You’ve played everything from a sentient corpse in Swiss Army Man and a man turning into a devil in Horns to a doctor who has imaginary conversations with his older self … Do you just tell your agent: “As long as it’s weird, I’m in?” NessaTheConfessor and SarahTitch
Not quite that broadly. I certainly get sent a lot of crap weird stuff now, too. I don’t see my own sensibilities as being that weird. If you can tell a story in a manner that’s initially kind of insane, you connect differently to the audience. If you sit down and lecture somebody on how shame keeps us from love, that’s quite dry. But if you make it a farting corpse being used as a jetski, like in Swiss Army Man, that’s a conversation. Guns Akimbo was less symbolic, with guns for hands. The scene where I’m trying to go to the toilet is what I would want to see as an audience member – in the same way as, just once, you want Spider-Man to land on a building and go: “Oooh, my feet.” Getting to play insane stuff is definitely something I enjoy.
How have your views about acting evolved throughout your career? DanielKSpb
When I started I didn’t have any … I was a child. Getting to work with the older actors on Potter was really important. What I love is watching actors who are committed, professional and absolutely on top of it, but who also know that we are not saving lives. Acting is not a life or death process. People like Imelda Staunton, David Thewlis, Gary Oldman … Michael Gambon is the classic who is incredible at acting but has no time for taking it too seriously. To have watched those kinds of people growing up has been amazing.
Do you get nervous performing on stage? How do you overcome it? feytasiic
Absolutely. I’m currently in rehearsals for Merrily We Roll Along, the Stephen Sondheim musical, at the New York Theater Workshop with Jonathan Groff and Lindsay Mendez. It’s absolutely terrifying that in three weeks, we’ll be doing what we are doing in the rehearsal room on stage. Fortunately, I have played a lot of quite nervous characters, so you can channel that nervous energy. But if we get to opening night and someone says: “I’m not nervous,” I’d think: “You’re going to fuck up.” You should be nervous.
Is your tight perm, tache and accordion-playing in Weird: The Al Yankovic Story all your own work? Will we get an accordion concert from you? vira_sh and feytasiic
The moustache is all my own work. The curly hair: very much not. I spoke to Al early on, who told me how terrible most accordion-playing looks in films. I wanted at least to have my hands in the right place. I was lucky; I have a self-taught accordion player friend who lives close by in New York, so I was able to go around to his place a few nights a week and get at least serviceable. I was asked recently: would I be comfortable playing the accordion on camera? I gave the hardest no I possibly could.
You were in NME in 2004 talking about your favourite bands, which is how I discovered Razorlight. How do you think Up All Night stands up today – and does that formative era of British indie (for anyone our age, anyway) deserve the same recognition as the NYC Meet Me in the Bathroom scene? Justice for Johnny Borrell! Laurasnapes
I don’t regard them as separate scenes. The timelines were so concurrent that it felt like the Strokes were happening at the same time as the Libertines and Razorlight. I have not listened to Up All Night in some time, but I still love Stumble and Fall and Rip It Up. The Libertines were the band of my teenage years that still have the staying power. Up the Bracket is still so energising and unusual, with a sense of urgency that still doesn’t sound like anything else. I remain a devoted Libertines fan.
What’s the weirdest rumour you’ve read about yourself? TurangaLeela2
I have SAS bodyguards to walk my dogs. Another said I was having a personalised beer brewed by Belgian monks. That was before I was sober; at least they weren’t that dumb. Another was that I get my assistant to hold up scripts in the mirror so, to save time, I can read them during hair and makeup. That’s so much more complicated than me just holding them!
The sofa setup on The Graham Norton Show [everyone in a semi-circle] doesn’t seem at all intuitive. Which chatshow best puts you at ease with its seating arrangement? 25aubrey
I would say the only one that puts me at ease is Graham Norton. On almost every other, you come on, talk for five minutes, get off and the next guest comes on. For seating arrangements, that’s fine. But in terms of conversation, the pressure is immense. Controlling the conversation at a dinner party is my personal nightmare. Going out with a bunch of other people most closely resembles an actual conversation.
My most surreal experience was sitting next to Rihanna and Colin Farrell on Graham Norton and doing the Elements song. Now, I’m mortified: “You did the nerdiest thing possible next to two of the coolest people on the planet. What were you thinking?” But doing that and Alphabet Aerobics [on Jimmy Fallon] have both got me jobs. Elements was one of the first things that brought me to Weird Al’s attention. Sometimes doing something really nerdy on a chatshow will work out for you, years later.
