In the late 1970s, Alfred Matthew Yankovic, known by his moniker Weird Al, emerged onto the music scene as a master of song parodies on radio’s “Dr. Demento Show” — and his legacy continues to reverberate worldwide. With such massive hits as “Eat It,” a riff on Michael Jackson’s “Beat It,” and “My Bologna,” a nod to the Knack’s “My Sharona,” Yankovic has earned five Grammy Awards and sold more than 12 million albums. Fresh off his latest 133-date tour, the musician’s life is now the subject of Eric Appel’s biopic, “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story,” which stars Daniel Radcliffe in the eponymous lead role and bows Nov. 4 on The Roku Channel.
What’s it like to watch your life turned into a biopic?
It’s a lot of fun. I’m very excited for people to see it. I will say that the biopic takes a few creative liberties. It’s not 100% accurate. I’m afraid people are gonna start changing my Wikipedia entries to make it more and more in line with a movie — so they might want to hold off on that.
Were you influenced at all by other biopics — say, Howard Stern’s “Private Parts”?
I liked “Private Parts,” myself. I don’t know if that was any kind of inspiration for this movie. In fact, people were saying, “How come you didn’t just play yourself in the movie like Howard Stern?” And it’s like, it’s OK to have an early-30s Daniel Radcliffe playing early-20s me. But yeah, I think early-60s Al playing early-20s Al probably wouldn’t fly.
Daniel Radcliffe is fantastic in the role.
Absolutely. Eric and I were sitting around, and we were trying to figure out who would be a good person to play me in the movie. And we generated a list of maybe half a dozen or so actors that we thought could pull it off. And the name that we kept focusing on was Daniel’s, because we just thought that he had the right attitude and the right energy for the movie. Daniel is amazing at comedic acting as well as dramatic acting. And we definitely needed somebody who could do both. Because even though it’s a comedy, we don’t play it like a comedy. We play it like a very, very serious Oscar-worthy Hollywood biopic. And Daniel had to be able to pull off those dramatic moments, which he does. We’re both thrilled that Daniel was open to doing the role. And as we predicted, he absolutely nailed it.
Was it difficult deciding which songs ended up in the movie?
Well, there are a lot of Weird Al hits that didn’t make the movie because we were mostly focusing on the very early part of my career, which meant songs that I wrote between 1979 and 1985. So we kept that timeline pretty much and did most of the hits from that era. Although at the end of the movie, we throw in “Amish Paradise,” which is from 1996. And that’s just because at that point in the movie we were like, nothing matters. Facts don’t matter. We’re just going to throw anything out there. So we just made that part of the chronology. That’s what Hollywood biopics do.
Were you on set during production?
I was on set every single second that the cameras were rolling. I’m the co-writer of the movie, I’m one of the producers of the movie and I’m the subject of the movie. I wanted to make sure that I was available in case anybody needed me for a quick rewrite. Or if Daniel needed somebody to show him, like, where to have his hands on the accordion. The whole thing was very surreal, but it was thrilling. We kind of captured lightning in a bottle because it was an 18-day shoot. And it was an incredible amount of material to get through. And I can’t believe we pulled it off.
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