When it was first announced that Daniel Radcliffe was to play “Weird Al” Yankovic in a biopic, you could sense people weren’t sure what was happening. Was it a brilliant casting choice, or a strange attempt at “prestige” filmmaking? You’d think the trailer for Weird: The Al Yankovic Story would have clarified things, but some still didn’t understand if they were witnessing a very weird Oscar grab or a very Weird parody.
Of course, that sort of earnestness is exactly what’s made “Weird Al” such a lasting legend — and what’s made Weird one of our top films of 2022.
“I kind of wish we weren’t doing all the publicity for it because we had to give away some secrets and kind of the gist of the concept,” “Weird Al” tells Consequence during a November Zoom interview a few weeks after the film’s release. “Because I wanted people to watch the movie thinking maybe for the first half an hour, maybe this happened, maybe this is true. And then like, ‘Oh, obviously this is not true!'”
There are a few factual nuggets in the basic story, but the plot — including a destructive relationship with Madonna and a battle with Pablo Escobar — all comes from the cooky, creative minds of Yankovic and filmmaker Eric Appel. That’s why Radcliffe was the perfect choice for Al: He was someone who knew exactly how to walk outlandish material straight down the line.
Calling Radcliffe a “phenomenal actor,” Yankovic pointed to the actor’s recent work as a proof that he was right for the part. “He’s really gone to some dark places and done some really intense things, and we wanted somebody who could play the comedy but first and foremost who could play this ridiculous material very seriously.”
Which isn’t to say he’s completely escaped his most famous role, as Yankovic noted during a bit of onset hesitation. “When we were doing the performance of ‘Amish Paradise,’ he was a little reluctant to wear the Amish glasses because they looked to him a little like Harry Potter glasses. And we’re like, ‘No, man. That’s kinda the thing; that’s what I’m wearing in the video. You gotta.'”
Thankfully, Radcliffe was game to fully embrace the Weird — or at least the version of it that’s presented in the film. As for Yankovic, he had his own contributions to this fictionalized interpretation of himself, namely re-recording some of his classic tracks for use both in the film and on the accompanying soundtrack (out now via Legacy Recordings). He contributed a new original, as well, which despite the lyrics’ claim isn’t actually eligible for an Oscar (“[Roku] would rather have it win Emmys because, in their words, they’re ‘a TV company, not a movie company'”), but it was the chance to bring revisit hits “Another One Rides the Bus” and “My Bologna” that really excited him.
The re-recording was necessary to match the audio to the live performance scenes in the film, which allowed Yankovic to tweak the original compositions. “For ‘Another One Rides the Bus,’ some of the toys and little noise makers and sound effects were a little different than the original recording because we were trying to match picture,” he explains. “For ‘My Bologna,” when I did the original bathroom recording, I thought it was too slow. And when we did the album version, I thought it too fast. So this new version is exactly right in the middle. It’s the right speed, just right.”
Elsewhere in the chat, Yankovic talks about his recent performance at Carnegie Hall and the plethora of gut-busting Weird cameos — including revealing why some of the actors from the original 2010 Funny or Die trailer appear in different roles or not at all. Hear everything “Weird Al” has to say about Weird by watching the interview above.
Weird: The Al Yankovic story is available to watch for free on the Roku Channel. The soundtrack is out now on all formats via Legacy.
Note: If you’re having trouble seeing the player above, watch via YouTube.