Brian Wilson’s life has been chronicled in countless books, movies and documentaries over the years, but nearly all of them focus either on his 1960s heyday as the creative force behind the Beach Boys or the difficult decades that followed in which he struggled with mental illness, obesity, drug addiction and the pernicious influence of therapist Dr. Eugene Landy. The time period that started 20 years ago when he began touring as a solo artist and creating brilliant new music has largely been ignored, but a new documentary by director Brent Wilson (no relation) aims to correct that. The as-yet-untitled film offers unprecedented access into Wilson’s life and thoughts as he travels around Los Angeles with Rolling Stone Editor Jason Fine.
“It felt like a good time to look back,” says Brian Wilson. “I have so many memories in L.A. of growing up, all the good times with my band – we were just kids when we started, and of course memories of my brothers Dennis and Carl, who I miss so much.
“Over the years Jason and I have had a lot of fun times — just relaxing and listening to music, talking at the deli and cruising down to Malibu for sushi, so we got into that groove to make this movie,” he adds. “I hope it shows people the love I feel and the hope I have to share love through my music.”
The film also contains new interviews with Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, Jim James, Nick Jonas, Taylor Hawkins, Gustavo Dudamel, Jakob Dylan, Bob Gaudio and other artists influenced by Wilson’s music.
Brent Wilson began work on a documentary on the musician after speaking with him for his 2017 Doo-Wop documentary Streetlight Harmonies, but the initial interviews didn’t go well. “He almost had a physical reaction to me putting a microphone on him,” he says. “He’s hated being interviewed and he’s answered every question a million times. They were both 20 minutes of pain. He just wasn’t into it. After the second one I thought to myself, ‘Man, I’ve got no film here. I’m done. My career is over. This is it.’”
It was at that point that Brian Wilson’s publicist and manager, Jean Sievers, suggested that he speak with Fine since he’d grown close to the Beach Boys legend writing about him for Rolling Stone over the years. “Doing my research for the film I had read a lot of Jason’s articles about Brian,” says Brent Wilson. “The one I loved the most was Brian Wilson’s Better Days from 2015 where they drive around L.A. together and just talk. Visually, that’s what I wanted for this film. I wanted to hang with Brian for a couple of days.”
Wilson and his crew captured the musician hanging out with Fine at his favorite spots all over Los Angeles, along with footage of Wilson recording new music in the studio and playing on the road. “Brian has lived in Los Angeles his entire life,” says Fine. “Being there with him is such a cool experience because this is his town, and he’s got memories on every corner.”
In the car was an iPhone filled with all of Wilson’s music and other artists albums he loves most, and periodically he’d call for a random tune from his past and start talking about it. “He’d be like, ‘Do you have the Beach Boys’  album Love You?,’” says Fine. “‘I’d love to hear ‘The Night Was So Young.’ A lot of the music is not the stuff you’d think. It’s obscure stuff that he really identifies with.”
Time and time again, Wilson speaks about his brothers Dennis and Carl Wilson. “Especially when he hears their voices in the music, their loss really weighs heavily on his mind,” says Fine.
Contrary to many people’s misconceptions about Wilson’s mental state, he is eloquent, introspective and surprisingly funny throughout the film. “One of my goals for the movie was to find the real Brian Wilson,” says Brent Wilson. “That’s because Brian is a myth. There are songs about Brian. People make paintings of him and create movies about him. He’s a myth, but I don’t think the myth is particularly accurate.”
Unlike most music documentaries, it doesn’t attempt to present a linear narrative. “It’s more like an impressionist painting,” says Brent Wilson. “It’s definitely not a biographical film. It’s not linear in any fashion. It’s more of an impressionistic film with the music as the driving force that carries it through…I feel like we’ve got something different here. I’ve never seen a biopic like this before. I’m hoping it’ll be received for what it is, a beautiful, honest portrait of Brian.”
The documentary is currently finishing production and is slated for release in 2019.