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Paul Dano on playing Brian Wilson and singing The Beach Boys' classics in 'Love & Mercy'

Paul Dano as Brian Wilson in
Paul Dano as Brian Wilson in "Love & Mercy."
Francois Duhamel

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The new film "Love & Mercy" tells the story of Brian Wilson, the troubled singer, songwriter and frontman of the legendary band The Beach Boys.

It's not a traditional biopic, though. The film takes two periods in Wilson's life— as a young man in the mid-60s in the band's heyday, and then during more trying times in the 1980s— and weaves them together.

Actor John Cusack plays the older Brian Wilson, and Paul Dano ("Little Miss Sunshine," "There Will Be Blood") plays the younger Wilson.

The film was made with the cooperation of the real-life Brian Wilson and his wife Melinda, and when the filmmakers set out to cast the role of Wilson in his younger years, Paul Dano was the only actor they had in mind.

Alex Cohen sat down with Dano to talk about taking on the role of Brian Wilson in "Love & Mercy."


On why he wanted to wait to meet Brian Wilson

"I just wanted enough time to give myself creative license. I felt immediately like Brian is too sort of honest of a person to try to mimic, that wouldn't be the right way to go. So I actually just needed some time to explore the music and learn to start playing it and singing it. 'Cause I knew that Brian was in his music and I felt like that, more than anything, was what was most important and is what brought me closest to him and to the character. I then did meet him, and what was important in that was touching base with his presence. You know, he definitely has some magic, and you can feel it."

On when he knew that Brian Wilson felt comfortable with him taking on the role

“Brian has got such a beautiful voice and such a big range and people love him so much, to let me play and sing in the film, you know, that was a challenge and a risk.  And I remember sending him and Melinda, I believe it was maybe me singing part of “You still believe in me" from Pet Sounds and they were really excited by it. And once I had heard that from them, then I felt like okay, I just have to now let myself fly, so to speak, and not be worrying about approval or anything like that.”

On the film's unique approach to portraying Brian Wilson's life

“What I love about the way that we approached the film is that I really think that we tried to look at Brian’s creativity and say 'How can we do this with the language of film what he did with the language of music?' Something that can go down smooth, but also be incredibly complex, you know, just like the music.” 

To hear the full interview, click the link above.