The Real Story of How the Weird Al Movie Scored Fake Cameos
“Weird Al” Yankovic has made a lot of friends. Toiling away in show business for 40 years will do that, especially when you do a lot of critically ignored but publicly beloved work.
Late-night talk show hosts and musical theater icons will sing your praises on national TV while podcast presenters and underground comedy icons will wax rhapsodic about you to the Los Angeles Times, wondering aloud why you don’t have a Peabody Award just yet.
Indeed, in an industry where everyone acts like your friend and few are, the pop parody icon was able to pull together a murderer’s row of talent for Weird: The Al Yankovic Story.
Dropping today on the Roku Channel, the movie is very, very loosely based on the accordion player’s life and stars one of his bold-faced pals, Daniel Radcliffe, in the title role.
The film also marks a big return to cinema for Yankovic, who starred in 1989’s UHF and has been, by his own admission, gun-shy ever since. UHF is a cult classic now, but at the time it was a commercial failure.
Being on a streaming service takes off the pressure of worrying about opening weekend box office numbers. “In my first email to [Weird director and cowriter Eric Appel] when we decided to work on the movie I said, ‘I don’t want to come back after 33 years and have another box office bomb,’” Yankovic says.
Not That Getting On A Streamer Was Easy. Yankovic And Appel Actually Pitched It To Quite A Few Services, But Only One Bit.
“Eric and I had written a really good, funny, smart screenplay and Daniel Radcliffe was attached, so we thought, ‘There’s going to be a bidding war,’” Yankovic says. “Nobody wanted to whip out their checkbooks except for Roku.”
In Weird, Radcliffe plays Yankovic as a tortured artist kept away from the accordion as a child and mostly ignored until he stumbles on a funny little song about lunchmeat.
He’s spurned by the music establishment, of course, but the artsy underground falls in love with him—as does Madonna—and Movie Al ends up becoming mega-famous, mega-drunk, and mega-dickish as he struggles to find his place in the world.