The Dennis Wilson biopic film, The Drummer may have found their Songbirds. Variety reports Vera Farmiga (Higher Ground) will play Christine McVie of the Bristish/American band Fleetwood Mac and star opposite Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Knight) who will play Dennis Wilson, drummer/singer/songwriter of the Beach Boys. The Drummer follows Wilson’s last six years of his life when he produced arguably some of the finest work in his career. McVie and Wilson’s love affair lasted from 1979 to 1981. It was turbulent and tarnished by Wilson’s alcohol abuse but despite their rough tides, they made some of rock and roll’s greatest music for both their respected bands and solo albums. Wilson died tragically at age 39 in 1983, drowning in Marina Del Rey after he dove into sea drunk, trying to retrieve belongings he had thrown overboard three years prior.
Both actors will sing and play their instruments as they will perform several duets together in the film. Farmiga is a classically trained pianist while Eckhart has been long training for the role, working with vocal coaches to capture the spirit of Wilson’s damaged but soulful sound. He is also learning how to play both the drums and piano. Eckhart may have to learn how to surf as well since Wilson was the only Beach Boy to do so.
Wilson’s solo album, Pacific Ocean Blue was released in 1977 and was one of the quintessential albums of the late 70s including moody, melancholy hits like: “River Song,” “Rainbows,” “Time,” “Farewell My Friend,” “You and I” and the funkier tunes, “Dreamer” and “Pacific Ocean Blues.” It was celebrated posthumously and was later re-released with additional previously unreleased songs for another solo album he had been working on called Bambu. McVie would be inspired by Wilson on some of the Fleetwood Mac songs she wrote and co-wrote such as “Hold Me,” from the Mirages album.
The Drummer is written and produced by the filmmaking pair of Randall Miller (director) & Jody Savin (writer) whose last film, Bottle Shock became a indie fave at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival starring Alan Rickman and Chris Pine exploring the wine-making world of Napa Valley and California. Bottle Shock had a nice pace to it, and a really good rhythm once the story started rolling. While Bottle Shock had some space to have moments of levity, I’m interested to see what Miller and Savin come up with the troubled but inspiring relationship of Wilson and McVie. Wilson’s children, Carl and Jennifer are serving as co-producers as well, along with Eckhart. Whether or not that alters the accuracy of the story remains to be seen.
We have good faith that The Drummer will have high expectations as both leads have the look and the talent to make the film memorable; although with any music biopics–especially ones where the actors choose to sing and perform themselves–it will be the musical moments that will mark the film a success or not. However, while music biopics need those scenes to stand out, it will be Savin’s ability to balance Wilson’s final years with honesty while finding a compelling story to tell for the screen.
Eckhart has always been able to sell his characters and if it’s hard to imagine him with long hair and a beard, let’s remember he was the very supportive boyfriend in Erin Brockovich and a Harley-riding teddy bear. Farmiga has so far impressed audiences with her versatility. Look for Farmiga in last year’s high concept sci-fi film, Source Code and in 2008 she was Oscar-nominated for Best Supporting Actress in Up in The Air. Filming for The Drummer will begin on June 15 after Eckhart has completed I, Frankenstein.