Daniel Radcliffe interview: ‘Weird: The Al Yankovic Story’
“It’s always so rewarding when you make something and you love it,” declares Daniel Radcliffe about portraying the larger-than-life satirist Weird Al Yankovic. For our recent webchat he adds, “The whole experience of shooting this movie was so special and fun, and then to put that out into the world and for it to inspire the same feeling in the people who watch it; you can’t really ask for anything more than that as an actor or a performer. So yeah, the reactions that the film’s gotten have been amazing.” Watch our exclusive video interview above.
Radcliffe stars in “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” as a fictionalized version of the singer and accordionist, who co-wrote the screenplay with director Eric Appel. The comedy is loosely based on Yankovic’s life, parodying the biopic formula with tongue firmly planted in cheek, much like the musical parodies that Yankovic is famous for. Radcliffe plays the musical satirist during his heyday of the 1980s, with Yankovic also co-starring in a supporting role as real-life record executive Tony Scotti. The movie boasts some impressive supporting performances from Evan Rachel Wood as Madonna, Rainn Wilson as Dr. Demento and Toby Huss and Julianne Nicholson as his estranged parents, with cameos from A-listers like Quinta Brunson as Oprah Winfrey, Lin-Manuel Miranda as a doctor, Patton Oswald as a heckler, Michael McKean as a sleazy MC, Will Forte as Ben Scotti, Conan O’Brien as Andy Warhol, Nina West as Divine and Jack Black as Wolfman Jack.
While the idea of producing a Weird Al biopic began as a joke (it started out in 2010 as a mock-dramatic three-minute “Funny or Die” trailer that played during costume changes at Yankovic concerts over the years), the film took on a life of its own and was eventually greenlit by upstart VOD streamer Roku and filmed over a madcap eighteen days in early 2022. While it’s somewhat of an unconventional awards contender (as it hilariously satirizes awards-bait musical biopics), the film has been a hit with various industry awards groups this year, with Radcliffe recently winning the Critics Choice Award for Best Limited Series/TV Movie Actor.
“My initial reaction on hearing that they were asking me to play Al, I was a fan of Al but at that point I was like, that’s very cool, but I am not physically the first person that I think of to play him! Then I started reading the script and I saw what the joke was and what they were doing in parodying the whole genre. It’s so well executed and thoroughly explored,” Radcliffe explains about taking on the role. “There are enough kernels of truth in things early on, so the first half of the movie can sort of loosely function as a biopic. And then at a certain point, things take a hard turn and go into something truly insane,” he says. “There is permission in the version of Al that we’re doing for it to be a loose interpretation and a capturing of his spirit rather than a completely accurate impersonation,” the actor reveals about his approach. “It was much more just like absorbing as much of his music and watching old recordings of him, or his show back in the nineties and trying to channel what you could through the through the version of Al that was in the script. I did also learn to play the accordion, because, you know, you’re playing with it all in the way out movie and I can report, it’s really, really hard!”