Eric Appel, director of the biographical film Weird Al Yankovic Weird: the Al Yankovic Story, explains why Daniel Radcliffe was perfect for the lead role. A satire of the biopic genre, Foreign stars Harry Potter alum Radcliffe as Weird Al himself, alongside supporting actors Evan Rachel Wood, Rainn Wilson and Toby Huss. The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September and is expected to release exclusively in Roku on November 4.
In 2010, the comic website Funny or Die made a fake trailer for a satirical biopic of Yankovic’s life, directed by Appel. Yankovic loved the video and often used it during his concert tours. It was only the successive successes of musical biopics Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman that Yankovic was seriously considering making his own. In January, it was announced that he and Appel would be co-writing a full-length biopic titled Foreign, with Radcliffe ready to play Yankovic. Radcliffe revealed that Foreign took only 18 days to film, and that he learned to play the accordion for the part. Although he says Foreign arguably his strangest career move yet, there was a method to the casting frenzy.
In an exclusive interview with screen frenzy, Appel reveals why Radcliffe was the perfect choice to play Yankovic. He says that while Foreign is an off-the-wall comedy, the humor is in the writing and Radcliffe had to play the character fairly. Appel explains that Radcliffe delivers exactly the kind of grounded execution the project needed, and that the more dramatic he was in the role, the better the humor got. Read Apple’s full comment below:
We wanted someone who was both a great dramatic actor and a great comedic actor. And the choices he made after Harry Potter have just been [perfect]. We say, “This is a man who’s going to get what we’re going for.”
Really, the assignment was for him to play it [straight]. The comedy is all there on the page, it just has to be performed a certain way. He really had to play it on the floor, and he had to play the drama. He had to play it like it was a drama, and that’s what’s great about him. He understands that, and he never pushes comedy. He trusts the words; he gets the assignment. The more dramatic he plays it, the better it is.
If I’d read “Daniel Radcliffe is playing Weird Al in a weird biopic,” and if it was like it was going to be a regular biopic, I’d be like, “Daniel Radcliffe, what? No, wrong choice.” But for our bizarre version of Weird Al that we created in this fantasy world, there is no one else who can play it. He’s Daniel Radcliffe.
Weird marks another turning point in Radcliffe’s career
Although Radcliffe’s Harry Potter days are long behind him, the iconic boy wizard still follows him throughout his career. In the years since the final Harry Potter film, Radcliffe has tried to shake off his typecasting by appearing in several strange, unpredictable comedic roles. One of Radcliffe’s most memorable offbeat performances came from the 2016 film Swiss army man, in which he played a fart corpse used as a multi-purpose instrument by a man stranded on a desert island. The movie was a strange, indie departure from Radcliffe’s Harry Potter career, and he seems to continue the trend of absurdist roles with: Foreign.
Foreign marks a new comedic chapter in Radcliffe’s acting career, with his only concern about the film being how well his girlfriend’s family (who are huge fans of Weird Al Yankovic) will respond to the film. While the film hasn’t reached Roku yet, early reviews of Foreign are largely positive, greeting the biopic like anything Weird Al fans would want: entertaining, eccentric, and completely unique. Of Weird: The Story of Al Yankovic just days away from reaching streaming, Weird Al fans can judge for themselves how well Radcliffe fits into the role — but as far as Apple is concerned, the Harry Potter star was the perfect casting choice.
Next: Everything We Know About Daniel Radcliffe’s Weird Al Movie