Bill Pohlad on his Brian Wilson biopic 'Love & Mercy'

Video | 24 Jun 2015

Director Bill Pohlad discusses new film Love & Mercy, which portrays the life and music of Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys.

Pohlad discusses how he approached the film, which sees both Paul Dano and John Cusack portray Wilson, and how he aimed to reflect the spirit of the Beach Boys songwriter's process while he was making music. We also hear about the experience of working with Trent Reznor collaborator Atticus Ross on Love & Mercy's score and how the duo arrived at an integrated soundtrack and composition.

Videography by Richard Ferguson.

Read the transcript from our interview with Pohlad here:

On Dano and Cusack's dual portrayal of Wilson: "It came from really wanting to reflect Brian's spirit and when he was making music in that era and throughout he's always wanted to break new ground and do different things and certainly that's what he was doing, he was bringing in new instruments, arrangements and, you know, harmonies and things that people really hadn't... more complex and things like that. It was a very free and creative time for him.

"So I think we wanted to reflect that in the way we made the movie and not be stuck with convention. So the first thing of course was these two strands intertwining. And the second thing is just deciding to have two different actors playing those two roles as opposed to one or ageing somebody up or ageing them down. So having two different actors and then, taking that even further and not having them co-ordinate their performance and I think that was just part of that overall feeling of not being slaves to convention, so we didn't want to have prosthetics or something to make them look alike or to make them look exactly like Brian.

"To me it was more exciting just to let them find this kind of inner Brian, if you will, and find it in their own way and hopefully the harmony of those two kind of separate performances is what creates the ultimate picture. Obviously it could have gone wrong and it could have been bad but thankfully with these two great actors it came out well hopefully."

On the film's score: "Sound and music is what we're talking about here, I mean, the things that Brian hears in his head.

"The harmonies and the orchestrations and the arrangements are part of his genius but he hears them all the time and he can't necessarily shut them off so that's part of his madness too if you will. And so to be able to explore that, to try to get into Brian's head was really important to me.

"So – we called them the 'mind trips' – we had written in to the script these times when you would go into Brian's head and hear this cacophony of sound and when I was thinking about how we realise those I thought about the Beatles' White Album, Revolution No.9 which seemed like the kind of thing that I could imagine, kind of dissonant and not a continuous melody but like a collage really.

"And so I guess when I went to meet people about potentially being involved in the project, Atticus Ross I think was the second or third person I met with and he got that right away and clearly with all that he had done up to that point was well suited to help to realise that kind of element. But then he also brought the score side of it, how do you create a score for a Brian Wilson film? It's hard not to be competing with Brian, and we didn't really want that.

"So it was his idea and kind of his motivation to take the original stems which we had access to, the original tracks from Brian's music and rearrange them, you know, put one strand from one track with another and kind of blend them and edit them in different ways so that you end up basically with a new composition, a new score, but it's really eighty percent Brian anyway, so it seemed the right answer."