Weird: The Al Yankovic Story began as a 2010 “Funny or Die” parody movie trailer. Appel discusses how the movies Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman inspired the adaptation of the short into full-length feature.

The ten-year gap allowed he and Weird Al to write a script that captured the humor. He then assembled the stellar cast. The players, friends of Weird Al, agreed without hesitation. Radcliffe wanted to know why the filmmakers wanted him. He loved the script and jumped at the chance to rock an accordion.

Appel shot the film in 18 days. Weird: The Al Yankovic Story was his first, but Appel has experience directing TV shows such as The OfficeNew Girl, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Appel hopes that the stars that they mock have good sense of humor and aren’t offended by the spoof.

Making the “Funny or Die” short as feature

Appel: There’s a nice ten-year gap between the short and the movie. Al would play the fake trailer at his concerts during wardrobe changes. We always thought it worked well as a three-minute short but didn’t think about turning it into a movie. Bohemian Rhapsody, Rocketman, this slate of biopics were coming out. We felt it was the right time to make it feature length. We had all of these beats in the trailer to incorporate into the movie. It gave us a nice template. We wanted to go off the rails. Create something that wasn’t a specific biopic parody. We play off the tropes of biopics. We also wanted a really original, weird, and fun story that would surprise audiences. That was our MO going into the writing process.

Casting Jack Black as Wolfman Jack

Appel: The Jack Black day was intimidating. There was a lot of talent on set. We didn’t have a lot of time to film it. That whole big pool party sequence was half a day, and we shot in winter. We didn’t have any sunlight. All those cameos are friends of Al’s. That made it a little bit easier.

Weird Al was on the set, and he introduced me to all these people. We went through Al’s rolodex–here are my friends and acquaintances. Let’s pick and choose who makes sense for each character. Al would reach out to everyone directly. Almost everyone was like, of course, yes, I’ll be in your movie Al.

Daniel Radcliffe as Weird Al?

Appel: There was no convincing. We sent him the script. We got on a Zoom about a week later. He was like, I love this, I want to do it, the script was great. He was asking why me. Why do you see me in this role? He’s such a great dramatic and comedic actor. All of his post Harry Potter film choices have been so bonkers. We thought he would get the assignment. We really wanted his character to play it straight. We needed someone to turn in a dramatic performance, but get all the humor behind it. Dan was perfect. He plays it so real. He carries all the Harry Potter movies. You are introduced to the Wizarding World through Radcliffe’s eyes. Now you’re introduced to the Weird World through the same eyes. It works really well.

Best and worst day on set of Weird?

Appel: The first day we shot the My Baloney scene. Where he’s staring at the baloney and coming up with the song. It was so funny. We all knew it. We’re making something really unique and fun here. It carried us through the next seventeen days. The worst day… having to say goodbyes, wrapping. I wish we could have shot for another eighteen days. There were some challenges. We had to do stuff really fast. The concert scenes, we had one day to shoot all the performances. The on stage meltdown wasn’t even a full day. But the whole thing was a joyous experience. Everyone had a lot of fun.

Spoofing 1980s Stars

Eric Appel: The ghost of Pablo Escobar is going to haunt me. I’m not concerned about blowback. I don’t think we’re cruel to anyone. Madonna in our movie plays an archvillain. My hope is that Madonna will see this and find the humor in it. Dan is not playing the real Weird Al. He’s playing a bizarre movie version. That’s how it is with everyone. They’re playing heightened, dramatic, and bizarre biopic versions.

Weird: The Al Yankovic Story had November premiere on  Roku Channel.