Daniel Radcliffe dons a wig and grabs an accordion to get really ‘Weird’

Daniel Radcliffe and Weird Al Yankovic pose in a tango-like embrace for a portrait.
“I sort of had permission to take the earnest sweetness that is very much in Al [Yankovic] and channel that through this kind of demented, incredibly professional killer” for the parody film “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story,” says star Daniel Radcliffe.
(Chris Pizzello / Invision / AP)

Daniel Radcliffe was nervous about the release of “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story,” but it’s not what you may think. The English actor was concerned with what his in-laws would say. To be specific, the father of long-term partner Erin Darke who happens to be a very big “Weird” Al fan. “He really, really liked it, thank God,” Radcliffe says with a smile during a video call. “I’m safe to be part of the family.” Fitting, since he and Darke welcomed their first child together this year.

Directed by Eric Appel, who co-wrote with Yankovic, the tongue-in-cheek biopic was spun from a near decade-old viral “Funny or Die” sketch that saw “Breaking Bad” alum Aaron Paul playing the parody master. The film, available free via Roku Channel, amplified the premise, delivering a musical biopic parody that depicts Yankovic’s rise to fame with a hefty dose of celebrity cameos, including Rainn Wilson, Jack Black, Will Forte and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Then there’s Evan Rachel Wood as Madonna, who becomes romantically entwined with the accordion player.

“The only way to do a ‘Weird’ Al biopic is to make it satirical,” Appel says. “The whole vibe of the movie encapsulates who and what Al does, so we felt that was really the only way to tell his story.”


On the eve of his delightful sorta-fake, sorta-not biopic, ‘Weird: The Al Yankovic Story,’ we sit down with him to talk about the world accordion to Al.

Oct. 26, 2022

In playing the role of Yankovic (while wearing a big, curly wig), Radcliffe took in the musician’s body of work, watching such films as “UHF,” digesting songs and music videos, and talking to Yankovic, who was on set during production. “The Al that Eric and Al wrote in this script is such a twisted version of the real Al. I sort of had permission to take the earnest sweetness that is very much in Al and channel that through this kind of demented, incredibly professional killer.”

The “killer” Radcliffe is referring to is a climactic moment in the story where his character goes guns-blazing John Wick-style to save a kidnapped Madonna from super-fan Pablo Escobar. Sounds crazy? Yes, but it all pays off emotionally thanks to a cast that grounds the performances while never undercutting the idea that the movie is a satirical parody. “That was something Eric talked about during our first meetings about the script,” Radcliffe notes. “It only works if you’re not playing a kind of self-awareness of the joke or an ironic distance from what it has to be.”

Daniel Radcliffe holds an accordion while Rainn Wilson wears a top hat in a scene from “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story.”
Daniel Radcliffe and Rainn Wilson star in “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story.”
(Photo from TIFF)

As one might expect, Yankovic’s iconic song catalog is part of the story. Radcliffe performs “My Bologna,” “Eat It,” “Like A Surgeon” and “Amish Paradise,” to name a few. Although the actor only had to lip-sync (the actual songs would be dubbed in later), Radcliffe still belted his heart out on set. “I got the best of both worlds. I got to sing on set and if I was a ‘Weird’ Al fan and I was going to go see a ‘Weird’ Al movie to hear all these songs, I would want to hear them sung by Al and not some guy,” Radcliffe says. “And then it’s also funny watching Al’s voice coming out of my head.”

Appel shot the fast-moving production over 18 days with cinematographer Ross Riege, blocking scenes on the go for efficiency. “Both Ross and I came up from the same generation of filmmakers — a background that’s a little bit run-and-gun where you’re shooting and editing everything yourself,” says the director. “We had to make a lot of choices in prep to make our days. Our approach was to be as economical as possible with what we were shooting.”

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A shining example of their work is a pool party scene where Yankovic is challenged by radio personality Wolfman Jack (Jack Black) to parody Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust.” Among the crowd is a cultural who’s-who: Andy Warhol (Conan O’Brien), Divine (Nina West), Salvador Dalí (Emo Phillips), Pee-wee Herman (Jorma Taccone), Alice Cooper (Akiva Schaffer) and Queen bassist John Deacon (David Dastmalchian, who Radcliffe says steals the scene). The entire sequence that has ‘Weird’ Al coming up with “Another One Rides the Bus” on the spot was shot in an afternoon.


The urgency of the schedule was something Radcliffe felt comfortable in. “If there had been more time, I would have been nervous performing these songs,” says the actor. Even with the steady pace, Appel planned rehearsals prior to production. “We did get about a week of prep time with Daniel before shooting,” notes Appel. “But I think what captures the live energy of the performances is that we could only do them a couple of times, so it was almost like we were doing them live.” Radcliffe adds, “It saves so much time on set, we couldn’t have done it without [some rehearsal]. The music performances, the fight sequences, all that stuff we got to rehearse.”

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For Radcliffe, building chemistry with Evan Rachel Wood for their ‘Weird’ Al and Madonna characters was easy to do. “We have a lot in common starting out young. It gives you common ground and we just got along really well. The first scene we were doing was the crazy make-out stuff, which was honestly less awkward than other make-out scenes because the main object was not to make-out but to see if we could knock a painting off the wall. Evan is such an incredible actor and we both enjoyed the insanity of a shoot this quick. We both like that pressure.”