New documentary dives into life of Beach Boys co-founder Brian Wilson

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While Brian Wilson’s life has been written and talked about in detail in numerous books, documentaries and movies over the year, most of them focus on his 1960s heyday as the creative force behind the Beach Boys. If not this, then they have focused heavily on Wilson’s difficult decades in which he struggled with mental illness, obesity, drug addiction and the damaging effect of his therapist Dr. Eugene Landy.

A new documentary directed by Brent Wilson (no relation) seeks to delve into the time period when Brian Wilson started touring as a solo artist and creating brilliant new music about 20 years ago – a story that hasn’t yet been told in much detail.

The as-yet-untitled film offers unprecedented access into Wilson’s life and thoughts as he travels around Los Angeles with Rolling Stone Editor Jason Fine.

“It felt like a good time to look back. I have so many memories in L.A. of growing up, all the good times with my band – we were just kids when we started, and of course memories of my brothers Dennis and Carl, who I miss so much. Over the years Jason and I have had a lot of fun times — just relaxing and listening to music, talking at the deli and cruising down to Malibu for sushi, so we got into that groove to make this movie. I hope it shows people the love I feel and the hope I have to share love through my music,” says Brian.

The film will also contain new interviews with Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, Jim James, Nick Jonas, Taylor Hawkins, Gustavo Dudamel, Jakob Dylan, Bob Gaudio and other artists influenced by Wilson’s music.

The director began work on the documentary after speaking with Brian for his 2017 Doo-Wop documentary Streetlight Harmonies, but the initial interviews didn’t go well.

“He almost had a physical reaction to me putting a microphone on him. He’s hated being interviewed and he’s answered every question a million times. They were both 20 minutes of pain. He just wasn’t into it. After the second one I thought to myself, ‘Man, I’ve got no film here. I’m done. My career is over. This is it,’” Director Brent Wilson said.

Brian’s publicist and manager, Jean Sievers, then suggested Brent speak with Jason Fine since he’d grown close to the Beach Boys legend writing about him for Rolling Stone over the years.

“Doing my research for the film I had read a lot of Jason’s articles about Brian. The one I loved the most was Brian Wilson’s Better Days from 2015 where they drive around L.A. together and just talk. Visually, that’s what I wanted for this film. I wanted to hang with Brian for a couple of days,” Brent said.

The director and his crew captured the musician hanging out with Fine at his favourite spots all over Los Angeles, along with footage of Wilson recording new music in the studio and playing on the road.

“Brian has lived in Los Angeles his entire life. Being there with him is such a cool experience because this is his town, and he’s got memories on every corner,” Fine said.

They carried an iPhone in the car filled with all of Brian’s music and other artists albums he loves, so throughout the journeys he would call for a random tune from his past and start talking about it: “He’d be like, ‘Do you have the Beach Boys’ [1977] album Love You? I’d love to hear ‘The Night Was So Young.’ A lot of the music is not the stuff you’d think. It’s obscure stuff that he really identifies with,” says Fine.

“One of my goals for the movie was to find the real Brian Wilson. That’s because Brian is a myth. There are songs about Brian. People make paintings of him and create movies about him. He’s a myth, but I don’t think the myth is particularly accurate,” Brent said.

Unlike most music documentaries, the new film won’t attempt a linear narrative: “It’s more like an impressionist painting. It’s definitely not a biographical film. It’s not linear in any fashion. It’s more of an impressionistic film with the music as the driving force that carries it through…I feel like we’ve got something different here. I’ve never seen a biopic like this before. I’m hoping it’ll be received for what it is, a beautiful, honest portrait of Brian,” finishes Brent.

The film is currently finishing production, and is expected to be released later this year.