When “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” debuted on The Roku Channel in November, viewers quickly learned that this wasn’t your grandmother’s biopic. The life of Weird Al Yankovic (as played by Daniel Radcliffe) is exaggerated in satiric fashion, just as you’d expect from the man who rose to fame writing and performing parody songs. To celebrate the hilarious telefilm, check out our special 40-minute “Making of” roundtable discussion with co-composers Leo Birenberg and Zach Robinson, production designer Dan Butts, film editor Jamie Kennedy, supervising sound editor Anthony Vanchure and sound designer Mike James Gallagher. Watch our exclusive video panel interview above.
Yankovic co-wrote and co-produced the movie with Eric Appel, who also directed it. What was it like working with such a music superstar on the official “story” of his life? “Honestly, huge dream come true,” declares Kennedy. “I’ve said before to people that if no one else had ever seen this movie, it still would probably be the highlight of my life.” The film editor later tells me that her favorite Weird Al song is “The Biggest Ball Of Twine In Minnesota” because she loves “a story song.”
Butts echoes the “dream come true” mentality, adding that he’s “actually worked with Al for many years, starting when he was a director.” The production designer explains, “I’ve worked on a bunch of his videos and projects and then it was years later, and I hadn’t talked to him in quite a while and he just texted me and said, ‘You wanna make a movie?’ I wish every project actually just started like that. It was magical.” As for creating the set for Yankovic‘s childhood home, Butts reveals his theme was “gritty steel town in Ohio.”
Robinson readily admits that he was just nine years old when he went to his “first concert ever” with his dad, “Running with Scissors on tour at the Greek Theater.” He laughs, “I think I told Al, and he was like, ‘Oh, that’s cool.’ And I was like, ‘He probably gets that a lot.’” At first, the composer was worried about how his background music was “even gonna stand next to all the Al music,” but working with the co-writers “really intimately on the music was a really cool thing.”
Fellow composer Birenberg jumps in that as a kid in the 90s, he had “a lot of Weird Al” in his life. “Al’s like the nicest guy on the planet,” he begins. “He’s an actual human embodiment of a saint — doesn’t eat animals, doesn’t curse, doesn’t look at his phone. Like he’s so freaking nice.” Yankovic was touring during part of the filmmaking process, and Birenberg recalls how the entertainer would be in a Zoom meeting, and then “go play a show and then pop back on after the show … that was just crazy.”
Vanchure recites a funny story about how he was “on a sales call and they’re like, ‘We have this potential to work on this Weird Al movie.’” The supervising sound editor stated at the time, “Just say yes! I don’t care if they have $0, I want to do this. And I sent one of my friends at work a picture of me as Weird Al I’d worn for Halloween years and years and years ago. He didn’t tell me that he sent it to the production team.” Later during his initial interview, “They were like, ‘Yeah, we saw the picture of you dressed as Weird Al for Halloween.’”
Gallagher says, “I have a distinct memory of sitting around with my family. I think we had the VHS recorder ready to go and Weird Al was about to premiere ‘I’m Fat,’ so we were super excited about that and I had that on repeat all the time. It’s funny because I became a sound designer and that video has bonkers sound effects.” He calls working on “Weird” a “full circle” moment because “one of the first times” he ever hung out with Vanchure, he was dressed up for Halloween in his Weird Al costume.
Also in our exclusive video interview, the artisans talk about their favorite Weird Al songs ever, what impressed them most about the truly original script, and what were some of the biggest challenges in pulling off the production on such a small budget. “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” is streaming now on The Roku Channel.
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