“Weird Al” Yankovic hopes that you have no idea where the line between truth and outrageous fiction lies is in the upcoming, fact-fudging biopic Weird: The Al Yankovic Story. “I hope this confuses a lot of people,” Yankovic told the New York Times in a joint interview featuring the singer and his movie doppelgänger, former Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe.
“We want to lead them down a path and think, Is this a real biopic? Is this the real story? The movie starts out pretty normal. Then it progressively goes way off the rails,” Al, 62, said of the film he co-wrote with director Eric Appel. Part of that plan involved casting the looks-nothing-like-Al actor Radcliffe, 33, who has taken a decidedly non-commercial route since hanging up his Potter invisibility cloak in 2011, playing beat poet Allen Ginsberg in Kill Your Darlings, Igor in Victor Frankenstein and a farting corpse in Swiss Army Man, as well as appearing in a number of off- and on-Broadway productions.
As evidenced by the over-the-top trailer that dropped last month in which a even-more-lascivious-than-usual Madonna cannot control herself around the “Another One Rides the Bus” singer, the Times refers to the film as “a wildly satirical, highly nonfactual” re-telling of Yankovic’s journey from a dorky teen accordionist to one of the world’s first, and only, global song satire superstars. For his part, Radcliffe told the Times he was “very, very into the idea” of playing Yankovic even before he read the script.
Already a fan — along with his longtime girlfriend, Erin Darke, who would play Al’s music during road trips — Radcliffe also liked that Weird let him continue the unexpected streak he’d been on since the Potter films instantly elevated him from unknown child actor to global superstar. “Whenever I get a chance to throw myself into something, I will,” Radcliffe said. “There was definitely a freedom in the version of Al that is in the script. And it is so insane.”
Because although the piece points out that the lanky, long-haired musician and the “compact” London-born actor bear no resemblance to each other in real life, on the set of the Roku original biopic (due out on Nov. 4) there was sometimes confusion when crew members came in search of “Weird Al,” when they were actually looking for Radcliffe. The solution? They started calling the parody master “Real Al” to clear any potential mix-ups.
“Every time I would walk by the ‘Weird Al’ sign on your trailer, I’d be like,” Al said as he mimed a comedically large double-take, “Oh, no, that’s not me.” The film got its start in 2010 when Appel wrote and directed a cheeky Funny or Die trailer for a nonexistent movie called Weird starring Breaking Bad‘s Aaron Paul as a party-hearty version of the singer.
“Weird Al” started playing the trailer at his shows, where some fans apparently thought it was an ad for an actual biopic. Even though Yankovic assured them it was a “gag,” after the recent success of Freddie Mercury (Bohemian Rhapsody) and Elton John (Rocketman) biopics, Yankovic started to think maybe the joke was on him. But, Al being Al, the parodist who memorably puts countless hours into finding just the right combination of oddball rhymes for his pop send-ups was annoyed at what he saw as liberally tweaked facts in those other films.
According to Appel, the initial pitch rounds to Hollywood studio found executives seemingly expecting a Naked Gun– or Scary Movie-style musical spoof that was more in keeping with such beloved Al hits as “Like a Surgeon,” “Eat It” and “White & Nerdy.” That’s why when Appel and Al sat down to write the script they decided to change facts “arbitrarily, just to change them.”
In fact, some of the fictions are so over-the-top that Yankovic said, “I’m amazed the lawyers let us get away with this movie, frankly… But they’re like, ‘Oh yeah, all public figures… go for it.’”
Watch the Weird trailer below.