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The True Story Behind The Film 'Love And Mercy'

Updated August 1, 2019 22.4k views10 items

For nearly 20 years, Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys was under the supposed care of a supposed doctor named Eugene Landy. In reality, Landy manipulated the singer with drugs and abusive, controlling behavior into becoming, essentially, a slave, controlled and exploited by his caretaker. Landy used Wilson to make an excessive amount of money, and he capitalized on the Beach Boys' fame to his own benefit. 

The 2015 film Love and Mercy depicts this period of Brian Wilson's life with incredible accuracy, and it gives insight into the distressing, previously untold story of Wilson's relationship with his manipulative therapist. Wilson himself has seen the movie – and commented on its eerily precise representation of his own troubles.

  • Landy Took Creative Control Over Wilson, Too

    Photo: Capitol Records / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Landy didn't just use Wilson to make a ton of money for therapeutic care (his services, which included hiring a staff to watch over the singer full time, cost $430,000 a year). Landy also manipulated Wilson into naming him a collaborator on Wilson's debut, self-titled album in 1988. For a time he was entitled to 25% of the copyrights to Wilson's song and credited as a co-songwriter on his album. 

  • Wilson Was Saved By A Car Dealer, Who Then Became His Wife, After He Handed Her A Note That Read: "Lonely, Scared, Frightened"

    In 1986, Wilson's life changed when he walked into a Cadillac dealership and handed Melinda Ledbetter a note that said "lonely, scared, frightened."

    Ledbetter and Wilson began dating, and Ledbetter noticed Wilson's odd behavior, eventually concluding that he was being drugged by Landy. In time, she even began fearing for her own life, recording conversations between herself and Landy just in case things went south. 

    In 1989, Landy (who had managed to make himself Wilson's legal guardian) forbade Wilson from seeing Ledbetter, fearing her influence. That's when Ledbetter contacted Wilson's family. In working together, they discovered a will that would have given the majority of Wilson's wealth to Landy. By 1992, Landy had been sued and forbidden from contacting Wilson, who went on to marry Ledbetter in 1995.

  • Landy Took Advantage Of His Relationship With Wilson In Order To Receive Star Treatment

    Before he became a psychologist, Landy wanted to be in show business, and it seemed Brian Wilson was his big break. As Wilson's caregiver, he began living the rock-star lifestyle, even more than Wilson, who had become nearly catatonic from the drugs Landy was forcing on him under the guise of a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia. 

    A reporter for Rolling Stone magazine in 1988 wrote about Landy's outlandish dress and pop-star-like hissy fits, the most notable of which occurred when Landy realized Wilson's label had sent a town car to pick him up from the airport instead of a stretch limo.  

    This same reporter also noted the insane amount of control Landy had over Wilson, recalling a devastating version of Wilson who "spouts out lines Landy has fed him like a robot" and "literally can't make a move without directions from Landy ." 

  • Landy Became Like A Controlling Father Figure To Wilson

    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Fair Use

    Part of the reason Landy was able to control and manipulate Wilson so easily was because he was very similar to Wilson's abusive father. Wilson's father was mentally and physically abusive. As a result, Wilson had no sense of how twisted his relationship with Landy truly was. Wilson regarded Landy as a father figure, and many people saw the parallels. 

    Wilson even noted in an interview that he was "scared" of his father, which could definitely have been how he felt toward Landy, whom he once described as "a very f*cked-up man."