The new Brian Wilson-based film, “Love & Mercy,” offers an unconventional portrait of Wilson (portrayed by both John Cusack and Paul Dano), the singer and songwriter for The Beach Boys. The film offers a rare and intimate examination of Brian’s work during the Pet Sounds sessions, the “Good Vibrations” single, and the Smile sessions.
The release of Pet Sounds in May 1966, solidified Brian’s and The Beach Boys place in music history, but Smile (recorded in 1966-1967) was shelved until a multitude of sessions were officially released in November 2011 on Capitol Records.
Most of the scenes set in the 1960s weave in and around the Pet Sounds sessions. The brief glimpses of Wilson’s studio prowess offer fascinating insight into The Beach Boys storied past, and Paul Dano’s Oscar-worthy portrayal of Brian during these scenes is unforgettable.
Engineer Mark Linett oversaw production on the Pet Sounds Sessions and Smile Sessions box sets for The Beach Boys, and has worked on and off with the real Brian Wilson since 1987. As fate would have it, Linett ended up being cast in the film as engineer Chuck Britz, next to Dano’s Wilson. In this exclusive, Mark shares his firsthand experience of assisting with set development, script suggestions and overall film impressions.
David Beard: How did you come to be involved on the “Love & Mercy” film?
Mark Linett: Bill Pohlad’s office asked for a meeting with me, because Melinda (Wilson) recommended me to supply raw music to Atticus Ross, and the things that were in the script that they were going to use in the film, as well as being a consultant to help recreate the studio scenes. I had a nice meeting with Bill and Atticus, and it was clear pretty early on that their intent was to make the studio scenes as realistic as possible. They wanted to spend time, effort and money to do that right. I got heavily involved in that…going to the prop house, and picking out things to rebuild the studio to make it look correct, etc.
I’ll watch a movie like “Jersey Boys” and the studio scenes are half right and they’re half wrong. The studio itself is pretty much good, but the control room looks like NASA, with too much equipment… including stuff that wasn’t around at the time.
It was really great that Bill and the film’s producers wanted the studio scenes to be as realistic as possible, which is why they had Darian Sahanaja find and hire musicians who could actually play the parts. I was also given a copy of the script, and went through and made some suggestions and corrections, on some things that weren’t as correct as they could be. It was really smart for the writer’s to use actual dialogue from the Pet Sounds sessions.
A few months into the planning they asked me if I would portray Chuck Britz, and they gave me a short audition just to see if I could be on camera or not… that wasn’t a problem, because I’ve done quite a few interviews, and have been in front of the camera. I only have about four lines. They cut the scene where Chuck replies to Brian asking about bringing a horse into the studio, where Chuck’s response was, “I beg your pardon?” We did shoot that, but they cut it from the film. The character was just going to be “Chuck the engineer,” but I asked if they would change the name of the character to Chuck Britz. Not because I wanted to ride on his coattails, but I thought he deserved to be identified… even though I’m shown as “Chuck” engineering a few sessions that he had nothing to do with, because they were cut at Gold Star. Funny, I haven’t seen anyone mention that yet. “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” was cut at Gold Star, so I know that Larry Levine was the engineer.
They ended up taking a bit of dramatic license with the scene for “Here Today,” regarding the talking being left on the record. In its original form the scene made it seem like Brian was totally off his rocker when he wasn’t. So I suggested some subtle changes.
In reality, the talking is there because it was a mixing error. The track wasn’t turned off during the instrumental break. It would be more interesting to explain why the bicycle horn on “You Still Believe In Me” is being used because – when it was cut – it was a childhood song. That’s Brian doing something for a specific reason, and I wish we could have spent more time just shooting the musicians recordings in the studio. That was something that was really interesting. To rebuild Western Studio Three, and then stand in that studio, to have it look like that, to sound like that, was pretty neat.
The whole sort of time capsule aspect of those scenes…being in that actual room…was pretty phenomenal. The attention to detail comes back into play. Putting the lights where they actually belonged physically (if you were going to be recording). The scenes where they’re doing “Good Vibrations”… those windscreens you see on the microphones… are the same kind that we saw used on the original session video from 1966. I found a pair of those up the street at Ocean Way, and we actually used the exact same microphones that were owned by the studio. That was just one more special touch.
DB: What can you tell me about Darian Sahanaja’s role in the film?
ML: Darian hired the players, got them up to speed, and was responsible for vocally coaching Paul Dano in his role as Brian. Darian also got the music together for the musicians.
DB: What did you appreciate the most about Bill Pohlad’s direction for this film?
ML: Well, I think all the way around the decision was made to make this film with a documentary approach… as opposed to a third-party drama. It was smart decision from the get-go. This way you get a better sense of what it might have been like. It was very nice experience. They made a film that a lot of people – not just hardcore Beach Boys fans – find entertaining and moving… and they like it.
DB: What version of “Love And Mercy” do we hear at the end of the film?
ML: That was taken from the Pet Sounds tour in 2000 at the Royal Festival Hall in London.
DB: When did you first meet Melinda?
ML: I remember first meeting her when Brian was working in my studio… after he got away from Landy. I remember her being in the studio when we were mixing – I think – “This Song Wants To Sleep With You Tonight,” but I didn’t really spend time with her until we worked on the Live At The Roxy album.
“This Song Wants To Sleep With You Tonight” ended up as the B-side for the “Do It Again” three-song CD in Europe; it was supposed to be the closing number for the “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times” documentary, but they used the demo of “Still I Dream Of It.” We worked on “In My Moondreams” around the same time.
DB: What were your initial thoughts when you first viewed the finished cut of “Love & Mercy”?
ML: I saw it in a small screening room with Brian and Melinda and some of their family about four months ago, and then my wife and I went to the premiere at the Academy Theatre, which is a really nice place to see a film. I must admit it was a bit odd seeing myself onscreen.
DB: Do you feel that the 1960’s scenes were fair to The Beach Boys legacy?
ML: I thought everything was portrayed very well… based on what I know, and have heard. Clearly, the intent was to be as accurate and faithful as possible… there’s always a slant to everything. You can’t say anything is 100% true, because it never is. It’s like scene where Brian and Melinda go to the Moody Blues concert. It’s a real subtle thing. You never see the band. I was there the day they shot that. They were in this big arena with three rows of people… they never actually show anything in detail on the stage (in the background). That was really smart. That way you don’t have something distracting away from the scene.
DB: When you’ve worked with Brian through the years, what has surprised you the most?
ML: I have never seen anyone record a background vocal like Brian. It’s like playing the tape back. He’d do a part, then he’d double it, then he’d triple it… and he never had to change anything. That’s the thing that could always impress me. He just bangs the stuff out that’s in his head and performs it so easily. That’s what he used to do with The Beach Boys by instructing each one of them.
The digital HD version of the film is available now, and the physical DVD will be released on Tuesday, September 15, 2015. The digital download of the soundtrack is available now, and the physical CD will be released on Friday, September 18, 2015.
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Love & Mercy on HD [digital download with Extras]
Love & Mercy: The Life, Love and Genius of Brian Wilson (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) [digital download]
Brian Wilson [official site]
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