The upcoming film Weird: The Al Yankovic Story is parody squared. It supposedly tells the true story of the parody songwriter “Weird Al” Yankovic, but pretty much all of it is complete bullpucky. It’s a farce of music biopics that stretch the truth in order to tell a more engaging story. From what filmmakers have shown so far, it seems to be This Is Spinal Tap meets Anchorman.
Yankovic wasn’t at New York Comic Con in person but he live-streamed into the packed-to-the-gills panel crowd Sunday evening. He said that he was actively engaged every day on set, helping produce the film he helped co-write. Apparently it was all hands on deck during filming, which took place over an incredibly short period of time. “The entire 18 days of production was just so bizarre,” he told the assembled crowd. “We were recreating moments that are just a little bit exaggerated. It was like seeing some bizarro home movie.”
The movie leads also showed off an exclusive clip of the upcoming movie to con-goers. It takes place at a pool party hosted by Dr. Demento (Rainn Wilson, of The Office fame) that features numerous comedy stars filling out the roles of major entertainment figures from the late 1970s and ‘80s, including Divine (Nina West), Andy Warhol (Conan O’Brien), and—as Jack Black dressed as disc jockey Wolfman Jack put it—“the guy from Queen.” Daniel Radcliffe’s Weird Al has to come up with a song parody on the spot or else lose the respect of these major stars. Pulling out his fabled accordion, Al crafts the song “Another One Rides the Bus.”
Apparently, getting all these big name actors in one place required Yankovic to run down his contacts list and ask friends he’d made over the years if they’d be interested in dressing up for a day. Clearly, there were more than a few famous folks in Hollywood willing to answer their phone.
It’s emblematic of Weird Al’s legacy that the creative minds behind the film seem to be doing a spoof of music biopics in the same vein as recent movies like Rocketman or Bohemian Rhapsody. Still, that doesn’t mean the actors were necessarily ready to let the silly nature of the anti-documentary give them a pass, at least according to their statements at the panel. Radcliffe, who wears a real mustache and fake ‘fro to look like the titular parody song writer, said he was initially surprised he got the role since he bears little resemblance to Yankovic. That was until he read the script, and learned that indeed, there was little about the film that matched real life.
When Radcliffe was jokingly asked “So what did you do to prepare for this role, go to a accordion store?”, his reply was “Actually, yes”—and he explained how he got his hands on Yankovic’s prized instrument so he could start practicing, the better to not be a drag on that rapid filming schedule.
Evan Rachel Wood, who plays Madonna, said she researched a multitude of ‘80s-era Madonna interviews; in this version, the pop icon seems to take Al down a spiral of drink, drugs, and music superstardom. Of course, none of that happened in real life, according to Yankovic. Apparently, that whole aspect of the story was extrapolated from an offhand comment Madonna supposedly made to a manager, asking “I wonder when Weird Al is going to do ‘Like a Surgeon’?”—based on her hit “Like a Virgin.” (As history reminds us, he released it in 1985, one year after her song.) When asked whether the filmmakers were worried what Madonna might think about her portrayal, Yankovic joked, “Well, she’s not on my Christmas card list… we took this nugget of truth and expanded it into this whole psychotic arc that takes up the whole rest of the movie.”
Weird: The Al Yankovic Story premieres November 4 on the Roku Channel.
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