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The New Daily
The New Daily
Louise Talbot

Expelliarmus, Harry Potter! Daniel Radcliffe is all grown up in Weird Al Yankovic biopic

Radcliffe has made a few movies, TV series and stage productions, but Weird: The Al Yankovic Story offers a new frontier. Photo: TND

When Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe went on a late-night US talk show recently, he shared a little-known fact about his next movie.

In a sit-down on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Radcliffe, 33, revealed details about how he was cast to play award-winning parody comedy song-writer Weird Al Yankovic.

Despite the two never having met, he said he was surprised when Yankovic specifically chose him for the role.

“When I talked to Al for the first time, I was like, ‘I’m immensely flattered by the idea that you would pick me to play you, but like, why me?

“I’m mystified but excited’,” The Lost City actor recalled.

He said Yankovic, who has sold 12 million albums and recorded more than 140 pop culture parodies, saw a young Radcliffe on television back in 2010 where he performed every word of Tom Lehrer’s song, The Elements (which to the uninitiated is singing the entire periodic table of elements).

“I sang The Elements next to Colin Farrell and a very bemused Rihanna,” Radcliffe said, in an episode of the UK’s The Graham Norton Show.

“I guess Al saw that and was like, ‘This guy maybe gets it’. And so he picked me. So I’m very, very lucky.’’

The film, Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, was shot at lightning speed over 18 days, with the second official trailer dropping on Tuesday before its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) on September 9.

‘‘It’s a fully insane movie and one of the most fun things I have ever done,’’ said the boy wizard who starred in the world’s biggest children’s franchise of all time.

Big call, so how does he pull it off?

Becoming Al Yankovic

They say playing dead or alive celebrities brings with it a stack of responsibility and understanding of the person’s life, their family and characteristics, not to mention reimagining the pivotal moments in their careers and personal lives.

We’ve seen Californian actor Austin Butler play Elvis in Baz Luhrmann’s biopic, Taron Egerton play Elton John in Rocketman, and who can forget Rami Malek mastering the late, great Freddie Mercury in the 2018 masterpiece Bohemian Rhapsody.

Then there are the stars trying to bring Marilyn Monroe’s life back to the big screen, with Cuban actor Ana de Armas cast as the lead in Blonde, or Kristen Stewart’s interpretation of the late Princess of Wales in Spencer.

For English actor Radcliffe, he filled Al’s big Californian shoes with humble pie, saying he thought a good place to start was to master Yankovic’s signature instrument, the piano accordion.

“I got lent Al’s accordion for the month,” he said.

“He gave me his own accordion to practise on for the month. On day two of that, I broke one of the straps … and then immediately got them replaced. Thankfully, he’s like the nicest guy.”

He told US talk show The View: “[Al is] just the best. He’s the nicest human and he was on set every day, so it was just a real pleasure.”

Yankovic even gave him lessons about how to play his beloved accordion, the instrument chosen over a guitar by his parents from a door-to-door salesman in the Los Angeles suburb of Lynwood.

‘‘I can now go to my grave saying that I have had accordion lessons with Weird Al,’’ he told Good Morning America in March.

Posting on Instagram, Yankovic returned the compliments: “That is a WRAP on Mr. Radcliffe! Wait till you see him in this. He’s even more like me than I am.’’

So what can we expect?

With parodies of famous songs over the years from The Knack’s My Bologna through to Michael Jackson’s Eat It and Lady Gaga’s Perform This Way threaded through this parody biopic storyline, the teaser trailer gives a glimpse of his rise to international stardom, and what happened when he was at the top of his game.

According to the official synopsis from the TIFF, the movie was born from a 2010 viral video from the writer and director Eric Appel [Yankovic also co-wrote and produced], who wanted to do a decent explainer on how Yankovic successfully replaced lyrics of popular songs with funny ones.

‘‘[It] is an uproariously entertaining tell-all about the comedy and music legend, as well as a side-splitting skewing of all the music biopics that preceded it,’’ it wrote.

Heaping praise on Radcliffe for translating the ‘‘film’s complex and tortured subject onto the screen’’, they reckon the boy we all loved as Harry Potter has finally cemented ‘‘his legacy in film history by masterfully portraying Yankovic in all his nerdy-gait and aw-shucks charisma’’.

Special mention to Evan Rachel Wood, who plays Madonna and urged Yankovic to pull together his version of Like a Surgeon.

‘‘Expect to laugh, prepare to cry (from laughter), and make sure to bring your dancing clogs, ’cause you are gonna polka,’’ we’re warned.

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