Deconstructing Brian Wilson: Love & Mercy

At 21 Club this week, screenwriter/ director Oren Moverman spoke excitedly about his new vocation as activist. Co-writer of Love & Mercy, Moverman was largely responsible for crafting a script, not your standard issue biopic about Beach Boy Brian Wilson, but a complex view of this iconic musician at two distinct points of his life. Early on, Paul Dano plays Brian Wilson, and later John Cusack, when he is out of the public eye, and totally under the control of Dr. Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti) for his growing psychosis. In a real life love story, Melinda, a car salesperson with soul (a wonderful Elizabeth Banks) rescues him.

Aside from penning this bifurcated view of a life, which you could argue he prepared for by co-authoring the Bob Dylan movie, I'm Not There, with Todd Haynes, featuring seven actors including Heath Ledger and Cate Blanchett each playing versions of Dylan, Moverman also directed Richard Gere as a homeless man in Time Out of Mind. Brian Wilson's mental illness and the plight of the homeless have given the New York based Moverman a calling: he is now traveling to Washington, meeting with legislators about what to do about these serious issues. As to Brian Wilson, he is still living with schizoaffective disorder.

A panel moderated by Bruce Cohen, with Moverman, Dano, Cusack, Banks and director Bill Pohlad, revealed much about the making of the film: Real musicians played the Wrecking Crew with two 16mm cameras present give the music sessions in the film an authentic look and sound. In preparation for her role Elizabeth Banks asked Melinda, "This guy had a lot of baggage. This is who you want?" Melinda responded, "Well, everybody has baggage. Like any guy when I met him, 'I kinda wanna get with him.' That felt real and right. I wanted to sell him a car so I was patient. He was so interesting and quirky. This was an exercise in being patient at every turn."

Cusack added, "Elizabeth had the hardest job, to find this guy underneath all the baggage. She loved how he was truthful." Then John Cusack illustrated this point. "Don Henley once asked Brian Wilson for an autograph. Wilson wrote, 'Thanks for all the great music.' Then, rethinking, he crossed out the great, replacing great with good."

A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.