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Weird Al gets the Weird Al treatment in biopic

Daniel Radcliffe stars as irreverent singer, comedian

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Daniel Radcliffe, left, and "Weird Al" Yankovic strike a pose Sept. 8 at the Bisha Hotel, during the Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto.
Daniel Radcliffe, left, and "Weird Al" Yankovic strike a pose Sept. 8 at the Bisha Hotel, during the Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto. Radcliffe plays Yankovic in the film "Weird: The Al Yankovic Story." (Chris Pizzello/Associated Press) Photo Gallery

TORONTO — When a young, bespectacled Al Yankovic picked up an accordion, few — especially Al, himself — would have predicted the long-running show-business career that would follow. But can you imagine if they did? That every step of Yankovic’s way — the first Hawaiian shirt, the epiphany of riffing on “My Sharona” as “My Bologna” — carried the same portentous sense of fate that rings through most music biopics?

It’s a funny enough idea that shortly before the raucous midnight Toronto International Film Festival premiere of “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” — a nutty, authorized biopic that takes that concept and has as much fun with it as possible — Yankovic was still riffing. He was sitting alongside Daniel Radcliffe, who enthusiastically plays Yankovic in the movie, at a Toronto bar stocked with on-theme cocktails like “Just Drink It.”

Like, what if, Yankovic imagines, “Weird” had that much-memed moment in Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis” where Tom Hanks’ Tom Parker hears Presley on the radio for the first time, dramatically swings around and exclaims “He’s white?!” — only it’s Weird Al he hears and instead responds, “He’s weird?!”

“Weird: The Al Yankovic Story,” written by Yankovic with director Eric Appel, does to Yankovic’s career pretty much what the 62-year-old comedian has been doing to pop songs for the last four decades. It distorts it through a funhouse mirror, turning Yankovic’s life into something that at its most absurd heights becomes a parallel reality.

“I never would have believed this would happen early in my life, and maybe even a year ago,” says Yankovic. “That’s one of the reasons why the movie is funny because it shouldn’t exist. There are detractors that are saying: ‘Why is Weird Al getting a biopic when there are a thousand names that should have gotten one before him?’ Well, that’s kind of the point. It’s not that I deserve it. The fact that I don’t deserve it is why this exists.”

Some, including Radcliffe, would quibble with that. Yankovic long ago outlasted many of the musicians he’s parodied. He’s one of only five music acts to have a Top 40 hit in each of the last four decades. That ranks him among the likes of Madonna and Michael Jackson, who have, of course, each received the Weird Al treatment (“Like a Surgeon,” “Eat It”). The New York Times has called Yankovic “a completely ridiculous national treasure.”

“I can’t explain it,” shrugs Yankovic. “I guess it’s just sheer tenacity because I should have gone away decades ago.”

“Weird: The Al Yankovic Story,” which will be released Nov. 4 on Roku, is itself an unlikely movie that began as a gag. About a decade ago, Appel and Yankovic made a faux-trailer for a Yankovic biopic for Funny or Die. Yankovic would play it at his concerts and bat away questions from fans about when the movie would actually be released. But a string of music biopics — many of which played so elastically with the truth that Yankovic sensed they were ripe for parody — made the premise even more appealing. Appel and Yankovic worked on a script and reached out to Radcliffe.

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