What did you make of Alan Rickman’s comments in his diaries that he thought you’d make a great director? Are we any closer to seeing you direct? ApplesofGold and Hedgepig1978
I think he was being very, very kind. I loved reading the excerpts. You can really hear his voice and track the relationship with all of us: “Who are these kids who really need to learn their lines?” I’m immensely flattered that he would think of me as a director. I hope he’s right. I’d love to direct, but it’s not something I take lightly, so I wouldn’t try to just squeeze it in between films. I have written something that I’m trying to get made. So hopefully, at some point.
Do you go to Harry Potter World on your days off to relax? TopTramp
No. That is not my idea of a relaxing time, in the same way that I haven’t been to see the play. I’ve just realised that one of the ADR studios in New York I often do sound recording at is bang next to the Harry Potter store. I’ve seen Harry Potter bags walk past and thought: “Maybe I should turn around and find another route?” I love Potter. I love the world. I love what it has given my life. But as a way to spend a day, no, I’m not sitting down and watching all the films.
You explored your family history in Who Do You Think You Are?. What was the most surprising detail you discovered about your ancestors? avongirl
All the stuff with my great-grandad on my mum’s side; how he was paparazzied after getting arrested for this huge robbery, so there are newspapers with my great-grandad on the front, falling over in the arms of the police as he’s dragged out. The mysteries of why my mum’s side of the family changed its name at one point …
What other reality shows would I do? Almost all no, I’m sure. I’ll be at home watching I’m A Celebrity, thinking: “I could do that,” until they get to the gross food stuff. I can dance, with enough choreography, but I don’t think I’d be nearly good enough for Strictly. Even The Masked Singer seems too insane for my insane tastes. My girlfriend of 10 years [actor Erin Darke] is American, and the show she most wants us to go on is Bargain Hunt. I unironically love Bargain Hunt. But she doesn’t want to go on the celebrity one. She just wants us to go on a normal episode. She can’t understand how, in America, on any gameshow, the third-place loser prize is $1,000, but on Bargain Hunt, they go: “You’ve won. Here’s £3.50.” She also thinks she’d be better than anyone on it. If I go on Bargain Hunt and do badly, I’ll never be able to watch Bargain Hunt again, and I don’t want to strip myself of that pleasure.
How do you keep your eyebrows tidy? Tristanite
Plucking. I let them get pretty out of control on the theory that I’ll be in front of a makeup artist soon enough who will say: “Jesus, we have to do something about this.” They had to be plucked from the first Harry Potter film; I have no qualms about it.
Does Daniel Radcliffe cook well? vira_sh
Absolutely not. This is why I can’t go on MasterChef. I have about four dishes, and I’m not going to admit what they are because two are so embarrassing, they’re not even dishes. There’s no way I’m having my rubbish cooking ability consigned for ever to the Guardian! I can keep myself alive in a house if all else goes wrong, but that’s about it.
Talking of Weird Al: three weirdest things you would take to a deserted island? feytasiic
Have you watched this programme, Alone [on Prime]? They drop people at very isolated parts – mostly Canada in the series I’ve watched – with their own cameras. I would bring flint and steel, because that’s all you need to light a fire. My girlfriend and I once did a primitive fire-making course at a hotel that offered this as a service, up in Pennsylvania somewhere. The guy had an Altoid tin full of cotton balls covered in Vaseline, which work as really good fire starters. So my Altoid tin, my Vaseline cotton balls and my flint and steel. That’s both practical and weird.
Have you ever weaselled out of getting recognised by claiming to be a lookalike? Syntropic_Garden
That doesn’t work. The problem is, particularly in the early days, if someone said: “Are you Harry Potter?” and I said yes, they’d be like: “No, you’re not!” If they said: “Are you Harry Potter?” and I said no, they’d be like: “Yeah, you are!” So either way you end up in an argument and the interaction has gone very poorly.
What’s the weirdest thing about you? feytasiic
God, I don’t know. Maybe my career? I think I’m pretty normal in most of my life. Yes, I’m obsessed with Bargain Hunt, I can’t cook, and I stay in hotels where they have fire-making courses. Hey, you never know when you’re going to make fire. I couldn’t even get the kindling going but Erin would be very disappointed if I didn’t tell you that she at least made smoke.
• Weird: The Al Yankovic Story is released on 4 November on the Roku Channel, available on Roku devices, Sky Q and Now TV
• This article was amended on 3 November 2022 to correct the word Altoid, which was spelled wrongly due to a transcription error.