Paul Dano Jams With Brian Wilson at the L.A. Release Party for 'Love & Mercy'

Megan Mack
Brian Wilson and Paul Dano perform at Roadside Attraction's "Love and Mercy" DVD release and music celebration with Brian Wilson at the Vibrato Jazz Club on Oct. 12, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. 

Brian Wilson spread good vibrations at the DVD release party Monday night for Love & Mercy, the Bill Pohlad-directed biopic about the Beach Boys singer's life, music and struggle with mental illness.

Held at Herb Alpert’s Vibrato Grill Jazz club in the Bel Air neighborhood of Los Angeles, the party started with a screening of the film and ended with a rousing, joyful 35-minute set by Wilson and his 10-piece band, which includes fellow Beach Boy Al Jardine.

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Art imitated life as Paul Dano, who plays a young Wilson in the film, hopped on stage to join Wilson to sing “You Still Believe In Me,” while Elizabeth Banks, who portrays Wilson’s wife Melinda, grabbed her real-life counterpart to dance to “Fun Fun Fun.”

Wilson was in fine spirits throughout the performance, often introducing the tunes: “Here comes a really good song from Pet Sounds,” he said before playing “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” or telling the audience when to stop clapping during Good Vibrations (not to mention gently chastising the band for starting the song too fast).

Though billed as as an event to “celebrate the DVD release and music” of Love & Mercy, given that the DVD came out a month ago, the evening additionally served as an unofficial kick-off to awards season. There has been Oscar talk around the film, specifically for Dano’s performance, as well as John Cusack’s portrayal of an older Wilson.

 

“You have your dreams,” Pohlad told Billboard of the Oscar speculation, “but it really is about trying to make a movie that we’re all proud of and that people will embrace in some way. It feels like we achieved that. The people who have seen it seem to be really passionate about it. I can’t say that the awards never play into my mind, but it’s about that kind of satisfaction first.”

Pohlad admits that he was initially surprised when film distributor Roadside Attractions told him of the plan to release the film in the summer instead of during fall awards season “because everybody’s programmed to go in the fall for the awards,” before agreeing, “It [felt] more true to go with the summer instead of being super strategic for the awards.”

And Dano says “everything” about playing Wilson intimidated him in the beginning. “First of all, it’s not just all the love that people have for Brian, but all the love that is in him. He has a lot to give as a person. The music is one thing and that’s exciting and scary," he explained. "The mental illness is exciting and scary as an actor.”  Dano, who practiced singing for more than six months to prepare for the movie, says “as hard as it was, it was probably the most fun I’ve had acting. It was a true gift.”

The exhilarating studio scenes, filmed in the same studio where Pet Sounds was recorded, were the most thrilling Dano said, in part because he got to ad lib with the professional musicians. “Bill had two 16-millimeter cameras and I listened to so many hours of sessions and knew how Brian worked,” he says. “We did some scenes scripted, but then [Bill] just cut me free and I’d go around and work with people and we’d build and sing and they’d film it.”

For Banks, having Melinda Wilson’s blessing made her job easier. “I just felt gratitude that she gave me her life, that they gave us their story and that they’ve been so generous with everything," the actress said. "We know we didn’t get everything right. We know they have a memory that’s different than what we did and yet, they’re like ‘it’s all good.’ They’re artists too.”

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As grateful as Pohlad is about the positive reception to his film, he’s also pleased that it can help serve as a gateway for a conversation about mental illness. Up next for Wilson is a Nov. 4 benefit concert in Tyson’s Corner, Va., for the 10th anniversary of Give An Hour, a non-profit that provides free mental health services to military personnel and their families. Wilson and Love & Mercy are part of Give An Hour’s national campaign to promote the five signs of emotional disorders and de-stigmatize mental illness. Dano will also appear at the fundraiser.

Brian Wilson’s set:

“California Girls”

“Surfer Girl”

“In My Room”

“Dance, Dance, Dance”

“Wouldn’t It Be Nice”

“God Only Knows”

“You Still Believe In Me” (with Paul Dano)

“One Kind Of Love”

“Good Vibrations”

“Surfing USA”

“Fun Fun Fun”

“Love & Mercy”