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Love & Mercy: Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson Faced Mental Illness and Drug Abuse

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love-and-mercy_TheWatershedThe new Brian Wilson movie, “Love & Mercy” hit theaters on Friday, June 5.  The feature, which stars John Cusack as Brian Wilson, focuses on the famous Beach Boy singer’s struggle with mental illness and drug addiction in his young adult years.

Love & Mercy

“It brought back a lot of memories of when I took drugs and things, so it was hard,” the Beach Boy said of the movie Love & Mercy. “I thought it was cast really good and it was really factual and a really great experience to watch.”

The film captures Wilson’s life during the peak of his career as part of the Beach Boys, while highlighting the love story that came about with his current wife Melinda.  All in the midst of this, the singer came to a crushing emotional defeat when mental turmoil struck as a result of his drug use..

Wilson had abused drugs such as LSD to calm the voices he was hearing.  “One of the things that obviously attracted me to the whole story, besides Brian’s music itself, was what Brian suffers from and trying to explore that a little more,” Bill Pohlad, director and producer of Love & Mercy explained. “I remember Melinda telling me he hears these arrangements and these orchestrations and harmonies and things in his mind that are super-complicated, and nobody else can understand them until he kind of executes them, plays them out.”

Message on Mental Illness and Addiction

With that being said, both the movie and the true life story of Brian Wilson reveal that even individuals who struggle with challenges like battling a mental illness can still hold potential and creative genius to inspire other individuals in society.  In fact, actor John Cusack, who played the older Wilson in the film, mentioned in an ABC interview how he was amazed that when he went to visit the star, he saw dogs running all throughout the home and all he could think was that Wilson actually made it through the struggle.

Paul Dano, who played the younger version of the famous Beach Boy described him as “complicated.”  In an ABC interview, Dano stated, “I think when we become adults we build up an extra layer of skin to help deal with the world.  I don’t think Brian ever really was able to grow that extra layer so he’s just one of the most open beautiful spirits that I’ve ever known.”

As far as the relationship Wilson had with Melinda, it was complex.  “She fell in love with someone who was very damaged and had issues,” explained Elizabeth Banks, who is the actress portraying Melinda in the film.  “I wanted to really try to understand where the purity of her love came from. They’re perfectly mated and matched. And I felt that in talking to her and meeting her and understanding her… how she came to the relationship.”

The reality was that it was only over the years after having first met Brian that it would later be revealed to Melinda that he was struggling with a mental illness where he heard voices and took drugs as a way to cope.  “I didn’t know how tough it would be [to watch it],” explained Melinda herself of the Brian Wilson movie.  “We talk about it and you know about it but to watch it is a whole different ball game.”

Currently, both Brian and Melinda Wilson reside together in Beverly Hills with five children.  Brian, who will be turning 73 this June, gave one final word about the theme of his life story, “My message would be, obviously: don’t take drugs…Drugs aren’t good for you. That would be the message.”

Mental illness and drug addiction can often be co-occurring disorders.  Being diagnosed does not guarantee a miserable life.  It is possible for sufferers to lead fulfilling and peaceful lives.  Are you suffering from active addiction to alcohol and/or drugs?  Contact The Watershed for help today.  You don’t have to suffer any longer, so call now.

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