Getting to Know “Weird Al” Yankovic
By Leslie Borchard | Department Head Hair
and Kat Bardot | Department Head Make-up
Photos by Aaron Epstein/The Roku Channel
By Leslie Borchard | Department Head Hair
This project came straight out of left field.
In February of last year I received a call to work on an autobiographical production of the life of “Weird Al” Yankovic. Having worked with Al a handful of times over the last two decades and witnessing his infectious sweet spirit on set, I said, “Absolutely.” Producer Zach Halley hired me just after principal photography had begun, so I would be stepping in with zero prep. It was a “fly by the seat of your pants, work at lightning speed, make a miracle happen” kind of production. The package deal included collaborating with Kat Bardot (Department Head Make-up) who I had the pleasure of working with previously on an Apatow film. Knowing and appreciating her attention to detail, I was excited for us to put our creative forces to good use.
The wild ride began with a deep dive into my wig inventory. My partner in crime on this film was Jackie Weiss. She and I jumped straight in spending two full days sifting through every piece to find anything with a potential in helping us to recreate some of the very most iconic looks of the ’80s/’90s. There were wigs covering two full rooms of the house using the entirety of the space by the time we were done. It was quite the scene.
The first major looks to tackle were Al and Madonna. We had a pretty aggressive schedule with Dan Radcliffe playing Al in nearly every scene of the film. Jackie Weiss stepped up to tackle all three of Al’s wigs. Putting them on rotation was the only way to make our shooting schedule possible with stunts, doubles and slim to no reset times. They were all wrapped and set in a variety of perm rods, and shaped to style for whatever was the required year for the scene (from multiple scenes during childhood and various times as an adult). These looks would change slightly in shape and length as we progressed through his career and life experiences (including some drug experiences —see film).
Then there was Madonna. The wigs for Madonna’s character had been purchased and handed off to us, brand new. Their raw nature presented a major challenge simply due to time limitations. Also, we only had one night to make it all happen. Eric Appel (director) provided Kat and I with a good starting point in terms of how he wanted to see Madonna. I met with Evan Rachel Wood for a fitting, and we began experimenting with different shapes and styles all the while reciting lines from A League of Their Own, a mutual favorite movie. Little moments of nostalgic bliss like these early on shaped the truly sweet experience that was Weird.
After reworking and fitting the front of our wig and arriving at a look somewhere between early ’80s Madonna and Desperately Seeking Susan, the transformation was nearly there. To ensure the look would sell, we had to trick the look by shaping voluminous framework pieces and teased waves in such a way as to shorten and widen Evan’s slender bone structure to match that of Madonna’s. Now we needed something to draw the eye upward to complete the shape. Enter Wendy Benbrook (costume designer extraordinaire). Wendy provided us with the perfect accessories to outfit our Material Girl with just what she needed to have complete cohesion of costume, hair and make-up. We spent that night, frosting, cutting and coloring, creating the perfectly imperfect texture of bleach and butter with dark roots to create that iconic Madonna look. To begin her transformation, I wrapped her for her wig and used the light hair reel palette to camouflage a small amount of Evan’s then rose gold hair, to match my wig root color. The ultimate satisfaction came with final touches the following morning after I applied her wig. As I slid the material through my fingers, tightening the double lace oversized bow onto her head, a sassy, red-lipped crooked smile stretched across the face of former Evan and our dead ringer appeared. Voila!
