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Interview: ‘Weird: The Al Yankovic Story’ Stars and Filmmakers Talk Adapting a Funny or Die Skit on Screen

Weird: The Al Yankovic Story is finally coming out on The Roku Channel this week. The film is a parodic biography of singer “Weird Al” Yankovic’s life, and doesn’t tell an accurate portrayal on how he became such a success. Daniel Radcliffe plays Yankovic and romanticizes many aspects of his life, including a manipulative relationship with Madonna (Evan Rachel Wood), confronting Pablo Escobar (Arturo Castro) and, most unbelievable of all, saying that “Eat It” is a 100% original song, and that Michael Jackson copied it and turned it into “Beat It”, instead of the other way around. It’s a funny premise, and was once a Funny or Die parody trailer with Aaron Paul as Yankovic. This is what was the basis of the movie, according to director Eric Appel during a virtual press conference on the film:

“This whole project started as a fake movie trailer that we made over a decade ago for Funny or Die. I had this idea to do a biopics that would play so fast and loose with the facts. Traditionally, the subject of the biopic has been dead for 20 years. So it’s a little harder to fact-check. And I thought it would be really funny to do a fake biopic trailer about a real person who is alive now and then just completely make the story up. And I had never met Al before.

We have a mutual friend in Patton Oswalt and so I reached out to Patton. I said, “You know, I feel like I have this idea. I feel like it’s kind of like an idea that Al may want to do himself or something. I just want to get his blessing to do this.” And Patton wrote me back and he said, “I spoke to Al, and he actually loves the idea. He wants your email address.” And later that day, I’m at a coffee shop with Weird Al, watching biopic trailers on a laptop. And that was how the whole thing started.”

On wanting to play “Weird Al,” Daniel Radcliffe expressed that he was particularly drawn by Appel and Yankovic:

“There was so much about the script. It was exciting when I read it. First and foremost, the way I try to prioritize my career now is by going “What do I think I’m going to have the most fun making?” And this was so obvious that it would be an incredibly fun thing to shoot because every page is so [amazing]. You’ve got a fight scene, and then a pool party, and then a dance number and a song, and you get to do something different every day and be pulling on all these different things. It was incredibly exciting.

I got the email first, and it was like, “You’re in the Weird Al movie biopic, and you will be playing Weird Al.” My first reaction was “Oh, that’s incredibly cool. But there’s got to be people that are physically closer to him.” And then, I read the script, and a few pages into it I’m like, “Oh, it doesn’t matter. Yeah, let’s, let’s do this.””

On collaborating with Daniel Radcliffe to capture the singer’s spirit, Yankovic explained that he tought the actor how to play the accordion, a moment he described as “surrealistic”:

“It was surrealistic, to say the least, to walk into a building and ask “Oh, who’s your appointment today? Are you going to give giving Daniel Radcliffe accordion lessons?” It harkens back to one of my first jobs. I was an accordion teacher as a part-time job between high school and college. I would teach little kids how to play the accordio. Actually, Daniel caught on much quicker than the kids. He was a quick learner.

I just still can’t believe how well he pulled it off. Because he didn’t need to do that. Eric and I told him “We can cut around you. You don’t really need to learn how to play the accordion.” But it was kind of a point of pride to him. He really wanted to make it look like he was playing because I told him that I’ve seen a lot of people in movies and TV playing the accordion and I can tell it’s fake. He wanted to make it look real, especially for the three or four people that know he’s actually playing the right buttons.”

On giving her own spin to Madonna, Evan Rachel Wood explained that she wanted to embody the feeling of young women who would dress up as the Queen of Pop back in the 1980s:

“Who hasn’t wanted to put on the early ’80s Madonna get-up? I mean, it’s so iconic! I never wanted to take the wardrobe off at the end of the day. It never got old. I wondered if was ever going to be like, “Oh, I am at work. I’m gonna dress up like Madonna.” Never not once. It was always fun. I just danced around to the music. And people called me Madonna. When I came to set it was like “Madonna is on her way. Madonna is in her chair. Madonna needs a sandwich.” I could see people getting visibly flustered. And I was like, “Wow, this really huge, being able to wear the skin for a few hours out of the day.”

We knew it was a parody, but we still wanted to give really good performances. Eric and I discussed what the tone was going to be. But I told him upfront that I am going to take this very seriously: “I’m going to give you my best Madonna, the best I can do you know what the amount of time that I have.” So I knew that if I could sort of hook the audience in the beginning and root the character in reality then it gave me room later on to just fly completely off the rails with her, which was my approach.”

Weird: The Al Yankovic Story releases on The Roku Channel on November 4.


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Written by Maxance Vincent

Maxance Vincent is a freelance film and TV critic, and a recent graduate of a BFA in Film Studies at the Université de Montréal. He is currently finishing a specialization in Video Game Studies, focusing on the psychological effects regarding the critical discourse on violent video games.

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