The actress Vera Farmiga has signed on to play Fleetwood Mac’s Christine McVie in an upcoming drama about the last years of Dennis Wilson, during which the hard-living Beach Boy came into his own creatively with his “Pacific Ocean Blue” album of 1977. McVie and Wilson, who will be portrayed by Aaron Eckhart, were romantically involved from 1979 to 1981 – their tempestuous relationship being the stuff of West Coast soft rock lore.
Wilson, who was a long-term alcoholic and consistent cocaine user, died at the age of 39 on December 28, 1983. He had been drinking all day and drowned while diving into 58-degree water wearing only cutoff jeans and a face mask to recover objects he had thrown overboard from his yacht three years before.
“The Drummer,” as the film is called, is being made by the husband-and-wife team of director Randall Miller and producer Jody Savin, who co-wrote the screenplay. Their previous films include “Marilyn Hotchkiss’ Ballroom Dancing & Charm School” (2005), “Nobel Son” (2007), and “Bottle Shock” (2008). Shooting is scheduled to begin in Southern Georgia on June 15.
Cuts from “Pacific Ocean Blue” (Wilson’s only solo record) and previously unreleased tracks by him and the Beach Boys will be heard in the film. There’s no word yet on who will play Brian Wilson.
The film’s production coincides with a year of celebrations for the legendary surf music combo. The Beach Boys formed in 1961 but will be celebrating their fiftieth anniversary — with a 50-date international tour and a new studio album, both featuring the long-estranged Brian — beginning April 27.
Ex-Chicken Shack singer Christine Perfect, who was born in Lancashire, England, in 1943, joined Mac in 1970, having already married its bass player John McVie. The couple divorced following her affair with the band’s lighting director during the 1976 “Rumours” tour. She was introduced to Wilson by drummer Mick Fleetwood when Mac was recording “Tusk” in 1979, the year of Wilson’s aborted second solo album, “Bamboo.” At the time, Wilson, who would eventually marry five times, was on his second marriage to Karen Lamm, former wife of Chicago keyboardist Robert Lamm.
Fleetwood would later write of McVie that she “almost went mad trying to keep up with Dennis, who was already like a man with twenty thyroid glands, not counting the gargantuan amounts of coke and booze and pills he was always shoving into himself.” The couple’s relationship – part tortured, part musically inspirational – involved grand romantic gestures by Wilson and car crashes, caused by Wilson’s drunk driving, in McVie’s doomed Rolls Royce.
Unable to cope with his addictions, she ended the relationship. They had not seen each other for about two years when McVie’s secretary called her to say Wilson had drowned. She had written (with Robbie Patton) “Hold Me,” the 1982 Mac hit single about her affair with Wilson – as testified by the Beach Boys-style harmonies.
Farmiga, who was Oscar-nominated for her performance in “Up in the Air” (2009) and made an impressive directorial debut last year with “Higher Ground,” will sing duets with Eckhart in “The Drummer” and play piano; she is classically trained. Eckhart has been doing intensive drum training and studying vocals and piano.
Bruce Greenwood previously played Wilson in a 1990 television movie. Which begs the question, why has there never been a movie about Fleetwood Mac's journey, a saga rife with two tragic LSD crackups, a hippie-era religious conversion, and a celebrated case of inter-band adultery?