Tackling the lengthy list of talent in the days to come with a pool party and Grammy event on deck presented new demands. This was where the show offered its most arduous challenge. Busy days like Dr. Demento’s pool party and our 1985 Grammy Awards scenes required a large team of talented hairdressers skilled in creating a perfect match to some of Hollywood’s most iconic characters. We had a really fun time with this one. Our team went to work and their talent and creativity really rose to the surface. To recount, Johnny Lomeli and Samantha Wiener put their heads together to create Divine using a modified wig to accommodate a bald cap with added a extensions, as well as styling David Bowie and Alice Cooper. Jackie designed the perfect John Deacon wig. Danyell Weinberg tackled our Cyndi Lauper character by fashioning a custom multi-colored wig. Monte Haught really nailed the style and shape for both Prince and Salvador Dali. Latasha Weatherspoon replicated the wire braided styling for Coolio. Jason Petis used his precision barbering skills for Ms. Grace Jones and Pee-wee Herman while the Diana Ross look was accomplished by sewing two long wigs together to create her thigh length tresses. Al Yankovic played music director Tony Scotti. He was placed into a lace wig that was reworked and styled. Ketty Gonzalez ran point on overseeing all of our Grammy attendees, running the BG team and making sure we were delivering on period perfection when it came to the unbridled textures, voluminous heights and wild asymmetrical ’80s looks as best as we could create them.
One of my favorite characters to recreate on this film was Wolfman Jack, played by the incomparable Jack Black. I was excited to see that Jack came in with enough length on top for this style. We started with a haircut to nail down the shape. His natural color required darkening, so I began building in Roux mousse to create a darker foundation. I added some styling mousse at the front and crown and began over-directing his blowout until the desired height was reached. Hair was brought back in layers and sprayed to finish. European dark hair palate dark brown/black was applied with a mascara wand and then sealed.
My favorite surprise on Weird was how much joy I had in creating the variety of looks for Al’s mother, Mary Yankovic, played by Julianne Nicholson. She was such an incredible delight to work with. Anytime you’re creating a family member of someone with creative control on a film, the stakes are high and it means a lot to really nail the look. I was so thrilled to see Al happy with the looks we created for Mary. The look for her younger years featured a medium brown wig that was set on rollers and styled with small finger curls framing the face. Her later wig was a darker color and had tighter curls along the nape and looser around the face.
On the morning of our big Grammy day shoot it became obvious that someone was missing from our cast of characters. We needed Cyndi Lauper—the one and only, cheerful and bright, Ms. Sunshine herself, the spirit of love and rainbow bright trademark of the time. It just so happened that Dan Radcliffe had a personal assistant (Alice Pearce) working with him that had the potential to deliver a character match made in heaven. We asked her and she enthusiastically accepted. We then approached production with the idea, and they quickly gave us the green light to put her through the works. Kat’s team did an amazing job on her make-up and we outfitted her with the signature 1985 asymmetrical orange splash hair style that just made everyone “wanna have fun.”
Late morning on Grammy day, I remember walking into the BG trailer to an energy that was similar to the opening of Fraggle Rock. The best of the ’80s music was pumping, the air was thick with hair spray and smelled of hot rollers. People were doing incredible hair and having a fun time doing it. There was a certain type of electricity that radiated the place and permeated anyone who was there. The most gratifying part of this show was hearing from people who came to help out on the show report just how much fun they had. There was certainly a look directive for the period; however, there was very little external creative control so that our people could get super inspired and design their own creations. Everyone that came to help on the Weird production was both as talented in their hair styling skills as they were delightful to work around. The entire experience was energizing and the infectious joy resonates throughout the film. Thank you to all of our additional hairdressers who came through ad made this possible. Myesha Starks, Ashley Brittain, Jamie Amadio and Moira Frazer.
By Kat Bardot | Department Head Make-Up
Weird: The Al Yankovic Story is not the typical film you see written about in The Artisan. What sets this film apart is that it was shot in only 18 days, with a budget totaling under $10 million. There were only 10 days of paid prep leading up to the film, which had a lot to accomplish in such a short period of time. It was one of the most challenging jobs I have ever had, but also one of the most satisfying of my career.
