So, Weird Al is getting his own biopic, starring Harry Potter himself (Daniel Radcliffe), as well as Quinta Brunson. From the trailer that was just released, it’s clear that the parody star’s “biographical” movie is just a parody. Of course.
The trailer got me thinking about how easy these movies are to make—they follow a basic formula. (I will admit that I totally believed this was a serious venture—even though Quinta tweeted almost the exact opposite). After seeing Bohemian Rhapsody, I noticed that the trailers for Rocketman, and most recently, Elvis, were more or less…the same.
It’s important to note that a lot of biopics have a reputation for not being accurate. Or very good. In fact, many famous people (or their estates) have denounced or threatened legal action over their movie depictions. Nevertheless, the cash-grab attempts at the formula keep coming. Let’s break down the common elements, ones that Weird Al’s trailer definitely parodies.
1. Choose a household name
Queen. Nina Simone. Mark Zuckerberg. Michael Oher. Don Shirley. For some, Weird Al Yankovic. Michael Jackson. The Temptations. Biggie. Aaliyah. All of these names—when you mention them, people know who they are, what they look like.
Your celebrity biopic should be centered around someone who is known across generations for the work they did. For instance, the Emmy-winning Temptations miniseries came out in the ’90s, and it’s still being seen and quoted today. Why? Because the Motown supergroup is timeless.
2. Show a behind-the-scenes narrative
As fans of the subject, moviegoers will be anxious to see how a biopic will depict a celebrity’s personal life. The glitz and glamor only motivates audiences to wonder how they got there. I mean, if Thriller is one of the best-selling records of all-time, who wouldn’t be interested in seeing the journey?
Not only that, but sometimes fans have a parasocial relationship with the people they admire. That is to say, sometimes fans think they’re best friends with celebrities because they follow their career closely. Showing what’s happening on the inside pulls fans in. In Al’s trailer, we see how he got the idea to make parody songs, where his name came from, and his first hit.
3. Give the movie a villain
There’s always going to need to be someone who’s a “bad influence” on the star. In Weird Al’s movie, it’s Madonna who introduced him to a sordid way of pop star living. This person is most likely in the industry, has or had a reputation for being horrible, and crossed paths with the star more than a few times.
Remember to include the part where the other band members or confidants of the star openly show distaste for this person. Usually, warnings are given ahead of time that the main character seems to ignore.
4. Show the dangers of being famous
We all know that being a celebrity is a hard life. There’s constant pressure, a busy schedule, and tons to juggle. Biopics are usually devoted to showing this part, and for Al, Madonna is the gateway to the vices he uses to cope with sudden fame.
You can probably guess how this part of the trailer looks without me having to explain—after all, this is a parody of the predictable. One thing I never thought I’d see is Daniel Radcliffe in a wig chugging Hennessy, but there’s a first time for everything.
5. Advertise the film as the “true story”
All biographies do. They have to, or else most of the novelty is gone. A lot less people would want to see a movie about a famous person that has no basis in reality….
…Unless that famous person became famous by making mockeries of songs that were already famous. In that sense, the whole movie becomes a joke. Because it is. And that’s why this upcoming Roku TV original (I know) is great.
Follow these steps and your biopic will most likely make money. Plus, we’re in a time where nostalgia is still as big as ever. Everyone is showing “the true story” of someone. So if you jump on it fast, you might be able to capitalize before it goes downhill.
Photo via Roku