Generally speaking, Daniel Radcliffe and Weird Al Yankovic can never be confused for one another. Yankovic is a slim, long-haired man from Southern California who rose to fame as a great pop music parodist and accordion wiz. The more petite, London-born wunderkind of the “Harry Potter” films, Radcliffe has since advanced into a varied acting career.
However, this past winter, their shared presence on the set during the production of the new film “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” occasionally caused misunderstanding. When cast members requested “Weird Al,” Radcliffe was the person they had in mind. Though some additional confusion was unavoidable, they eventually referred to the real Yankovic as “Real Al” for maximum clarity.
“Every time I would walk by the ‘Weird Al’ sign on your trailer, I’d be like” — he paused and acted out a dramatic double take — “Oh, no, that’s not me,” Yankovic recalled in a recent interview with Radcliffe.
The intention of “Weird” is to impact viewers when Roku broadcasts the biography on November 4. The story of Yankovic’s rise from nerdy teenage accordionist to a beloved performer of hits like “My Bologna,” “Another One Rides the Bus,” and “Eat It” is outrageously satirical and largely nonfactual, enhanced with tales of sex, drugs, and jungle combat that never actually occurred to him.
The song “Weird,” which Yankovic and the film’s director, Eric Appel, co-wrote, “I hope this confuses a lot of people,” Yankovic stated. “We want to take them on a journey that makes them wonder: Is this a true biopic? Is this the actual account? The start of the film is very typical. Later, it gradually veers off course.
The casting of Radcliffe, a passionate Yankovic supporter who bears little resemblance to the musician and had no intention to emulate him, is essential to realising that concept.
Despite all the attention he draws to it, Radcliffe stated he enjoyed “Weird” because it gave him the freedom to pursue his post- “Potter” career in more unusual parts. Even if the title limited how Radcliffe could explain the movie, playing Yankovic, at least as portrayed, was the exact role he was searching for.
The actor said, “There was nothing weird — know, it makes the word ‘weird’ hard to use in other settings — there was nothing unusual about it,” adding that he was “very, very into the concept” of playing Yankovic even before he had read the screenplay.
They claimed that the energy of their initial video call, which took place in the winter of 2020, when Yankovic was attempting to get Radcliffe to play the lead role in the film, was comparable. When I admire something and want to do it in a meeting, I sometimes have a big problem, Radcliffe admitted. “I gush in different ways. I am incredibly repetitious.
Yankovic, who has 14 studio albums under his belt since 1983 but has only appeared as a star in one film, the cult comedy “UHF,” said that “Weird” was a passionate endeavour for him.
Aaron Paul (“Breaking Bad”) portrayed a hard-partying version of Yankovic in Appel’s tongue-in-cheek trailer for an imaginary film, also titled “Weird,” which was published on Funny or Die and went viral in 2010.
When Yankovic played the fake trailer at his performances throughout the years, some followers thought it was an honest trailer for a movie.
People would say, “You ought to make an entire movie,” Yankovic claimed. “Nah, it’s a trailer, I said. It is what it is intended to be—a joke.
But more recently, Yankovic started to seriously consider making a feature-length adaptation of “Weird” after the popularity of other rock biopics like “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Rocketman.”
In addition, he took offence at what he perceived as needless adjustments to the real-life rock musicians’ biographies shown in these other films. He cited a scenario from “Rocketman” in which Elton John chose his new last name on the spur of the moment after spotting John Lennon in a Beatles painting.
Yankovic continued, slightly increasing his voice, “Everybody who’s an Elton John fan knows Long John Baldry inspired it. They believed that no one was familiar with Long John Baldry.
A first attempt to market “Weird” to Hollywood failed, as studios appeared to anticipate a film that more overtly lampooned other biopics, much like Yankovic’s songs mocked other top hits. People predicted it to be spoofier than it is, more “Naked Gun” or “Scary Movie,” according to Appel.
He then sat with Yankovic in a coffee shop as they watched the trailers for other biopics and searched for recurring narrative motifs. They co-wrote a play in which, in the words of Yankovic, “facts are modified arbitrarily, just to modify them.”
Despite what “Weird” might suggest, Yankovic did not write. “My Bologna” in a flash of inspiration while out of the body. He added, “I did record it in a bathroom, not a bus terminal. We changed it. Why? Purely out of habit—what those biopics do.
They still needed a starring guy for their film, and Radcliffe came to mind because they knew he liked comedic artists like Tom Lehrer.
It turned out that Radcliffe also enjoyed Yankovic’s music, as did his long-term girlfriend, the actress Erin Darke, who had been a fan for years and frequently listened to Yankovic’s albums while driving.
