Getting ‘Weird’? It’s Just Part of Daniel Radcliffe’s Mission to Keep Things Interesting

The actor continues to navigate his post-"Harry Potter" career with style and charm, as he tells IndieWire, carving his own way is what it's all about.
"Weird: The Al Yankovic Story daniel radcliffe
"Weird: The Al Yankovic Story"
Aaron Epstein

It was not a foregone conclusion that Daniel Radcliffe would have the most interesting film career out of his “Harry Potter” compatriots, but he unquestionably has. Whether he’s playing a farting corpse in “Swiss Army Man” or an eccentric villain in big budget comedy “The Lost City,” Radcliffe is full of delightful surprises.

The transition from child star to mature actor can be tricky for anyone, much less the titular player in one of the most popular film franchises in recent memory. The road is often littered with publicity fumbles and questionable project choices, which Radcliffe has navigated flawlessly, maintaining his artistic integrity with a cheery disposition and the courage to speak his mind.

After a few post-“Potter” misfires, signs of Radcliffe’s discerning taste first became apparent in 2016, when he starred opposite Paul Dano in Daniel Kwan and Daniel Sheinert’s feature film debut, the experimental indie bromance “Swiss Army Man.” Not only did the role showcase Radcliffe’s taste for the absurd, but he exhibited some serious physical comedy chops (you’ve never seen such a charming corpse). The project also hinted that Radcliffe was a savvy cinephile who was prepared to use his notoriety to support daring emerging filmmakers. Cult status unlocked.

“There’s something great about being able to draw attention to a story, and if some people go and see a weird movie because you are in it that they might not have seen if you were not, then that’s awesome,” Radcliffe told IndieWire during a recent interview. “But … when I do indie movies, I’m not thinking: ‘I am doing you a huge favor. I will uplift.’ I am getting easily as much out of it as they are, to my mind.”

Collectively known as Daniels, it would be another six years before the inventive directing duo became household names this year, when their critically-acclaimed surreal comedy “Everything Everywhere All at Once” became A24’s highest-grossing film of all time. For his part, the humble Brit isn’t taking any credit for his former collaborators’ deserving success.

Daniel Radcliffe and Paul Dano in Swiss Army Man
“Swiss Army Man”A24

“They put me on the map in a different way by letting me do ‘Swiss Army Man,'” Radcliffe said. “It’s an incredibly proud [feeling], but also it feels weird to have now one of my favorite films made by people I know. But I’m so happy for them, and … I think they’re just going to continue to do amazing work.”

Though the two projects couldn’t be more different, Radcliffe is throwing his weight behind another absurd comedy with “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story,” in which he plays the beloved parody singer Weird Al in something of an absurd parody of the biopic. Donning a curly wig, loud Hawaiian shirts, and a hefty accordion, Radcliffe looks very much the part of the world’s most popular musical comedian. Though he’s careful not claim the “superfan” label, his admiration for Weird Al was part of the project’s  draw.

“I probably wouldn’t say ‘superfan,’ because I know what the superfans of Weird Al are and the level of knowledge that they have,” he said. “But I’d say I’m up there. I’m much, much more than just ‘I know the hits’ Al fan. I’m much further along than that.”

A satirical biopic that doesn’t purport to be very realistic, “Weird” traces Yankovic’s journey from childhood polka enthusiast to the heights of pop culture fame. Written by Yankovic and director Eric Appel, “Weird” is a delightfully wacky send-up of traditional biopics. Much of the comedy comes from the fact that the characters in the film never let on that they are in a comedy.

“One of the first conversations I had with Eric [Appel] was about the tone of the jokes,” said Radcliffe. “He was like, ‘None of them are played as jokes. I want you to play it absolutely 100 precent seriously the entire time.’ And then that allows the world around you to be as crazy as it gets because it is sort of centered by those five leads … those are the people that have to really be grounded in reality and heart.”

"Weird: The Al Yankovic Story" daniel radcliffe
Quinta Brunson and Daniel Radcliffe in “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story”Aaron Epstein

In addition to co-writing the movie, Yankovic stars in the film as a skeptical record executive who tells the fictional Al he’ll never amount to anything. Superfan or not, Radcliffe was delighted to work so closely with the singer.

“He was awesome. He is what everyone says he is, which is delightful. He’s incredibly sort of just sweet and kind and unassuming. Not the loudest guy in the room by any stretch of the imagination,” Radcliffe said. “And you got the impression that he was having a really nice time on the set and just really enjoying being there, which I think made us all feel good. The film is a real celebration of him, and so for him to be seeming to enjoy that on set was very reassuring.”

Though it may seem an unexpected choice for fans who missed “Swiss Army Man,” the unusual comedic biopic feels very much in line with Radcliffe’s post-“Potter” ethos. He’s still the titular role, but Radcliffe seems to be charting a new course as a different kind of leading man; one who can get a little — or in this case, a lot — weird.

“This is a lead, but he is also very [much a] character. I feel like there’s a world where you can still have characterful leads,” he said. “I think there are certain things that through my twenties I’ve been identifying as like, ‘Oh, I’m better at this than that.’ … Being just a, I don’t know, a sort of stern, strong-jawed lead of something, it seems less fun.”

“Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” starts streaming on The Roku Channel on Friday, November 4. 

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