountain Films
Release date(s)
  • September 2014 (2014-09) (TIFF)
Running time 120 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Love & Mercy is an upcoming American biographical film about singer-songwriter Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys directed by Bill Pohlad. It will feature Paul Dano and John Cusack playing the young and old Brian Wilson, respectively, with Elizabeth Banks playing Wilson's second wife, Melinda.[1] Paul Giamatti has also been cast as the controversial therapist Dr. Eugene Landy, who played a major part in Wilson's life during the 1970s and 1980s. It is scheduled to be screened in the Special Presentations section of the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival.[2]


The story is assumed to loosely follow Wilson's life from the mid-1960s through to the early-1990s. Events would include his rise with the Beach Boys and their esteemed Pet Sounds album, the experimental but volatile Smile recording sessions, his ostensible "recluse period" and notorious substance abuse thereon, and his reemergence during the 1980s which immediately preceded the highly-publicized civil suit against Landy for his medical malpractice.

Giamatti said of the film's structure, "It’s mostly about Brian Wilson’s nervous breakdown. It falls into two halves with two different actors. First it’s Paul Dano, and John Cusack is the older one. I play Dr. Landy, the crazy psychotherapist. It’s a great character. Brian Wilson had a severe freakout and his family got in touch with a psychotherapist out in L.A. named Eugene Landy who took over. That’s where most of the story comes from, because the doctor was basically insane. He made Brian play in a sandbox, I mean crazy stuff."[3][a] Speaking to The Daily Mail in November 2013, Banks stated "I play Brian’s second wife, Melinda, who he is still married to, and who essentially saved his life.…Brian suffers from a sort of paranoid schizophrenia, and always has, but for years no one knew quite what to do to help him.…Melinda met Brian, fell in love with him and knew she had to save him from this doctor."[5][b]



A theatrical film adaptation of Brian Wilson's life entitled Love & Mercy was first proposed in 1988, and was planned to star William Hurt as Wilson and Richard Dreyfuss as Landy.[10][11] While the project laid in development hell, The Beach Boys were eventually the subject of two made-for-TV dramatizations: Summer Dreams: The Story of The Beach Boys in 1990 and The Beach Boys: An American Family in 2000.[12] In 2006, the project was briefly revived, and was to have included involvement from producers Mark Gordon, Lawrence Inglee, Jordan Wynn, and David Leaf. Nothing further was reported.[13]

I have no interest in making a biopic.…What's fascinating to me is to look at the different elements in his life, like that super-creative period when he was doing Pet Sounds and the later part when he was redeemed.…You don't have to know the music here in the same way you didn't have to know the math in Beautiful Mind…What we want to do is let you experience the story in a personal way.[14]

Bill Pohlad, June 2011

Love & Mercy was formally announced in June 2011. The title takes its name from Wilson's 1988 single, "Love and Mercy", which also appears on his eponymous debut solo album Brian Wilson. Rather than having a conventional story, the biopic will focus on specific elements of Wilson's life. In addition to providing the base story for the script, Wilson himself will also co-produce the film. Of Wilson's music being incorporated in the film, director Bill Pohlad clarified, "We're not thinking about this as the hit parade—that would be the biopic thing."[14] Dano has stated, "I don’t think it’s a totally traditional biopic. I think it’s gonna be a fun and accessible film, and I think it’s hopefully going to be interesting, like the man that it’s depicting. I think he did an amazing job cracking this story, and I can’t imagine anyone else having done it, aside from him. I know they tried to make movies about Brian for a long time, and I think music stories are tough to tell in an interesting way."[15] Dano reportedly prepared for the role by "filling up" on Wilson's self-produced Pet Sounds and learned how to play piano.[15]

In November 2011, Wilson stated that he didn't know when the film would be done, and that he was currently "trying to get the script so it’s accurate."[16] On February 8, 2012, screenwriter Oren Moverman announced that the script was complete.[17] Filming began on July 15, 2013 in the Hollywood area and expanded to various locations around Southern California.[18] Shooting wrapped on August 27, 2013. Brian announced the film's wrapping through his Twitter page by posting a photo of himself and his wife along with Cusack.[19] The film's wrapping party featured a special appearance by Wilson, who performed a solo live set.[20] The next day, Wilson's former collaborator Van Dyke Parks–who will be portrayed by Max Schneider–stated that he bore no involvement in the film, and is awaiting its historical accuracy.[21] In October 2013, the film was reported for release sometime during the fourth quarter of 2014.[22]

In June 2014, touring Beach Boy co-founder Mike Love reported that Wilson was in the studio recording music which would be used in the film.[23] The following month, a casting call was made for additional filming requiring a depiction of 1980s period cars,.[24] One week later, a premier screening was announced in the Special Presentations section of the September 2014 Toronto International Film Festival.[2]



Brian Wilson performing in 2012

In October 2013, Wilson enthused, "We've seen some of the film. So far, so good. The guy who plays me, John Cusack, he's really good. And he sings well,"[25] and that "It's quite a thrill to have a movie made of my life.…I'm very sentimental about it, and it's very, very good. It was a trip to see. The actors and actresses portrayed everybody really well."[22]

