“The world belongs to the weird.” So says the tagline for “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story,” but the wee hours of Friday morning belonged to Daniel Radcliffe as the comedy made its world premiere as the clock struck midnight at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Radcliffe stars as the beloved parody musician in the upcoming Roku original film, which made its world premiere at the Royal Alexandra Theatre, kicking off TIFF’s Midnight Madness programming lineup.
It was a full house at the theater and the crowd ate up every second of the parody biopic, cheering loudly for every surprise cameo (of which there were many) at the first “backstory” behind Yankovic’s biggest hits from “My Bologna” to “Eat It.” Some of the most raucous applause was saved for the Radcliffe-fronted rendition of “Amish Paradise.”
“Weird” is directed by Eric Appel, who co-wrote the film with Yankovic. Produced by Funny or Die and Tango, the project tells a mostly fictionalized version of how the parody artist rose to superstardom. It also marks Appel’s feature directorial debut, born from his 2010 viral video that depicted Yankovic’s life story as far more scandalous that it really was, skewering the stereotypes of typical biopics.
Yankovic, Appel, Radcliffe and Wood took the stage after the screening to breakdown everything the audience had just consumed and answer their pressing Weird Al questions. So, how did Radcliffe learn to play Yankovic’s iconic accordion?
The actor studied the complicated instrument with a teacher and even took a few lessons with the parody master himself. “Al sent me some accordion lessons over email,” Radcliffe said. “And, you know, I did what I could. It’s a very hard instrument. He makes it look very easy… it was fun to try it.”
“And I got to be in the trailer next to his while he practiced,” Wood joked.
“It was probably roughly about a month between me learning the verse of ‘My Bologna’ and the chorus, so my girlfriend was living in a perpetual hellscape,” Radcliffe continued.
Learning that famous parody of “My Sharona” would prove important as “My Bologna” was the first scene Radcliffe had to perform in front of Yankovic on the accordion — a process Radcliffe described as “nerve-racking.”
The feature length version features Evan Rachel Wood as Madonna — who embarks on a torrid love affair with the accordion player — with Toby Huss and Julianne Nicholson play the “Eat It” and “White & Nerdy” singer’s parents. Rainn Wilson plays radio broadcaster Dr. Demento, who helped bring Yankovic to the mainstream by playing his music on his show, while Quinta Brunson makes an appearance as Oprah Winfrey.
It’s hard to pinpoint a specific moment that elicited the most applause from the crowd, but Radcliffe’s first appearance on screen was received with such rapture and screams it caused a ringing sensation that lasted until the credits rolled.
The other Midnight Madness screenings include anthology horror film “V/H/S 99,” “The Blackening” from director Tim Story, “The People’s Joker” from Vera Drew, “Project Wolf Hunting” by Kim Hongsun, “Sick” by John Hyams, “Sisu” by Jalmari Helander and “Venus” by Jaume Balagueró, all of which will make their world premieres at the festival.
Ti West’s “X” prequel “Pearl” makes its North American premiere in the lineup, which will close the Canadian premiere of “Lenore Will Never Die,” from Filipina filmmaker Martika Ramierez Escobar.