In the late summer of 2021, I got a text from my friend, Eric Appel, letting me know that Roku was going to produce a feature film he and Al wrote together, based off of a fake trailer for a fake biopic that Eric had filmed back when we were both working at Funny Or Die in 2009. Even after our time at Funny Or Die, Eric and I continued working together, so when this opportunity came up, I jumped at the chance to collaborate with my friend on a project that felt like we were going back to our roots. We looked at Funny Or Die as the school we both came up under and had graduated from, so going back to our alma mater for a reunion was something we were both very much looking forward to. And it was just before Thanksgiving of 2021 that I got a call from my line producer Zac Halley from Drunk History, saying, “It looks like we are working together again! We will be shooting the “Weird Al” Yankovic movie in February of 2022.” So from there I knew, that even with the limited budget and the limited number of shoot days, I would be surrounded by people I was familiar with, who know exactly how I work.
Coming up in the world of low-budget comedy prepared me for this exact moment. When it came to choosing my core team for the make-up department, I knew it had to be artists that not only had talent, but could roll with the punches and deflect any of the curveballs that would inevitably fly our way. KT Chandler had keyed for me on a season of Reno 911, which is also a very fast-paced, quickly shot, low-budget show, so I knew she would be up to the task of acting as my right hand. My third was Emilia Werynska, who I had only worked with a few days on a commerical, but immediately saw her artistic talents and easy-going nature. There was also a myriad of artists brought in on a day-to-day basis to assist us with background and to help us handle some of the scenes that had multiple guest stars, namely that big pool party scene. The day we shot the pool party was probably the most challenging day we had. It fell right in the middle of the shoot schedule. Originally, the scene would be the only thing we shot that day, until a revised schedule came out for an added scene with Evan Rachel Wood as Madonna, which meant I would have to hand my actors off to someone else on set while I went back to the trailer to get Evan camera-ready. Most days on the film I focused my efforts solely on Daniel Radcliffe (“Weird Al”) and Evan (Madonna), as Dan was in almost every shot and Evan’s looks and changeovers were extensive, but on pool party day, I came in early with my crew to get everyone up and running until it was time for me to transform Conan into the tallest Andy Warhol you have ever seen. After Conan, I dove straight into Jack Black’s beard, literally. Jack had grown out the wildest bushy quarantine beard and I had to meticulously shave, trim, sculpt and color it into Wolfman Jack’s signature overly styled beard.
We had so many iconic 1980s pop culture icons to replicate that day, not only in the main cast trailer doing guest stars, but we also had a good number of background actors playing characters like Elvira, Grace Jones, David Bowie, Frank Zappa, Elton John, John Denver, and Kate Pierson from the B52’s. I had made a very detailed deck of images and descriptions of what Hollywood pool party guests of the 1980s would look like so we could have the majority of our background arriving camera-ready. But for the replication of our icons, my department had to have full control over the looks. For just those characters alone, my team was responsible for contact lenses, press on nails, full-body airbrushing, covering tattoos, facial hair appliances and painting in a tooth gap.
To get the morning to run smoothly and on time, I had to make the most bananas flow chart of my career. My key, KT, started the morning with her regular actors: Rainn Wilson as Dr. Demento, and band boys Jim and Bermuda. Then she moved on to scene stealing David Dastmalchian as John Deacon and Emo Phillips at Salvador Dali with his cartoonishly long waxed mustache. My third, Emilia, was designated to executing Nina West’s drag make-up as Divine. Nina was first bald capped in our additional trailer by Kato Destefan, then came to the main cast trailer for Divine’s iconic Pink Flamingos look. Kato was also responsible for fitting Demitri Martin for some oversized crooked teeth and transforming him into Tiny Tim, as well as one third of The Lonely Island, Akiva Schaffer into Alice Cooper. Laura Peyer also transformed Jorma Taccone of The Lonely Island into the perfect Pee-wee Herman and Paul. F. Tompkins into watermelon-smashing comedian Gallagher.
