Co-written by “Al Weird” Yankovic and director Eric Appel, Bizarre: the story of Al Yankovic is the appropriately parodied musical biopic of the People’s Choice Award-winning man himself. Featuring an ensemble cast representing a full list of celebrity cameos, this hysterical film chronicles Yankovic (played by Daniel Radcliffe) “very true”, and sometimes disputed, rise to satire stardom. In the movie, Rainn Wilson portrays Dr. Demento, a kind of mentor to Yankovic who helps the young man in his quest for comedy.
During his interview with Collider, Wilson opened up about the brief 18 days it took the cast and crew to film. Weirdattributing this feat to his stint with director Appel with funny or die, and other sketch-comedy. Along with knowing the ins and outs of fast-paced comedy, Wilson credits the film’s positive reception to “great talent”, Radcliffe’s dedication and 2-3 hour days.
Joining Wilson and Radcliffe on film are Evan Rachel Wood like Madonna, Quinta Brunson as Oprah Winfrey, Toby Hus as Yankovic’s father, Julianne Nicholson like his mother, Jack Black, Will Forte, Conan O’Brien, David Dastmalchian and many other surprises. You can watch the interview with Wilson above or read the full conversation below. To know more about the movie, read Ross’ review.
COLLIDER: You won’t remember this, but in 2007, when Collider was just an empty website, I did an interview with you at Sundance to The last mimzy, and I just wanted to say that at the time, getting people to talk to us was more difficult. And I just want to sincerely thank you for talking to us back when the site wasn’t much, and I will always appreciate that.
RAINN WILSON: Okay. OK. Great.
I want to start with sincere congratulations on this. Weird is fantastic, honestly it was so much better than I expected. How was it for you to read the script and see how it would satirize the biopic genre?
WILSON: Well, it’s funny that you say it’s better than you expected because I felt the same way. When they said, “Oh, they’re doing a biopic on Weird Al. They’re interested in you for Dr. Demento,” I read the script and I was like, “It’s like a comedy sketch, like a saturday night live sketch.’ It started as a funny or die sketch I heard. For example, how is it going to last 90 minutes?
But the script was so tight, and they had worked on it so carefully, that the tone was right. It’s taken very, very seriously and it’s the kind of comedy I like where it’s the most absurd circumstances possible, but it’s taken very seriously, and there’s no commentary there- on it, it’s not like “Hey, we’re making a stupid movie.”
So, as soon as I read it, I wanted to participate. I thought it was just awesome how, in a kind of Plane-like fashion, satirizes the musical biopic without going silly, and goofy, and broad. So I was really excited to be part of it. Also, Weird Al is one of my heroes.
So one of the things I couldn’t believe was how little time you had to make the movie. I mean it was done I believe in 18 days or something crazy.
WILSON: Crazy, yeah, on a very low budget too.
Can you sort of talk about that because when you watch the movie it looks so much better and bigger than that little movie?
WILSON: Well, that’s all about Eric Appel. So the director did a ton of sketches and stuff to funny or die. I did a bunch of sketches for funny or die and college humor, those kinds of places, and you’re given a very small budget. Here’s $50,000, and you’ve got two days or a day and a half or a day, and you have to try to make it amazing. It’s a kind of bootcamp for filmmakers.
The same way Ron Howard started out in the world of Roger Corman, a lot of great comedy directors start out doing these sketches and then move on to television and then when they get 18 whole days and a couple million dollars they’re like, “Okay, let me do it. We can do it.” And he knew how to move the camera in different ways, and cut, and just a lot of movement and life and music, and it really felt like a great movie.
I really enjoyed the pool scene at Dr. Demento’s with all the cameos and guest stars. Can you tell us a bit about the filming of this sequence? Because you have so many moving parts, and it’s just really funny.
WILSON: Yeah, I mean first of all, we shot that, and it was really cold. It was about 50 degrees, and we were supposed to pretend it was 80 degrees, and for LA, 50 is cold. Besides, I had no idea who was showing up that day. And then all of a sudden, this cavalcade of stars appeared in this house in the San Fernando Valley.
It was interesting because they originally told me that they modeled the character of Dr. Demento after the character of Burt Reynolds in boogie nights, sort of this behind-the-scenes puppeteer impresario bringing people together. So it was like a boogie nights stage. I mean, it was like a scene from boogie nights. Only, it turns out that there was Peewee Herman, and Tiny Tim, and Divine and Gallagher, and Salvador Dalí in it. So much fun, so much imagination and humor. It was a hysterical part of the movie.
One of the things people might not realize is that the movie won the Midnight Madness Award at the Toronto Film Festival. Did you have any idea to do this? Because you never know when you’re making a movie how it’s really going to turn out. Did you know how good it was going to be? Because winning the prize in Toronto is really important.
WILSON: Look, I knew it was low budget. I knew it was a short shoot, but I also knew there was a lot of great talent involved. Daniel Radcliffe gave it his all, I mean blood, sweat and tears, spinning 14-15 hours a day, learning the accordion. And by the way, he was overweight before we started shooting, and he trained with some of these Marvel trainers to get ripped off to play Weird Al. You saw how ripped he was. It was like you could grate cheese on those abs.
I heard he trained with Chris Hemsworth for the part.
WILSON: He did. Yes he did. Chris would bench Daniel but then, in exchange, he would give him some advice. So great fun.
I ask a lot of people that. If someone has never seen what you have done before, what is the first thing you want them to look at and why?
WILSON: Look, obviously most people have known me for The Office, and they always will, and it will be on my tombstone. My epitaph will be “The Guy Who Played Dwight”. But I did dozens and dozens of roles before I played Dwight. I played dozens of roles after Dwight. I would say my favorite role, or the one I would like to be remembered for, is the movie Great by James Gunn. It was, again, a super low budget. We shot this super fast in Shreveport, scenic Shreveport, Louisiana. But I think the combination of humor, darkness, tragedy, crazy imagination, my brain is touched by the finger of God. I think it’s amazing work, and I’m really proud to have been a part of it.
Yeah, it’s a very cool movie and way before James was in the Marvel universe. My last thing for you, you gotta talk a little bit about solar opposites, which is a show that I love. Can you kind of talk about being part of that?
WILSON: Yeah. Mike, the showrunner of solar oppositeshe wrote a star trek short film in which I acted and directed, in the star trek universe, at Paramount Plus, where I got to play Harry Mudd. So we were able to meet, and he’s amazing. He’s a genius in comics and he has an unlimited imagination, so he loved being a part of that universe as well.
Yeah, solar opposites is great for people who haven’t seen it. On that note, the amount of time, I’m just going to say, man, I really appreciate your work. I really thank you for your work and I will always thank you for Sundance all those years ago.
WILSON: You get it, man. My pleasure. Looking forward to talking to you, Steven Weintraub of Collider.
Bizarre: the story of Al Yankovic will air on The Roku Channel starting November 4.