Ioncinema ranked Love & Mercy #153 in its list of "Top 200 Most Anticipated Films for 2014" and wrote: "you can be sure that programmers from Cannes to Toronto have already found time to grab a first look. This will receive a red carpet showing wherever it premieres and should at that point be picked up for distribution."[26]


  1. ^ Giamatti may have been referring to Wilson's 1976 guest appearance on Saturday Night Live in which he nervously performed a solo piano rendition of "Good Vibrations" while stationed in a sandbox,[4] which was in itself a nod to lore pertaining to the Smile sessions.
  2. ^ This statement somewhat clashes with documentations of Wilson's life, as it had been previously reported that Landy's custody over Wilson was ended by a civil suit launched by Wilson's immediate family members including Stan Love and Carl Wilson, not Ledbetter.[6]


  1. ^ Siegel, Tatiana (June 26, 2013). "Elizabeth Banks to Star in Pair of Indies, Including Beach Boys Biopic 'Love & Mercy' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 12 August 2013. 
  2. ^ a b "Toronto Film Festival Lineup". Variety. Retrieved 22 July 2014. 
  3. ^ Olds, Dorru (October 4, 2013). "Paul Giamatti Talks Hair and Movies With TheBlot". The Blot Magazine. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  4. ^ "Wilson performing Good Vibrations, 1976" on YouTube
  5. ^ Mulkerrins, Jane (November 16, 2013). "Meet Elizabeth Banks, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire star whose career is burning brightly". The Daily Mail. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  6. ^ Carlin, Peter Ames (25 July 2006). Catch a Wave: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson. Rodale. pp. 681–682. ISBN 978-1-59486-320-2. 
  7. ^ a b "Graham Rogers, Brett Davern Join Brian Wilson Movie (EXCLUSIVE)". June 30, 2013. Retrieved 2013-06-30. 
  8. ^ a b "Kenny Wormald, Jake Abel to Play Beach Boys in 'Love & Mercy' (Exclusive)". The Wrap. July 12, 2013. Retrieved 13 July 2013. 
  9. ^ Takeda-Morrison, Marsha. "Max Schneider Lands Role In Beach Boys Movie". 
  10. ^ "Brian Wilson Movie News 1988" on YouTube
  11. ^ "Brian Wilson on "Crook & Chase"" on YouTube
  12. ^ Bocanegra, Henry. "Rock N' Roll Dream: A Conversation with Brian Wilson". House of Shred. Archived from the original on 30 January 2008. Retrieved 29 July 2013. 
  13. ^ Fleming, Michael (November 14, 2006). "Surf’s up for Wilson bio". Variety. Retrieved July 19, 2014. 
  14. ^ a b "Beach Boy Brian Wilson's story will come to the screen, courtesy of the screenwriter of 'I'm Not There'". Los Angeles Times. June 23, 2011. 
  15. ^ a b "Paul Dano Talks 12 YEARS A SLAVE, PRISONERS, Playing Brian Wilson in LOVE & MERCY, WARCRAFT Rumors, His Punchable Face, and More". Collider. October 2013. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  16. ^ "Brian Wilson on the Beach Boys, Gershwin and his upcoming biopic". IFC. November 16, 2011. Retrieved 28 August 2013. 
  17. ^ "Oren Moverman Says His Brian Wilson Biopic Script Is Done, Takes "Unconventional Storytelling" Approach". Indie Wire. February 8, 2012. Retrieved 28 August 2013. 
  18. ^ "Beach Boys biopic from TV's John Wells shooting in Southland". Los Angeles Times. July 16, 2013. 
  19. ^ Brian & Melinda Wilson with John Cusack on Twitter.
  20. ^ "Now that's a wrap party: John Cusack enjoys surprise show from Beach Boy Brian Wilson after he finishes playing legendary musician in new biopic". Daily Mail. August 28, 2013. Retrieved 28 August 2013. 
  21. ^ @MikeOk: Any contact with "Love & Mercy?"-VDP:Nope. Let's see what's in a name, in Mrs. Wilson's bio-pic. Hang on! on Twitter.
  22. ^ a b Graff, Gary (October 14, 2013). "Brian Wilson Says Album With Jeff Beck Is 'Different Than Anything I've Ever Done'". Billboard. Detroit. Retrieved 15 October 2013. 
  23. ^ Wake, Matt (June 30, 2014). "Beach Boys' Mike Love on writing 'Good Vibrations,' Brian Wilson, hanging with Beatles, Huntsville set-list". Retrieved 2 July 2014. 
  24. ^ ""Love & Mercy" Movie Casting Call for Cars in Los Angeles, California". Project Casting. July 17, 2014. Retrieved July 23, 2014. 
  25. ^ Ruggiero, Bob (October 1, 2013). "For Brian Wilson and Al Jardine, Life's a (Busy) Beach". Houston Press. Retrieved 2 October 2013. 
  26. ^ Lavallee, Eric (February 7, 2014). "Top 200 Most Anticipated Films for 2014: #153. Bill Pohlad’s Love and Mercy". Ioncinema. Retrieved July 13, 2014. 

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