Brian Wilson’s life has been tragic and testing; after initial success as frontman of The Beach Boys with albums such as Surfin’ USA and Little Deuce Coupe, the creation of now legendary album Pet Sounds was too much for the public at the time, and after issues with drugs, rejection from his band members, and a mental breakdown overseen by a twisted therapist, Brian Wilson is a recluse, a broken genius where journalists don’t dare tread out of both respect and lament. Now producer-director Bill Pohlad wants to make a biopic of the revolutionary musicians’ life, with recent reports of There Will Be Blood actor Paul Dano having been cast as young Wilson. It was once reported by journalist veteran Nick Kent: “And this guy – less than ten years ago – he was the fuckin’ king of California. The whole culture – the surfing, the hot-rods, the music, you name it – he was on top of it all. He ruled it all, all this’ – he waves his hand, indicating all the palm trees and endless perfect gardens spread out before us across this golden state – ‘all this was once his personal kingdom.” One can’t help think of Macbeth; and the witches prophesy which drove him mad with supposed untouchable status; and feel a deep sadness and sense of loss.
Being blunt in my opinion, there is very little chance of the film living up to the expectations of Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys fans, and certainly not the people who knew him at the best, and then the soul-crushingly worst of times. Despite this, the names being thrown up for production: script by Oren Moverman, writer of the Bob Dylan biopic I’m Not There, and British musician Atticus Ross, who has previously collaborated with Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor on the soundtrack for film The Social Network, will give the film the best chance of scraping the surface of Brian Wilson’s experiences. There are two possible paths this film could take; an eccentric, Hollywood-style take on his life, or a gritty, honest insight into Brian Wilson’s life, shedding light on years of seclusion and internalised emotions. Hollywood glamour suits only some parts of Brian Wilson’s life, all the success and perks of being at the forefront of a scene. However, it is hard to imagine an accurate portrayal of Wilson’s early life; the regular beatings given to him and his brothers by their violent father, the emotional stresses of being the eldest, and the claustrophobic, draining nature of the family. These events have no doubt scarred Wilson, and you begin to wonder whether it is possible, or more poignantly, fair, to relive these moments, and make money off of them.
But that is the reason that biopics have generally always been and always will be popular. There is the assumption by the audience that they are being given access to unseen moments and untold emotions. It is very easy to forget that biopics are made; they are staged pieces based on real events, no film recalls someone’s life word for word, because it is not possible. Sometimes it is not viable either: at the end of the day, actors and all crew members need to be paid, giant companies want to be able to get their money back for the champagne at the premiere, so they have to choose what will sell and make people talk about the film.
“Someone said…that you could just make out the sound of him inside that claustrophobic room, weeping softly to himself, like an unloved little boy who’d recently experienced a particularly savage beating”. Brian Wilson has gone full-circle in life, from being an unloved little boy, to the success and idol status of The Beach Boys, and then the release of Pet Sounds; which confused and shocked the music world with its visionary, unheard-of sounds, and like a stereotypical mob, fans went out on the witch-hunt. Wilson has never been able to heal the inflicted wounds, and whilst I eagerly await the film’s release, the idea of it feels a little wrong; that even after all this time, some things are better left unsaid, out of respect for a fallen champion.”