Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, an uproariously entertaining comedy disguised as a music biopic, is a full-on parody in the same vein as This Is Spinal Tap and Walk Hard. Which is perfectly meta, since its subject, “Weird Al" Yankovic, is the greatest musical satirist of our times.
What makes Weird all the more entertaining is that not everyone is getting the joke(s). After the premiere of the film’s first trailer, which depicts Yankovic (Daniel Radcliffe) as your typical hard-partying, destructive rock star (IRL he doesn’t drink, smoke and is famously drama-free) who carries on a torrid love affair with Madonna (Evan Rachel Wood), internet searches skyrocketed for “Weird Al and Madonna” as perplexed viewers thought they missed the scandalous hookup.
So how much of Weird is actually true?
“All of it,” deadpans Wood (watch above). “Start to finish.”
“100%,” Radcliffe agrees. “It’s kind of insulting that you’d even ask the question.”
But ask director Eric Appel, who co-wrote the screenplay with Yankovic (based on a fake trailer that went viral on Funny or Die in 2010 and an updated version that skewers more recent biopics like Bohemian Rhapsody), and you get a much different, much more accurate answer.
It’s 3% factual, says Appel.
For instance? Um… Yankovic did have parents. And he plays the accordion… And yes, he recorded songs like “My Bologna,” “Like a Surgeon,” “Amish Paradise” and “Eat It” (though in the movie, it’s Michael Jackson who rips off Weird Al by releasing the reactionary “Beat It”).
Even the casting of Radcliffe is part of the gag, with the Harry Potter alum having blue eyes (Yankovic’s are brown), being much shorter in real life, and generally bearing no resemblance to his subject.
“I knew Al and knew his music, and obviously knew what he looked like,” Radcliffe says. “So when they asked me, I was like, ‘Isn’t there someone closer to him?’ I was very flattered but didn’t quite understand. And then when I read it, I was like, ‘Oh, I get it.’ That’s not what we’re doing.”
“He’s not an exact physical doppelgänger for me,” Yankovic laughs. “It wasn’t about his physical looks. What matters is his energy, and his chops. He had the right kind of attitude for this. He had the right kind of sense of humor. He had the right kind of dramatic acting chops. The whole package just made him so appealing to me that I thought, ‘This is the guy.’”
Adds Appel: “[Radcliffe] carried an entire movie franchise for a decade, as the lead character. And then the choices that he made after Harry Potter are just so crazy and fun and funny and weird. And yeah, I admit, he’s a very weird choice to play Weird Al if this was the true story about Weird Al. But in this movie that we made, there is no one that could play him that is isn’t Daniel Radcliffe. He’s so perfect.”
— Additional reporting by Lyndsey Parker (watch more with Yankovic here); video produced by Kyle Moss and edited by Schuyler Stone.
Weird: The Al Yankovic Story premieres Friday on the Roku Channel.
Watch the trailer: