The upcoming movie Bizarre: the story of Al Yankovic is the parody squared. It supposedly tells the true story of the parody songwriter “Al Weird” Yankovic, but pretty much everything is completely bullpucky. It’s a musical joke biopics that stretch the truth in order to tell a more engaging story. From what the filmmakers have shown so far, it seems to be It’s Spinal Tap meets Presenter.
Yankovic wasn’t at New York Comic Con in person, but he streamed live into the gill-packed panel crowd on Sunday night. He said he was actively engaged every day on set, helping produce the film he helped co-write. Apparently everyone was on deck during filming, which took place over an incredibly short period of time. “The 18 days of production have been so weird,” he told the assembled crowd. “We were recreating moments that were a bit exaggerated. It was like watching a weird home movie.
The film’s protagonists also showed an exclusive clip from the upcoming film to viewers. It takes place at a pool party hosted by Dr. Demento (Rainn Wilsonof Office fame) which features many comedy stars playing major entertainment personalities of the late 1970s and 1980s, including Divine (Nina West), Andy Warhol (Conan O’Brien) and – as that Jack Black dressed as disc jockey Wolfman Jack Put it on – “the guy from Queen”. Daniel Radcliffe’s Weird Al must find a parody song on the spot or else lose the respect of these big stars. Pulling out his legendary accordion, Al composes the song “Another One Rides the Bus”.
Apparently, to get all of these great actors together in one place, Yankovic had to go through his contact list and ask friends he’s 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 ready to answer their phones.
It’s emblematic of Weird Al’s legacy that the creative minds behind the film appear to parody musical biopics in the same vein as recent movies like Rocketman Where Bohemian Rhapsody. Still, that doesn’t mean the actors were necessarily willing to let the silly nature of the anti-documentary give them a pass, at least according to their statements to the panel. Radcliffe, who sports a real mustache and a fake one to look like the titular parody songwriter, said he was initially surprised he got the role because he bears little resemblance to Yankovic. That was until he read the script and learned that indeed there was little in 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, better not be a drag on that fast-paced filming schedule.
Evan Rachel Wood, who plays Madonna, said he researched a slew of Madonna interviews from the 80s; in this version, the pop icon seems to be dragging Al into a spiral of drinking, drugs and music superstars. Of course, none of this happened in real life, according to Yankovic. Apparently this 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 his hit “Like a Virgin”. (As history reminds us, he released it in 1985, a year after his song.) When asked if the filmmakers were worried about what Madonna might think of her portrayal, Yankovic joked: “Well, she’s not on my Christmas card list…we took that nugget of truth and extended it to this whole psychotic arc that takes up the rest of the movie.
Bizarre: the story of Al Yankovic premieres November 4 on the Roku Channel.
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