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Napoleon Dynamite - Jon Heder Q&A



Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q. Is it true your regard the role of Napoleon as the role of a lifetime?
A:
Well, yeah. I guess in a lot of different ways. It’s the first feature film I’ve done and it may be the role of my lifetime, as I have to accept the fact that I may be known as the guy who plays Napoleon - if it becomes bigger than just a novelty. It’s the role of a lifetime because I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to top that kind of character or if another writer or director will come to me with another character that is just as memorable as Napoleon.

Q. How did you go about creating him – did you study how teenage kids react etc?
A
. It was just memory observations. When I was in High School I wasn’t taking notes. I drew a lot of inspiration from my younger brothers - especially how he talks. How he moves I just thought about what a kids going to look like who physically has no sense of balance, who would be horrible at sports, even though he thinks he’s an amazing numbchucker and bowstaffer. He’s very awkward he in the way is socially and physically he’s just stiff and runs like an idiot.

Q. You had a perm for the part of Napoleon but who decide that the permanent wave would not be permanent?
A.
Well, it was permanent when I got it. Those curls stay in till you either cut them off or let them grow out. When we shot the short film Peluca back in 2001 I kept the perm for a couple of months and I really like playing with the hair, you know it’s easy to maintain. But after we shot Napoleon, it was enough. It was like the third perm I’d got so my hair was fried. But to get it straight I had to perm it again which fried it eve more so I looked like a lion. |So in the end we just cut it off.

Q. What was it like when you went out with your hair like that – almost in costume as it were -did you find people didn’t recognise you or reacted differently too you/
A.
Well, I never really went out like that. Even with the hair we had to be careful with it. I wasn’t able to wash it, I washed it about three times during the whole shoot and couldn’t’ get it wet that often because it tended to get messed up. We styled it up and parted it. When it was washed it was much cleaner looking and flatter. And I hardly ever walked around in his outfit. I wouldn’t wear Moon Boots in real life and I didn’t wear glasses and open my eyes so…

Q. What was your High School experience like were you a sports jock or more inclined to be a geek?
A.
I was probably more inclined toward the geek part. I was definitely not a sports jock. I wasn’t as clueless as Napoleon. He has no idea how dorky he is whereas I knew how dorky I was. I was in between I had a twin brother so we were our own click and then we had other friends. We were friends with a lot of the popular kids but we were friends with the nerdy kids too

Q. Were you identical twins and if so did you play tricks on your teachers?
A.
We were identical and we did that more when we were in elementary school not so much when we were grown up because teachers were smarter and we looked a little different.

Q. Was there any hope of a franchise for Napoleon and is he a character you’d like to play again?
A.
There’s easily potential for a sequel or TV shows or all kinds of stuff. We always hear from fans we want to see Napoleon in more adventures. When we made it thought we were simply making a film we hoped would be bought some day and for large masses of people to see and so far that dream has come true. But speaking in franchise terms we’ll see what happens. I won’t place bets on there being a sequel but I guess I wouldn’t mind playing Napoleon again especially if Jared Hess, who wrote and directed, was involved.

Q. If there was to be a sequel you’d need to do it soon so it still be done in that world he inhabits?
A.
Well that world in Preston Idaho is going to stay that way for another good number of years. So you don’t need to worry about that.

Q. Is it beyond redemption?
A.
Well, in it’s own form it’s its own redemption. I’ve got to do it before I get fat and old.

Q. The director claims that the scene where the cow gets shot actually happened do you know anything about that?
A.
Not really. Just that someone said it happened.

Q. Why do you think America is so enamoured with the geek and the nerd?
A.
I think maybe so many people are just sick off seeing so much emphasis put on how you look and how popular you are. Personally, some times I get sick of High School movies, even though the messages they give is like it’s okay if you’re not popular you’ve got to be cool in your own way but I think Napoleon did it the right way. We see so much emphasis put on -young people especially –looking pretty. Celebrating the nerd liberates so many young people. Liberates us to be who we really are and I think Napoleon is very honest with who he is and what he wants to do. It was very liberating for me to do.

Q. Did you ever bake a cake to win the heart of a young lady when you were at High School?
A.
I did some nerdy stuff but I never baked a cake. I think I sent a girl a pinecone with some lame pun attached. I was definitely awkward with the females. Again as wasn’t as awkward as Napoleon, but I wasn’t always a success trying to hook up with the ladies.

Q. One of the great scenes is the one at the school dance where there are lots of “nerds” sitting around watching while others dance…
A. T
hat was me. It was like you wanted to but at the same time I thought it would be nerdy to get up there dancing. It was hard.

Q. Will you have to play a serial killer or something next to get away from Napoleon?
A.
There is that desire to get away but I don’t know if I’d go as extreme as a serial killer but we’ll see. I’d like to do some more comedy but I would like to do something a little more dramatic. I’ve had a few offers but not all great scripts - some of them are okay and some of them need a lot of work. I’ve had some that are similar to Napoleon and most of that stuff I’m trying to stay away from – if it’s really similar. Obviously there’s a certain dorkiness in some of the roles that I might be interested in but I’m trying to stay away from anything really, really similar.

Q. Who are your comedy influences?
A.
I love Jim Carrey. Will Ferrell, Jack Black a lot of those comedians are really great. Dana Carvey. Growing up in High School those are like my inspirations. I love the Simpsons too – that was comedy to me growing up in High School.

