Paul Dano is the soft spoken but oft-buzzed about young actor who’s already been great in films like “Little Miss Sunshine” and “There Will Be Blood.” Now he’s just been signed to play Beach Boy Brian Wilson in “Love and Mercy,” about the life and times of the troubled genius behind America’s answer to the Beatles. “Love and Mercy” is set to be directed by first timer Bill Pohlad, the money man who’s been funding Terrence Malick’s latest chapter of films, and whose family comes from Minnesota Twins fame. (I wish he’d reconsider; producers rarely make good directors even when their hearts are in the right place.)
Dano was very excited about his new role when I ran into him last night at the opening of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” on Broadway. “I have to learn to play the piano,” he told me. “And I have to work on my singing.” Dano said he plays guitar, so he’s on top of that. And he doesn’t seem daunted by the keyboards. “I can play chords already, and I know enough to get by.” But he’s really going to work on it.
(UPDATED And CLARIFIED) “Love and Mercy” is the name of a late Brian Wilson song from his 1988 solo debut album. At the time, Wilson was still under the sway of his Svengali, Dr. Eugene Landy, now deceased. Dano will play young Wilson around the time of the recording of “Pet Sounds” in the mid 1960s. Wilson will also be depicted around the time in the late 1990s when he was finally freed from Landy’s clutches. Depending on how it’s written and who plays the older Wilson and the character of Landy, the movie could be very interesting. I met Dr. Landy at Wilson’s “autobiography” launch in 1996, and he was one scary guy. The fact that he had Wilson under his thumb was made abundantly clear.
Chuck Klosterman wrote in the New York Times in 1996: “If Landy wasn’t around, Wilson was shadowed by two musclebound assistants. (When Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac tried to work with Wilson in the late ’80s, he called these henchmen “surf Nazis.”) Over time, Wilson took to referring to Landy as “my master” and turned over to him the reins of his semiresurrected career. Landy (who managed the jazz guitarist George Benson during the 1960s) began writing Wilson’s lyrics and taking 50 percent of his earnings, plus a monthly $35,000 fee. He became the beneficiary of the musician’s will. He produced Wilson’s 1988 solo record and engineered Wilson’s ghost-written autobiography, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice — My Own Story,” much of which lionized the brilliance of Dr. Eugene Landy. (Later, Wilson would admit that he didn’t even read the book he supposedly helped write.)”
Producers of “Love and Mercy” are looking for someone to play Wilson– who thank god is still very much alive and active–in those years.
PS This is a total non sequitir– but if you’re in New York this weekend and you love good music– Garland Jeffreys plays tonight at the Highline Ballroom, 8pm; and Peter Asher does his one man show at the Iridium Jazz Club on Sunday at 3pm and 8pm.