The upcoming movie Weird: The Al Yankovic Story is parody square. It supposedly tells the true story parody songwriter “Weird Al” Yankovic, but pretty much the whole thing is complete bullpucky. It’s a musical farce biopics that stretches the truth to tell a more engaging story. From what filmmakers have shown so far, it appears to be This is Spinal Tap meetings Anchorman.
Yankovic wasn’t at New York Comic Con in person, but he live-streamed into the packed panel Sunday night. He said he was actively engaged every day on set, helping to produce the film he co-wrote. Apparently, it was all hands on deck during the filming, which took place over an incredibly short period of time. “The whole 18 days of production was just so bizarre,” he told the assembled crowd. “We recreated moments that are just a little over the top. It was like watching a bizarre home movie.”
The film’s leads also showed an exclusive clip of the upcoming film to the attendees. It takes place at a pool party organized by Dr. dementia (Rainn Wilsonof The office fame), featuring several comedy stars filling the roles of late 1970s and ’80s entertainment major figures, including Divine (Nina West), Andy Warhol (Conan O’Brien), and – as Jack Black dressed out 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 lose respect for these big stars. Pulling out his fabled accordion, Al sings “Another One Rides the Bus”.
Apparently, getting all these big-name actors together in one place required Yankovic to run down his contact list and ask friends he’d made over the years if they’d be interested in dressing up for a day. Obviously, there were more than a few famous people in Hollywood willing to answer their phone.
It is symbolic of Weird Al’s legacy that the creative minds behind the film seem to be making a spoof of music biographies in the same vein as recent films such as Rocket man or Bohemian Rhapsody. Still, that doesn’t mean the actors were necessarily ready to let the silly nature of the anti-documentary get them a pass, at least according to their statements at the panel. Radcliffe, who wears a real mustache and fake front to look like the titular parody songwriter, said he was initially surprised to be cast as he bears little resemblance to Yankovic. That was until he read the script and learned that there wasn’t actually much about the movie that matched real life.
When Radcliffe was jokingly asked “So what did you do to prepare for this role, go to an accordion shop?”, his response was “Actually, yes” – and he explained how he got his hands on Yankovic’s prized instrument, so he could start practicing, the better it is not to be in the way of the fast film schedule.
Evan Rachel Wood, who plays Madonna, said she researched a ton of ’80s Madonna interviews; in this version, the pop icon seems to take Al down a spiral of drinks, 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 allegedly 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 the story reminds us, he released it in 1985, a year after her song.) Asked if the filmmakers were worried about what Madonna might think of her portrayal, Yankovic quipped, “Well, she’s not on my Christmas card list… we took this nugget of truth and expanded it into this whole psychotic arc that fills the entire rest of the film.”
Weird: The Al Yankovic Story premieres November 4 on the Roku Channel.
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