Q. Would you be up for a part in a real life version of the Simpsons and if so whom would you play?
A.
Yeah, sure. I’d like to play the dorky kid who flips the burgers and has all that acne.

Q. How has the local town of Preston reacted to all this?
A.
We went to a premiere in Preston and it was kind of ok. It went both ways a lot of the youngsters really loved it and some of the regular people didn’t quite get it – you know “Is this making fun of us?” It was a kind of mixed reaction. It was hard because it was such an old theatre the sound was bad. I hear now that they’re gearing up for the school year they’re holding steak-throwing competitions so they’re this whole Napoleon fair at the High School and sort of embracing it.

Q. Talking of steaks you did actually get hit in the face by the steak Rico throws at you in the film?
A.
It hurt... a lot. We did about four takes. The first two takes completely missed, He was a good distance away and it was actually Jon Gries who plays Uncle Rico who throw the steak. The third one hit on the arm and left this nasty meat juice stain. The fourth one he said I’m going to throw this hard cause I can aim better so he really throw it hard. He smacked me in the face and ripped my glasses off and I had this big bruise that we had to cover up with make-up but luckily I stayed in character. I was like I don’t know what I’m going to do if I crack up because I don’t know if we’re going to do that again.

Q. Was it easy to keep in character?
A.
Yeah, most of the time it was really easy. There were two scenes where I had difficulty staying in character. One was the Rex Kwan Do scene where Rex is smacking Kip. On set I couldn’t keep a straight face and I had to tell the editors to keep away from me. And the other one was where I was throwing food at the Llama. I was laughing so much. I was throwing food at the Llama but we had to cut those and use ones where I was throwing food over him. I felt so sorry for the animal but it was fun.

Q. The big dance solo was that choreographed or improvised?
A.
It was all ad-libbed, improv. I like to dance and Jared knew that so he wrote that into the script. We just said let’s just play some Jamoriquai, because we both loved that. He said: “You just dance and we’ll take three takes and we’ll take the best.”

Q. And did you do much research for your Loch Ness monster speech?
A.
Well research was done when I was young. In elementary school I used to do reports on the Loch Ness monster. But for that Jared had written some things but he just told me to make up my own stuff and keep ad-libbing.

Q. The film was a huge hit at the Sundance Festival did you go along and what was that like?
A.
It was insane. It was really cool but it was basically where everything happened for the film. That was our ultimate goal - to get into Sundance and get it seen by some serious studios and get it bought and for me to may be meet some agents. At the first screening people went nuts for the film then we had all sorts of offers for the film and tons of interviews, tons of press for Jared and I. It was really crazy. It was overwhelming and very cool. The potential opportunities for what I could be doing in the future. I didn’t start to realise that until this summer.

Q. Tina Majorino, who played Deb in the movie, is quite big star really having been acting since she was 10 in things like Waterworld. What was that like?
A.
We became really good friends and I asked all the questions about what her experiences were like. It was cool, really cool to work with her. It was the first film she had done in four years as she took a break and went to school. So for her it was like revisiting things so it was sort of a new experience for all of us. But she had worked on some serious productions back in the day so it was cool that some one like that would do such a tiny little film like this. So I got some Waterworld stories! It’s the same with Jon Gries – he’s never been in the limelight but he’s been in the film business for so long he was god to work with.

Q. How bad was the scene you had to film with the chickens in the battery farm?
A.
I really like that scene because it was nasty. I couldn’t eat chicken for a while because the chickens smell like chicken and I was like: “Shouldn’t I be smelling something else?” It was gross and fun at the same time.

Q. You were an animation student so how did you end up in front of the camera?
A.
I always wanted to get into the film industry and I was studying film at the time we made the short film. When we made the feature I had switched over to animation but the whole time I would audition on the side for short student films. So I was always interested in it but I wasn’t going to really try unless something big happened. But I want to continue working on animation and have aspirations to direct animation one day.

Q. Who do you think the film will really appeal to?
A.
When we made the film we thought it would appeal mostly to like the 18-30 range.
Most of the people who made the film are in their twenties but there’s a lot of 1980s references and early 1990s stuff and that each group really gets that kind of world and those old references. If teenagers like it that would be coo but this is not your normal kind of teenage movie it’s more for an older audience.
Surprisingly, the movie has really exploded with the 12 and 13 year olds. I mean 12-year-olds are like insane and they’re crazy about the movie. We’ve reached a whole different audience that we never expected. When we first screened it to High School students after Sundance it was like crickets chirping – nobody got it. And we were like “ah well” but then I think they started to realise this is cool and they opened up their minds and realised it is funny.

Q. With the body language you use for Napoleon is there a danger of people seeing Napoleon of suffering from a mental illness?
A.
Well, he’s definitely mentally impaired. Or maybe socially impaired. He’s a social misfit and he’s bordering that line, both him and Kip, Kip even more in some ways. He’s grown up in a different environment but he’s a good kid. Technically I don’t think he has any learning difficulties but he’s socially so awkward that it almost seeps into some of his other functions.

Q. I believe there’s now a new scene added to the film after the end credits is this true?
A.
Yes, we wrote another five-minute scene that involves a wedding between two of the characters but we’re not saying who. Basically it’s just a chance to see all the characters again for just a short amount. In the UK you’ll see the non-wedding version first, then I’m not sure when the wedding version will be shown.

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