Another large scene we had starring more pop culture icons was the 1985 Grammy’s scene. What a day! For background alone, we had Cyndi Lauper, Prince and Coolio on top of all of our Grammy audience members. Julie Hassett was tasked with covering LOTS of tattoos, full-body rotisserie chicken brown body painting, and platinum “mustacheing” James Preston Rogers as Hulk Hogan. Hulk’s presenting partner, Diana Ross, played by Trenyce Cobbins, was executed perfectly by Emilia. Not only did we have Al’s acceptance speech scene to shoot that day, but we also had the Amish Paradise Grammy performance. This meant so many mustacheless beards. Not only did Al and the band boys need to be transformed but so did a choir full of Amish singers.
In the Amish Paradise performance, there is a bit that is so quick that if you blink, you might miss it, but it was probably my personal biggest challenge of the shoot, make-up-wise. Dan Radcliffe grew his own mustache out for the shoot so we didn’t have to fuss with a fake one all day every day. Dan’s mustache grows in naturally with a lot of blond in it so we were dying and alcohol coloring it on the regular to give him Al’s signature mustache, with a little triangle shaved out of the center right in his philtrum. However, this Amish Paradise look called for him to be bearded with no mustache. The only problem was the shoot day fell at day 10 of 18, so we could not simply just shave his mustache off. My solution was to bring Dan to the MEL EFX lab to have him life-cast the day he flew into LA for the shoot, and it would require a rush job on sculpting a hair-free upper lip silicone prosthetic to cover his existing mustache. The lab had less than two weeks to make this happen for me. I didn’t end up getting the final pieces until the day before which provided no time to properly test it. It was also requested that same day that he be able to rip the mustache cover off as he exits to the side of the stage to reveal his mustache underneath. I started to sweat. Luckily, I had some extra copies of the appliance that had a bit too much baldiez encapsulation, making them quite firm, so I painted them to match the hero prosthetic he wore during the performance, cleaned him up fully, used little piece of top stick to tack the edges of the firm version of the prosthetic, so he could rip it off for multiple takes while exiting the side stage. I could not have been happier with how it turned out.
I knew going into this make-up that covering a full mustache with a thin Silicone prosthetic was not going to give me the totally seamless look I would like, but we got darnn close. I let all the powers that be know that this would work fine for medium and wide coverage, but on the last day of shooting, we should carve out some time for us to shave off Dan’s mustache, get him back into the beard, and shoot all his close-up coverage on a black backdrop as his last shot of his last day. Dan’s last day on set with us was made extra special because my team and I convinced the rest of the crew to dress up like “Weird Al” for the day. So while I was shaving Dan’s mustache off, I was wearing one myself. It made me so happy that everyone on set was down to get silly with us. It was such a special group of talented people that made this film happen and it’s wild how close connections formed in only 18 days.
Dan’s look as “Weird Al,” was obviously not based in reality. First of all, Dan is 5’5” while the real Al is six feet tall. Dan has blue eyes and Al has brown eyes. Everyone agreed that because the film is so-not based in reality, the eye color didn’t matter, as the height difference was also not an issue. Al’s eyebrows are much thinner that Dan’s beautiful naturally full eyebrows. I knew Dan had press to do right after wrap so we agreed that I would only shave up from the bottom of the brow slightly, and in between the brows so he could still look like himself. For his everyday make-up, I used a light wash of Koh Gen Do Maifanshi aqua foundation to cancel out any redness from his porcelain skin, as well as Face Atelier ultra camouflage concealer around the eyes, and set with MAC mineralized skin finish in light for a more dewy skin-like look. His mustache was darkened using the PPI Skin Illustrator brow palette in Dark Brun. For his brows, I would use the Anastasia Brow Freeze to tame the hairs together to give them a skinnier looking appearance.
Dan has a natural redness around his eyes which was perfect for when his character started to become “strung out.” He had a few stages of looking haggard due to his character’s alcohol abuse and psychological unraveling. When he was regular Al, I would conceal the redness around his eyes fully. Level 1 of his deterioration, I would remove his concealer, allowing his natural redness to show through. Level 2, I would add redness to the waterline using my favorite discontinued product, the MAC prolong wear lip pencils in the shade In Control. The long wear formula helps keep the product in the waterline longer than any other reddish pink eye pencil I had found. Level 3, I would add a small amount of taupe-colored eyeshadow in the hollows of his eyes to give the effect of dark circles. Normally, for this type of look, I would use a glazing gel but because these were very quick changes that had to be reversed frequently to go back to his regular look, it made more sense to use beauty make-ups to make removal easy, non-staining, and non-irritating.
