How Weird: The Al Yankovic Story Aspired To Be Like One Of Weird Al's Songs [Exclusive]

How Weird Al Yankovic approaches parody is markedly different than how many other artists use pre-existing material for comedy. Rarely is his aim to mock the song he is reinventing, which is how most people approach parody. Sure, occasionally the two are linked, such as making fun of Kurt Cobain's mumbly vocals with "Smells Like Nirvana," but the lyrical content of his songs almost never has anything to do with the original pieces of music. The links between "Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace" and Don McLean's "American Pie" or "The Brady Bunch" and Men Without Hats' "Safety Dance" basically don't exist. What Weird Al is really parodying is the self-seriousness of music.

Yankovic takes the formal structure of these popular songs and changes the lyrics to make them about something silly, like food, television, or menial tasks. The musicianship displayed is still top notch, as good as any other "regular" musical artist, but his target is to make you laugh rather than have you deeply reflect on your life. From my perspective, the two are equally as fulfilling artistic expressions.

So, when it came time to make "Weird: The Al Yankovic Story," the "biopic" of the master parodist starring Daniel Radcliffe, Yankovic and his director/co-writer Eric Appel looked to harness that same intention from the music and apply it to the feature film.

'Playing at the top of their emotional intelligence'

Much of the work of a film director is tonal control. Making sure everyone is on the same page is crucial for delivering a picture that feels consistent and unified. With comedy, that can be even more difficult. For "Weird: The Al Yankovic Story," the goal from Eric Appel was to play the film as real as possible and having the lunacy exist with that framework, as Weird Al's parody songs also do. Appel spoke with /Film's Ethan Anderton about how he and the whole cast and crew hoped to capture the tone of Yankovic's music:

"This movie lives and dies by this tone. It's played very straight. All the performances are super grounded, everyone's playing at the top of their emotional intelligence, and it's going to be these absurd ideas. Almost like a Weird Al song. It sounds just like the real song, but the words are different. We want this to feel emotionally just like a real dramatic biopic, but the words are different. So whenever there was a joke or a gag that we chopped, that took you out of the drama of a moment that kind of needed the drama, [we cut it.]"

This picture will inevitably draw comparisons with Jake Kasdan's brilliant "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story," which succeeded in obliterating the conventions of the music biopic. "Weird" isn't as interested in tearing down the genre. It's not a harsh movie. Instead, it uses the biopic format to be able to go off on its own strange pathways that somehow cohere to a satisfying whole. Weird Al uses the familiar to go to an absurd place, and the film about him does exactly the same thing.