Daniel Radcliffe: 'Al Yankovic Story' goes for laughs, not accuracy, realism

Singer, musician and actor "Weird Al" Yankovic attends the Midnight Madness screening of a biopic based on his life 'Weird: The Al Yankovic Story' on opening night of the Toronto International Film Festival on September 8. File Photo by Chris Chew/UPI
1 of 5 | Singer, musician and actor "Weird Al" Yankovic attends the Midnight Madness screening of a biopic based on his life 'Weird: The Al Yankovic Story' on opening night of the Toronto International Film Festival on September 8. File Photo by Chris Chew/UPI | License Photo

NEW YORK, Nov. 3 (UPI) -- Harry Potter icon Daniel Radcliffe says he was as surprised as anyone when he was asked to play the famed parody musician at the center of the comedy film, Weird: The Al Yankovic Story.

"I was like: 'Oh, that's really cool. But there's people who probably are closer physically to him,'" Radcliffe recently told the crowd at New York Comic Con.


"I was a little bit confused, but obviously intrigued. As soon as I read the script, I realized, that doesn't matter. That's not what we're doing. Accuracy and realism is not the full name of the game here," he added.

"It was so obvious in the script how much fun it would be -- the amount I was going to get to do singing and fight scenes and dancing. I got to do something crazy and new every day. It was a very easy 'yes.'"


To prepare for the role, Radcliffe said he quickly learned how to look like he was playing the accordion.

He also lip-syncs the words to some of Yankovic's biggest hits such as "My Bologna," "Eat it" and "Another One Rides the Bus."

"That is very much not me. You are listening to Al, as you should be," Radcliffe said. "We wanted the trope to be of the original person's voice coming out of the wrong head."

Eric Appel directed the film, which was inspired by a hilarious faux trailer he made 12 years earlier for Funny or Die.

Over the years, Yankovic played the trailer at his concerts, and people frequently asked him if the movie was real and, if so, when it was coming out.

In February 2019, after the success of music biopics like Rocketman and Bohemian Rhapsody, Yankovic emailed Appel and said he thought it was time to make a full-length movie loosely based on his unlikely rise to fame. It premieres on Roku Friday.

Yankovic said he and Appel were a huge fan of Radcliffe's work, but chose him mainly because he could balance the story's comedic and dramatic moments.

"It's a very specific tone we were going for," Yankovic said via satellite at the panel discussion.


"It's a comedy, obviously, but it needs to be really grounded. It needs to be played like it's some big Oscar-worthy biopic. Dan just had the right energy for it and he got it immediately."

Appel said Weird sends up musician biopics "with love."

"I love biopics, but they tend to play fast and loose with the facts," he said.

"Sometimes they take events that happened three years apart and squeeze them all into one scene for story purposes and it's like: 'Wow! What a monumental night when the song was written and the concert was performed and the breakup happened backstage.'

"That was the jumping off point for us with this -- taking all of those tropes of biopics and designing our movie around them."

Yankovic said a difference exists between biopics, which are meant to be entertaining, and documentaries, which are expected to be more historically accurate.

"I thought, 'If I do a biopic, I'm just going to have to throw facts out the window and just make it up from scratch,'" he laughed.

Shot in 18 days, the film features dozens of artists playing luminaries of the 1970s and '80s, such as Dr. Demento, Pee-Wee Herman, Oprah Winfrey, Grace Jones, Andy Warhol and Pablo Escobar.


"The 1980s were a blur to me," Yankovic said about which of the real-life celebrity interactions mirrored those on the screen. "It might have happened. I can't confirm it, though."

He said he cast one particularly star-studded pool party scene by calling everyone in his address book.

"I emailed a bunch of my friends and said: 'Hey, we're shooting this crazy pool scene in the Valley. Do you want to come out and do it for half a day?'

"And, thankfully, a bunch of people showed up and we were able to pull that off. I still can't actually believe that actually happened," he said.

Westworld actress Evan Rachel Wood said she burst out laughing when she was offered the role of pop music legend Madonna, whose song "Like a Virgin" Weird Al famously parodied as "Like a Surgeon."

"I saw Weird Al's name and I saw Daniel's name and then I read the script and it was already funny on the page," the actress said of the screenplay Appel and Yankovic penned together.

"I was already laughing, so I knew it was going to be amazing. Now I only want to do comedies. I've had a taste for blood and I want more."


Asked if he was concerned about how Madonna would feel about how she is portrayed in the film, Yankovic admitted, "She's not on my current Christmas card list. Her part in the movie is based on a very small nugget of truth. She actually is the person that suggested I do 'Like a Surgeon.'"

Wood said she became so accustomed to seeing Radcliffe wearing his Weird Al wig and handlebar mustache that it seemed strange when he appeared beside her at the Comic Con without them.

"If you can avoid fake facial hair, you should. That's advice for all you," he said, confirming he grew that mustache himself.

Wood said the first scene she shot with Radcliffe was one in which they were "making out furiously" and crashing into things all over the house.

"We would watch playback [footage] and we're dressed like Weird Al and Madonna and going, 'That's what that would look like,'" she said.

Yankovic was on the film's set every day to help out if the cast had questions or the screenplay needed a quick rewrite.

"When I look over and see Al laughing and giving the thumb's up, that's when it is time to move on," Appel said. "I got the Weird Al seal of approval."


Moments from the Toronto International Film Festival

Lily Tomlin attends the world premiere of "Moving On" at the Toronto International Film Festival in Canada on September 13, 2022. Photo by Chris Chew/UPI | License Photo

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