So many. Hawaiian. shirts. You wouldn’t have thought there could be so many Hawaiian shirts anywhere in Toronto in September, but the world premiere of “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” on the first night of the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival wasn’t an ordinary night.
The playfully inventive movie star Daniel Radcliffe in a fully engaged, lively goofy performance as “Weird Al” Yankovic, the cast of parody songs like “My Bologna”, “Eat It”, “Like a Surgeon” and “Jurassic Park”. Evan Rachel Wood stars as Madonna, who begins an affair with Yankovic in hopes of convincing him to parody one of her songs. Rainn Wilson stars as Yankovic’s mentor, radio host Doctor Demento, Quinta Brunson plays Oprah Winfrey, and there are a host of other cameos from the likes of Jack Black, Conan O’Brien, and Patton Oswalt.
Shown as the opening night of the Midnight Madness section of the festival, the event took place in the historic Royal Alexandra Theatre, built in 1907 and used as TIFF’s venue for the first time this year. Midnight Madness screenings were previously held at the Ryerson Theater, an auditorium on a local college campus, and the noisy, out-of-school atmosphere of the screenings there made sense. Would the Alexandra’s ornate proscenium and vintage flourishes suit a rowdy audience ready to clapping along to the festival commercials shown before the feature?
As it turns out, Midnight Madness is at home at the Royal Alexandra.
Before the performance, a synchronized dance team took to the street in front of the Alexandra, all dressed in Hawaiian shirts, wigs and fake mustaches to mimic Yankovic’s signature look, and danced to songs like “I Love Rocky Road.”
Inside the theater there were more Hawaiian shirts and more than a few people cosplaying as Yankovic with wigs and mustaches. After the screening, a couple tried to give Yankovic and star Daniel Radcliffe handmade Weird Al dolls but were quickly shut down. (After the event, the couple wandered the aisles somehow lonely, still holding the dolls.)
Co-written by Yankovic himself and “Weird” director Eric Appel, the film has its origins in a fake movie trailer created by Appel over 10 years ago, starring Aaron Paul as Yankovic (and Olivia Wilde as Madonna) and raved among Yankovic fans hit . He was asked so many times when he would be making a film that Yankovic eventually emailed Appel asking him to help make a film.
Before the screening began, Midnight Madness boss Peter Kuplowsky said: “Tonight the story is changed. Wikipedia pages are being rewritten,” and one hopes, indeed, that no one mistakenly takes anything from the film as actual truth.
That’s not to say viewers won’t learn about Weird Al. The film is heavily inspired by Yankovic’s worldview, a parody of musical biopics made in the spirit of Yankovic’s own music with a wonderful sense of humor. There are many movie references and jokes including “Boogie Nights”, “The Doors”, “Forrest Gump”, the Bradley Cooper Grammys scene from “A Star Is Born” and more.
After the screening, Yankovic, Radcliffe, Appel and Wood came out for a Q&A.
“I did what I could,” Radcliffe explained as he tried to play the accordion as well as he could. “It’s a very hard instrument and he makes it look very easy.”
Wood quipped, “And I had to be next to him in the trailer while he practiced.”
Radcliffe later explained, “I play a version of Al, I think it’s fair to say … a version that does crazy things that this man would never do.”
Wood said it was easy to say yes to the idea of playing Madonna in a Weird Al biopic with Radcliffe. And although the love affair between Yankovic and Madonna is (arguably) fictionalized — as is (arguably) the film’s portrayal of Madonna taking over Pablo Escobar’s drug cartel and eventually hitting Yankovic — Wood took the role seriously.
In preparation, she watched many, many Madonna videos and interviews online to capture the bubblegum pop of her voice in the 1980s because, as Wood said, “I knew there was an elevated version and a sociopathic version of.” Madonna was, but I still wanted it to be good.”
The film will be available on The Roku Channel starting November 4th. During the film’s closing credits, an original song by Yankovic entitled “Now You Know” plays, with several false endings and lyrics that reflect the film – “This movie is now canon.” The lyrics also indicate that the song is eligible for an Oscar (for which the film would need at least one qualifying theatrical run). So much, one hopes, is actually true.
https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/movies/story/2022-09-09/weird-al-biopic-daniel-radcliffe-evan-rachel-wood-madonna-toronto-2022 ‘Weird’ Al Yankovic movie premieres with Daniel Radcliffe, Evan Rachel Wood