(Radcliffe excitedly whispered on their initial video call about “Weird,” “I was like, If this happens, my girlfriend is going to be so thrilled.”)
More importantly, Radcliffe claimed that “Weird” gave him the creative freedom he had been looking for in movies like “Kill Your Darlings,” in which he played poet Allen Ginsberg, and “Swiss Army Man,” a dark comedy in which he played a highly adaptable corpse.
Radcliffe declared, “Whenever I have the opportunity to hurl myself into something, I will.”
“Maybe only Paul Dano riding me like a Jet Ski in ‘Swiss Army Man’ comes close to the weirdest thing I’ve ever done,” Radcliffe remarked of the “Weird” movie sequence in which the fictionalised Yankovic emerges from a massive egg while high on drugs.
He continued, “The version of Al in the script had more freedom. He turned to Yankovic and said, “You didn’t murder many people. And that is so insane.
Not much, Yankovic retorted. Very little.
Radcliffe joined the project, and Roku decided to air it. It was a very tight deadline for a project in which he had to perform several musical numbers (lip-syncing Yankovic’s original vocals) and carry out a few action sequences. Still, the company only agreed to 18 days of filming.
One of those scenes on “Potter” might take sixteen days, Radcliffe remarked.
To learn his lines and choreography and to prepare physically, he used his preproduction time to do so. Since most of it was scripted, he admitted, “I did end up realising I am shirtless in the Weird Al movie more than anything else I have done.
And once the cameras began to roll, everyone tightened their grip. Radcliffe said, “The Covid of it all was terrifying, especially for Eric and me.” There is no backup plan; we need to stay healthy.
The comedian Patton Oswalt, who had been cast in a pivotal role as Dr Demento, the radio host who gave Weird Al Yankovic some of his earliest airtime, broke his foot even before filming got underway. Despite some speculation that Oswalt might be able to play the role while using crutches, Rainn Wilson (“The Office”) stepped in on the short notice.
The “Westworld” actress Evan Rachel Wood, who plays Madonna, gave a passionate performance that helped the production. However, in this story, the Material Girl is a cunning, self-centred seductress who is only using Yankovic in the hopes that he will parody one of her songs.
“I’m amazed the lawyers let us get away with this movie, frankly,” Yankovic said. “But they’re like, Oh, yeah, all public figures — go for it.” (A representative for Madonna did not respond to a request for comment) (A representative for Madonna did not respond to a request for comment.)
Appel said Yankovic and Radcliffe were vital for setting a professional tone while everyone worked at breakneck speed. And during postproduction, Appel continued to communicate closely with Yankovic while the musician was on a North American concert tour.
“When we were mixing the movie, he was on Zoom with us. All day long, from a different city every day,” Appel said. “He’d text me between songs: ‘I think the backing vocals on this song need to get bumped up a tiny bit.’ Then I’d start to respond, and he’d say, ‘Oop, gotta go onstage.'”
“Weird” is arriving at an awkward moment for the streaming industry. Which is in a period of reassessment and reduction after years of expansion, and for Roku. Whose stock took a beating after the company missed earnings goals this summer? While this might seem to put increased pressure on the movie to deliver an audience. The filmmakers could only shrug their shoulders and say they were grateful to have made it.
“This is a new thing for them,” Yankovic said of Roku. “Hopefully. This will do well for them.” Radcliffe said he had encountered more curiosity about “Weird”. Then he did for the Harry Potter reunion unique he appeared in for HBO Max this past January. Radcliffe told Yankovic, “I still can’t believe people weren’t jumping at the chance to film your movie.” “Now they’ll regret it,”
Honest Al and the Weird Al of “Weird” would now part ways. Radcliffe was getting ready for the New York Theater Workshop’s revival of “Merrily We Roll Along.” Yankovic was scheduled to perform in Toronto that evening to continue his concert tour. (We’re down to the wire now; just three more months, he wryly observed.)
But their time spent working together on “Weird”. And Radcliffe’s unique chance to learn the accordion from Yankovic would forever tie them together. At least enough for him to pass as a skilled musician in a movie.
When playing Al, Radcliffe remarked, “to not give it a genuine, honest endeavour seems to be a squandered opportunity.”
(As an exception, he singled out Mary Steenburgen, who he said: “can truly play.”) Yankovic responded, “Every time I see anyone play the accordion in TV or film, it’s always a disappointment.” “Dan put in the effort,” he said. “I’m not sure if he could perform alone.”
In a flash, Radcliffe answered, “No way, I could not. But I’m good at performing the left hand on “My Bologna.” He laughed and said, “Doing them both simultaneously is a non-starter. I learned the pieces I needed for the songs, on the one hand or the other.”