I was very excited to design Evan Rachel Wood’s Madonna look. I made a large deck of images of Madonna from that time period to share with Evan to see if she gravitated toward the same looks. We were very much on the same page and selected four looks for her in her eight shoot days with us, which meant a good deal of flip flopping based on which scenes we were shooting each day. In pre-production, Eric and I had a meeting with master teeth maker, Gary Archer, to consult about making Evan’s teeth with Madonna’s iconic tooth gap. But after careful consideration, we decided it was more important for her character to constantly be chewing gum and playing with it, which would inevitably break multiple sets of teeth.
Her skin was kept the same throughout so we would just have to change eyes and lips. For her base, I used It Cosmetics CC cream, Cle de Peau concealer under her eyes and to carve out a more Madonna-like lip shape, Senna cream blush in Cherry Blossom applied high on the cheekbone toward her hairline, set with By Terry translucent hayluronic hydra-powder. Their eyeshadows changed, based on which outfit she was in. When we first meet her in the nail salon, she is in a more casual look so the eyeshadow was kept neutral with a winged liner which was Madonna’s throwback to her Marilyn Monroe inspiration. When Madonna arrives at Al’s mansion for the first time, she’s in a more eye-catching ’80s look using sunset-colored shadows in shades of yellow and rust orange. When she is kidnapped in the diner, she is in a purple and coral color combo. These two looks are the looks she is seen in most in the film. They both have a smokey cat’s eye which I did using the Charlotte Tillbury powder pencil in black as it smokes out so well with a little pencil brush. I didn’t want the obvious look of fake lashes so to enhance her natural lashes, I cut up some Ardell 110 strip lashes and strategically glued them to only the outer corners of her eyes for a more cat’s eye-shaped appearance, and topped them with Armani Eye’s to Kill Lengthening Mascara in black.
These two looks also share the same lip color. Madonna often wore a signature red lip. I was on the hunt to find the perfect shade of red in a long wear non-transferable formula because of all of her make out scenes with Al. After testing them on myself and making out with my own hand (don’t judge me, I’m single), I selected a drugstore find, the L’Oréal Paris 2 step infallible in the shade Crimson and changed Evan’s naturally rounded Cupid’s bow to a more pointed M-like peaks. Her brows were fluffed up using Anastasia Brow freeze and my all-time favorite Anastasia felt-tipped brow pens in blonde and taupe to draw in little hair strokes to mimic the shape and fullness of Madonna’s brows in the ’80s. And of course, we drew in Madonna’s signature mole. Oh, and I shouldn’t forget about the multiple tattoos we had to cover on her daily.
For her final look, when she is now a villain, everything changes except for her base and brows. The blush is now the discontinued MAC cool-toned iridescent powder in shade Full of Joy. Her red lip is now a magenta pink. Her eyeshadows are pink, purple, an iridescent shimmer. Her eyeliner is Danessa Myrick’s color fix in primary blue with matching cobalt lashes using L’Oréal voluminous mascara in blue. And her left cheek now adorned with a small sunken silicone scar by Out of Kit FX to show what a bad bitch she is from her time war lording the Colombian cartel.
