In Brent Wilson’s documentary about Brian Wilson (no relation), Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road, the director was trying to capture a different side of the Beach Boys singer. But their first interview together didn’t go well.
So the director came up with a bold idea. He got in touch with Rolling Stone editor Jason Fine, a longtime friend of the singer. Then he fitted a car with cameras and a microphone. And he had Fine and Wilson drive around together for seven or eight days, just talking.
“There are numerous documentaries. There’s a feature film, there’s three television movies, there’s numerous books and essays on Brian,” the director told People this month. “There’s a saying that when it comes between the truth and the legend, print the legend. And Brian has become legend. So with my film, I wanted to show people Brian, the man. Not Brian Wilson, the myth.”
Brian Wilson Documentary Tackles Some Tough Subject Matter
At various points in his life, the singer suffered from depression and schizoaffective disorder as well as drug and alcohol addiction. He also developed a codependent relationship with the psychologist Eugene Landy, later disgraced and de-licensed, who practiced a radical form of therapy called “24-hour therapy.” (According to the Los Angeles Times, the California Board of Medical Quality Assurance charged Landy with “grossly negligent conduct” and the sexual abuse of a female patient.)
In the documentary, the musician talks about Landy. He talks about his abusive father. He even talks about being 311 pounds and having to get in shape. All difficult topics. But those discussions weren’t forced on him, the director insists. They came up organically as Wilson was chatting with Fine.
“Jason and I decided pretty early on that we wouldn’t go any place Brian didn’t want to go,” the director said. “If he didn’t want to talk about something, we just weren’t going to talk about it. We had this Hippocratic Oath that we took, which was do no harm. That was really important to us. So all of those moments that are in the film that are, I think, painful for Brian, are moments that Brian wanted to talk about.”
Wilson Never Badmouths Anyone, Even Those Who’ve Wronged Him
They ended up gathering roughly 70 hours of footage and distilling that into the documentary. The film is now playing in select theaters and on streaming platforms. And at the end of making the documentary, the director said he had one takeaway: Brian Wilson “doesn’t have the capacity to say anything bad about anyone.”
“When you see the film, you see that Eugene Landy was such a traumatic person in his life,” the director said. “Yet, in the film, Brian can’t bring himself to say anything bad about him. He just doesn’t have it in his heart. In the film he even gives Landy credit for helping him lose weight and getting off of cocaine and quitting cigarettes and getting him in shape.”
“Not only will he not say anything negative about Landy or anyone, he gives credit to them,” he added. “As abusive as his father was, he talks about how he instilled in him this sense of competition and this work ethic. So even in those negative spaces, I think you see the light in Brian.”
Fans of the Beach Boys will no doubt welcome this opportunity to gain a little more insight into the storied singer. And it seems there’s plenty of interesting material for students of human nature, as well.