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The True Story Behind The Film 'Love And Mercy'

Updated August 1, 2019 22.2k views10 items
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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.

  • It Started When Wilson's First Wife Hired Landy To Help Wilson With Mental Health Issues

    Photo: Brother Records / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    By 1975, Brian Wilson was disintegrating mentally. Since the mid-1960s he had been abusing drugs, gaining weight, and having panic attacks and breakdowns so severe he stopped touring with his fellow band mates altogether. He built a sandbox in his home to play his piano in and became known for public breakdowns.

    After nearly a decade of this behavior, his first wife, Marilyn, hired Dr. Eugene Landy to treat her erratic husband. Landy, a psychologist with previous show business aspirations, falsely diagnosed Wilson as a paranoid schizophrenic and, from that diagnosis on, seized control over the singer's life for almost the next two decades. 

  • Wilson Escaped Landy For A Year – After Which The Manager For The Beach Boys Rehired Him

    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Fair Use

    After a dispute over money, Landy was fired in 1976, but the termination didn't last for very long. After breaking free from Landy, Wilson returned to drugs, regained an excessive amount of weight, and divorced his wife. In 1983, Tom Hulett, the manager for The Beach Boys, rehired Landy, fearing for his client's well-being. Little did he know, Landy would inflict as much – if not more – damage on Wilson than he could have done to himself.

  • Landy Controlled Wilson With Drugs And Manipulation

    Photo: Love and Mercy / Lionsgate

    Wilson recalls that Landy was "stern" from the beginning, but as his power over Wilson heightened, so did his terrible actions. After being rehired by Wilson's manager, Landy began drugging Wilson to keep him in check. Wilson's second and current wife, Melinda Ledbetter, recalled the way Landy manipulated Wilson with drugs to achieve his own ends: 

    "Most of the time, Landy was giving him downers to keep him out of his hair... Around 1988, when Brian’s solo album came out, Brian had a lot of things to do. So Landy would give him uppers."

  • This Clip Of Wilson And Landy Shows The Controlling Nature Of Their Relationship

    Video: YouTube

    In this 1983 video, Wilson can be seen on the left, obviously influenced by some sort of drug. Landy sits to his right, a hand on his shoulder, but not in a loving way – Landy is practically gripping Wilson, physical evidence of the control the psychologist exuded over the singer. Landy talks for Wilson, who doesn't participate in the conversation and can barely keep his own head up.