Although Al and Madonna were our lead characters, Dr. Demento played by Rainn Wilson was also a majorly featured character. Originally, Patton Oswalt would be the only actor from the original trailer reprising his role as the good doctor. Due to our limited prep days and Patton’s tour schedule, we would not have time in pre-production to fit Patton for his Dr. Demento beard, so on the first day of principal photography, KT and I would both have to leave Emilia on set with Dan and the four band boys so we could go to Patton’s house to fit him for his Demento beard and take measurements of his face to make a beard form. With no time or money to have a custom beard ventilated, we planned to Frankenstein some John Blake beards together that we would cut into pieces. However, two days prior, Patton had broken his foot and after the fitting realized his lack of mobility could slow down this fast-paced production, he was giving up his role. Rainn was confirmed for the part on a Friday and was to start shooting the following Monday. Luckily for us, Rainn already had the perfect Demento beard, so all KT had to do to his beard was trim it into the correct shape and color it gray daily with some alcohol-activated Reel FX hair palettes. The curveball of re-casting actually made life easier for us.
For such a short shoot, we actually had a handful of very fun prosthetics to do. Toby Huss AND Julianne Nicholson played Al’s parents. We first see them when Al is just a young boy. Julianne’s simple yet perfect 1970’s housewife make-up was designated to KT while I did Toby’s basic male grooming. Later in the film, both the parents get a transformed look using prosthetics. For Toby, there is a scene where Al has accidentally taken LSD and because of his negative thoughts on his father, he has a hallucination of his father telling him what a loser he is while looking like a demon. We wanted this make-up to be subtle so I had prosthetics made by Out of Kit that more resembled the vampires in the film The Lost Boys, sans contact lenses. He had brow covers on, a forehead piece, and cheek bones, all painted in his natural skin tone using PPI Skin Illustrator airbrush make-up.
Julianne’s prosthetic look was a bit more dramatic. We needed a fat suit make-up that was tasteful as to not make it seem like we were making fun of fuller figured people, but to signify the call back to Al’s inspiration for his Michael Jackson parody Fat. By the end of the film, Julianne’s character had gained some weight. And again, due to time and budget, we could not have a custom piece made for her. On a previous project, I had used an RBFX foam latex fat suit appliance that I loved, foam latex for fat suits is ideal to me if you have to use a generic face prosthetic that isn’t broken up into pieces because it is so lightweight. Since these are made-to-order stock prosthetics, most are sculpted for men, but they had one foam latex option fit for a woman or child, along with some upper hand pieces. Unfortunately, due to Julianne’s slender face, there were too many gaps around the mouth so we had to rush order a new piece after the fitting. The only option for her size was a silicone version that was all one piece.
On the day, I applied and painted it with the assistance of my friend, Alyssa Morgan, and KT applied her beauty make-up after we were done. It was especially fun for me to paint back in all of Julianne’s amazing freckles. We still had some small issues around the mouth due to movement and breath condensation but overall, I was happy about it considering that it was not sculpted specifically for her. However, as the day progressed, the heaviness of the silicone provided some challenges due to gravity, so a lot of patching occurred on se. Again I was sweating. Thankfully, everyone was happy with the work so that helped put me at ease a bit. We are all our own worst critics.
Arturo Castro played Pablo Escobar and also required a wound prosthetic for his death scene. In the film, Al goes to Colombia to save Madonna from the Colombian cartel. When he arrives, he bursts into Pablo’s birthday party to save his love, when really it was all a ploy to get Al to show up for Pablo’s birthday after he declined a request to perform for him. Pablo shoots at Al, thinking he has murdered him, when in reality Al was saved by many of the platinum records he wears around his neck. In retaliation, Al throws one of the records at Pablo, like a ninja star, and the record sinks into Pablo’s head, leading to his demise. We only had Arturo for one day. Most of the day was spent with him in his mustached look done by KT, but for his final shot of the day, I was given a strictly-timed 25 minutes to Frankenstein the platinum record I was given by the props department earlier in the day with a generic Out of Kit cut prosthetic. The record would enter into his forehead, back into his hairline. I am pretty sure we shot his death in only two takes.
There was so much to do on this film that I could honestly keep writing another 3,500 words. Getting to make Eric and Al’s vision come to life was a true honor and a privilege. Working closely with both Dan and Evan was a pure joy. I wish there was a way to bring Al’s character back to life and do this insanity all over again. I would jump at the chance in a second to get to play with this crew all over again. •