March 23, 2023
'Weird Al' Yankovic on his fight to make 'Weird' eligible for the Oscars and the 'awkward' timing of the film's Coolio parody: 'I wish he would have kicked it'

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic on his fight to make ‘Weird’ eligible for the Oscars and the ‘awkward’ timing of the film’s Coolio parody: ‘I wish he would have kicked it’

Theaters, streaming services and movie studio production schedules are full of rock ‘n’ roll biopics, but music geeks — including “Weird Al” Yankovic — are often frustrated with how most directors and screenwriters take so many massive liberties with the truth.

“Like at the Troubadour, we know that [Elton John] did not levitate, but some people will be probably thinks he really played ‘Crocodile Rock’ at the Troubadour, even though he didn’t write that until four years later. It’s just the little things like that that they changed that drove me crazy,” Yankovic says, referring to one of the most successful major music biopics of recent years. Rocketman. “You have to realize it’s not a documentary – it’s a Hollywood biopic, it’s entertainment – but as a fan it pushed me mad! … So, I thought when I do my biopic, we just throw facts out the window. Like, who cares?

Yankovic discusses Roku Bizarre: the story of Al Yankovichis new semi-semi-semi-autographic film which manages to surpass Spinal Tap It’s Spinal Tap and off Dewey Cox Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. Inspired by a fake Funny or Die trailer that went viral in 2010, Weird has very little in common with Yankovic’s rather PG-rated real life. For example: No, Al doesn’t having a torrid affair with Madonna, and no, he doesn’t flatline and comes back to life on an emergency room operating table after swallowing a bottle of booze and crashing his car. But there are truths, or at least half-truths, that serve as a key Weird plot points… and one of them is the famous “Yankovic Bump”.

In Weird, two-time girlfriend Madonna (played so oddly by Evan Rachel Wood that Wood is set to feature in Madonna’s future biopic) seduces Al (an unrecognizable and equally perfect Daniel Radcliffe) in order to convince him to parody her hit.” Like a Virgin.” The career-minded pop starlet wants to experience the “Yankovic Bump,” a phenomenon that sends an artist’s record sales skyrocketing after receiving the parody treatment from Al. And apparently, the Yankovic Bump is a real thing.

“You know, there are a few nuggets of truth scattered throughout the movie, most of which seem as fake as everything else, but they’re absolutely true. And that ‘Yankovic Bump’ thing is actually one of the things which is based on reality,” Yankovic told Yahoo Entertainment. “I heard from a number of artists that their sales went up when my parody came out. We heard the Nirvana label thank me profusely — they said, “Oh, we’ve sold another million units of Not serious after the release of “Smells Like Nirvana”. I don’t have all the data in front of me, but it’s certainly happened more than once.

Another one Weird moment based on real life is a brief appearance by a vengeful Coolio, played by LeChristopher Williams. In 1996, the current Coolio — unlike WeirdFictional Madonna after ‘Like a Surgeon’ – had been furious with Yankovic’s ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ parody ‘Amish Paradise’. Luckily, the two finally resolved their unlikely feud. (“Looking back, it wasn’t one of my most cerebral moments. … It wasn’t cool. And I’m supposed to be ‘Coolio’,” the rapper admitted to Yahoo Entertainment in 2020.)

When Coolio died on September 28 of this year, just like the Weird promotional machine kicked into high gear, Yankovic paid tribute by posting a photo on Instagram of himself and Coolio kissing. Yankovic concedes that the Coolio reference in Weird is now awkwardly timed – just like another fake celebrity cameo, by Queen Elizabeth II. In fact, when Weird was screened at Beyond Fest in Los Angeles on October 6, during the audience Q&A, one fan even gasped, “queen elizabeth? Coolio? Is it a cursed movie?”

“Everyone in this movie will eventually die!” Yankovic jokes. But more seriously, on whether he ever considered deleting the Coolio scene, he says, “The picture was locked; if Coolio had passed while we were editing, it would have been a discussion, but it was a bit like the train had left the building. It was a bit embarrassing, or at least awkward: the day the film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, it was the day Queen Elizabeth died, and there’s a bit with Queen Elizabeth during the end credits. And people were like, ‘Ohhhh!’ It’s really weird. It’s the same with Coolio. I mean, obviously this cameo isn’t hitting the same way I expected. But obviously Coolio and I had worked things out and we were on good terms, and that’s a joke. I was hoping he would be there to see him in the movie. I would have hoped he would have gotten a kick out of it.

Speaking of cursed films, one has to wonder if all the positive early buzz for Bizarre: the story of Al Yankovic is the ultimate revenge of the 1989s UHF, Yankovic’s underrated comedy feature that was a critical and commercial bombshell upon its release. “I don’t see it in terms of revengebut it’s a rebirth,” says Yankovic, who admits that UHFThe failure really stung at times.

“People kind of came to [UHF] and they look at it with a lot of nostalgia now and it’s a ‘cult classic’, but it didn’t get great reviews,” Yankovic recalled. “And not only did I put a lot into it, but it was so built. Orion Pictures had tested it with audiences and the test results were through the roof; it felt like one of their most important and tested films of all time. And they were like, ‘Oh, we’re going to release this in the middle of this blockbuster summer and it’s going to be a cash cow and it’s going to be the start of a long film career for you!’ I was built like that, and then literally after the first weekend when it underperformed at the box office, I was a ghost at Orion Pictures. No one wanted to make eye contact. It was really weird and just a little weird to have the rug pulled out from under me like that, because I was building myself up so much and then within days, nothing. So, it was a little devastating, and it took me a little while… I don’t know if I would say I was depressed, because I’ve always been a pretty happy guy, but it wasn’t pleasant. I probably spent a few years healing my wounds before I could come back and be creative again.

And it took 33 years before Yankovic returned with another feature film. In his original end credits song for Weird“Now You Know,” he sings of his hopes for a well-deserved Oscar nomination for Best Song, but sadly that won’t happen – which is the only bittersweet aspect of Weirdthe exit.

“I must say [that line in “Now You Know”] is yet another lie, as it turns out the movie not be eligible for the Oscars,” Yankovic laments. “I begged, begging the Roku channel for months to make her eligible, which would simply involve letting her play in a theater in Los Angeles for a week. They don’t want to do that because — here’s the logic; I don’t quite agree with that – they said they’d rather have a Creative Arts Emmy than an Oscar, because they’re in the television business, not the musical film business. Believe me, I tried, but they put their foot down, so it won’t really be Oscar eligible. But… maybe an Emmy! We will see.”

Regardless of whether there will be any more awards in the near future from the five-time Grammy winner, Yankovic has already earned a living bringing his life story to the screen in his twisted way – and garnering the praise that eluded him three decades ago. “It’s good. I’m so thrilled. It’s amazing for me and gratifying that in addition to the reaction from the fans, [Weird] actually gets great critical reviews,” he says. “I think it’s 93% on Rotten Tomatoes right now – which isn’t shabby.”

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— Video produced by Kyle Moss, editing by Jason Fitzpatrick

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