Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions have acquired North American distribution rights to Love & Mercy, a new biopic of famed Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson. The acquisition took place shortly after the film made its world premiere at the ongoing Toronto Film Festival. Bill Pohlad directed the musical biography which features Paul Dano (Prisoners) and John Cusack (High Fidelity) as the younger and older iterations of Wilson, respectively. Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games) and Paul Giamatti (Sideways) round out the cast. Lionsgate and Roadside won an a heated bidding war after the movie attracted interest from several other distributors, including Fox Searchlight and Sony.
Scripted by Michael A. Lerner and Oscar-nominated screenwriter Oren Moverman (who has some experience in crafting films about enigmatic musicians – he co-wrote the unconventional 2007 Bob Dylan biopic I’m Not There), Love & Mercy relates Wilson’s story, chronicling the Beach Boys founder’s rise as a musical artist and his struggles with mental illness and substance abuse. The film also observes Wilson’s work with controversial psychologist Eugene Landy (played by Giamatti), a complicated relationship that bordered on exploitation. While the film seemingly echoes the traditional formula used in other biopics about troubled musicians (think Ray and Walk the Line), it has received strong notices and word-of-mouth while premiering at Toronto.
Additionally, the performances of Dano and Cusack are drawing particularly favorable reactions. Love & Mercy appears notable for a change of pace for Dano, the talented actor of films of Little Miss Sunshine and There Will Be Blood fame. In recent years, the young actor has more or less been typecast in more villainous supporting parts in films like 12 Years a Slave and Prisoners.
Also notable is that Love & Mercy was directed by Bill Pohlad, who as a director only has one other credit to his name (the forgotten 1990 drama Old Explorers) but as a producer and financier has put together a crop of some of the most notable films in the last decade (including Academy Award-winning titles like Brokeback Mountain and 12 Years a Slave.) Pohlad was nominated for an Oscar for producing the 2011 Terrence Malick film The Tree of Life. Love & Mercy looks like it will signify a significant step for Pohlad into the world of directing.
No specific release plans have been unveiled as of yet.