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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘Dreamin’ Wild’: Movie filmed in Spokane about the Emerson brothers secures a distributor, with release set for August 4

By Ed Condran For The Spokesman-Review

Donnie Emerson’s dream will finally hit the screen across the country.

Roadside Attractions has scored the North American rights to the film “Dreamin’ Wild,” which was shot in Spokane and Fruitland, Washington, in 2021. The movie will be released Aug. 4 throughout the United States.

“Dreamin’ Wild,” the true story of musician brothers, singer-songwriter Donnie Emerson and drummer Joe Emerson, who hail from the Stevens County community of Fruitland, is also the title of the sibling’s debut album.

The Emersons’ father, Donald Emerson Sr., mortgaged his farm so his teenage boys could make a record in 1977. However, the album failed to find traction and slipped through the cracks of history. A blogger in 2008 discovered “Dreamin’ Wild” and raved about the forgotten gem, sparking a re-release and national attention.

The story about what happens when a teenage dream is realized at middle age is unique and stars Academy Award-winner Casey Affleck (“Manchester by the Sea,” “A Ghost Story”) as Donnie Emerson and Zooey Deschanel (“New Girl,” “500 Days of Summer”)” as his wife, Nancy Sophia.

“I’m on cloud nine,” Donnie Emerson said Thursday. “We’ve been waiting and waiting for this to happen.”

The Emerson camp, which held a “Dreamin’ Wild” screening at the Magic Lantern in September, thought a deal would be struck months ago. However, it’s typically a process with Hollywood deals.

“It’ll be worth the wait,” Donnie Emerson said.

It was fitting that Donnie Emerson’s manager, Rob Harder, was in a movie theater Thursday when he received word.

“I was told that I would hear about an agreement (from “Dreamin’ Wild” director Bill Pohlad) when everything was set, but I learned about it in the trade publications just like everyone else did,” Harder said while calling from Las Vegas. “It was funny that I found out while I was watching ‘John Wick (4).’ I’m so excited to see what happens since Donnie is getting offers. We’re waiting on record deals.”

The film features original music by Donnie Emerson.

“It’s going to be interesting to see where this all goes,” Harder said. “It’s an incredible time for Donnie and the entire Emerson family.”

Joe Emerson, who is portrayed by Walton Goggins (“Django Unchained,” “Predators”), is wondering when a Spokane premiere will be slated.

“I imagine that Spokane will be the first or among the first to show the film,” Joe Emerson said by phone from his Fruitland home. “That will be amazing.

“I’m just so excited that we’re talking about release dates. This all took longer than expected. I was just at home here and I saw the announcement on the internet. I’m just happy for Donnie and our parents.”

Don Sr., 91, and his wife, Salina, 89, caught the film at the Magic Lantern.

“It was such an emotional experience for all of us,” Joe Emerson said. “My parents just loved the movie. I’m just so glad that this is finally happening for my parents, who are fortunately still with us.

“They now know that the movie will be out in August in at least 500 major theaters around the country. It’s exciting for them. They love what Bill Pohlad did with this film.”

Pohlad uses the same technique he employed when making the biographical drama about the Beach Boys co-founder and leader Brian Wilson. Pohlad uses two different actors to portray Donnie Emerson – Affleck and Noah Jupe (“A Quiet Place”) – and Joe Emerson – Goggins and Jack Dylan Grazer (“It”). Affleck and Goggins are featured throughout most of the film. Beau Bridges portrays Donnie Emerson Sr.

It was all worth it after all for Emerson Sr. to mortgage the farm 46 years ago.

“No one could make up what has happened in our lives,” Joe Emerson said. “But we lived it, and now people can see it this summer.”