Napoleon Dynamite, the often confusing, always weird, unfailingly hilarious movie from 2004 left everyone with a deep appreciation for llamas, puffy sleeves, and glamour photography. Beloved by almost everyone, the movie was a breakaway hit that no one anticipated. Here are some of the greatest stories and bits of trivia from this movie to remind you why you loved it, and inspire you to share the magic with your friends!
Jon Heder played Napoleon Dynamite, a gangly teen with an active imagination. He was paid $1,000 for the role. The film grossed over $40,000,000! After the success of the movie, however, he renegotiated and walked away with more money.
Why was the credits roll so, so, soooo long?
All the student extras were credited in the movie – over 150 of them! – making the credits some of the longest, ever. Funny, considering that you don’t meet most of the extras – they’re just background noise!
Are ligers actually real? Click Next and don’t miss the video towards the end
Bet you thought ligers weren’t real! In fact, they are, they just don’t possess magical qualities the way Napoleon claimed they did.
Also, Jon Heder did all the drawings in the movie, including the one of the liger. The only one he didn’t draw was the unicorn in the opening scene. The portrait of Trisha took the longest, at 30 minutes.
Remember when Uncle Rico threw the steak at Napoleon?
Uncle Rico throws a steak at Napoleon in one scene after taking a bite from it. It was reported that actor Jon Gries was an avowed vegetarian and only agreed to film the scene as long as he didn’t chew or swallow the meat.
After each take, he would subtly spit the meat out into his hand, but not for vegetarian reasons, but because he thought the steak was gross.
What family secrets made it into the movie?
The film was directed and directed by husband and wife team Jared and Jerusha Hess. Much of it was taken directly from Jared’s childhood anecdotes, including the farmer shooting a cow in front of a school bus full of children, or recounting the time his younger brother called him at school to ask for chapstick.
When Hess’s mother saw the screening of Napoleon Dynamite she said, “Well, that was a lot of embarrassing family material.”
What was the worst part of filming?
Jon Heder wasn’t allowed to wash his hair for 22 days! He needed to get a perm, but went to a beauty school and got a terrible perm. The hairstylist of the film (Jerusha Hess’s cousin) re-did it with water. Due to all the chemicals in a perm, they couldn’t re-perm it (it could make the hair fall out) so he just wasn’t allowed to wash it for the duration of the film.
Said Jared Hess, “…We shoot on a lot of dairy farms and you can see there are flies flying around his hair. His hair got pretty stinky when we were shooting, but we just couldn’t risk having to perm it with real chemicals again.”
Were they expecting the reaction they got?
They weren’t anticipating any sort of excited reaction like, at all! Says Hess, “…We were just out of film school…I never thought that it would get into Sundance or that it would get bought by a major studio and get released at the level that it did.”
What was weird about the main actors?
Jon Heder, who played Napoleon Dynamite, and Efren Ramirez, who played Pedro, last name unknown, were much older than they looked! Heder was 27 at the time of filming, and Ramirez was 30! They managed to pull off the high school look pretty convincingly, we think.
Why was there no improvisation in the movie?
Many comedy films feature plenty of improvisation. Not this one! Deidrich Bader, who played the gruff, dramatic Rex Kwon Do, said of Napoleon Dynamite: “It’s word for word … because the script was so funny that I didn’t feel any need to improvise.”
How did they get all the boondoggle bracelets made?
Deb (Trish Majorino) goes door to door selling boondoggle necklaces and bracelets in order to pay for college. (“Your mom goes to college!”) In order to have a full treasure chest of bracelets and necklaces, Jon Heder helped Trish make them in between sets.
What happened to the llama in the end?
Tina the llama was actually Jared Hess’s mothers llama! She died in recent years of West Nile disease, but showed up at a cast reunion at one point (likely confused about why everyone was making a fuss over her.) Her name was Dolly.
Who was Napoleon’s girlfriend?
Remember when Napoleon shows off a picture of his girlfriend? It’s the same photo that George from Seinfeld uses as his “dead fiance” to pick up women.
How much practice did Jon Heder get for the dance scene?
Jon Heder totally winged the dance scene! Says Jon, “Any other film would have gotten a choreographer to work with me. But they were like, “No, Jon, just figure it out.” So I just winged it. I danced three times and they took the best pieces from each of those.”
In fact, it was the last scene they shot and they ran out of film, so they just spliced together whatever they had to come up with a workable, funny dance scene.
Why did Jon Heder hit someone in the face with a steak?
The movie was a huge hit among young people. After the success of the film, cast members were often asked to appear at college graduations. One time, a student asked if Jon could throw a steak at his face. He did, and the steak hit the student full-on. He then autographed it.
What was one actor not anticipating?
Kip, played by Aaron Ruell, had braces that got put on for the movie. The dentist who assisted them also got featured in the super-long credits.
Ruell said of the experience, “I just assumed that we’d be able to Hollywood it up and there would be some temporary things I’d put in while we were shooting and I’d just kind of take them out. And then flash-forward to, you know, showing up at Jared’s place a week before shooting and I’m in the orthodontist’s chair getting real braces attached to my teeth.”
Which scenes were almost too hard to shoot?
Jon Heder had a hard time filming two scenes because they were too funny: the Rex Kwon Do scene, and the one where he’s feeding Tina.
“I was busting up when Rex was doing his scene. And then when I’m throwing food at the llama, I was just laughing, I was actually throwing food at the llama, and we cut that out because there was not a clean shot.”
What was lucky about hiring this one actor?
Sandy Martin played Kip and Napoleon’s dirt-bike racing grandma. She also was the owner of Tina the llama. In real life, Martin had worked for a veterinarian, and was comfortable around animals, even calming the llama down when she first met everyone.
What makes the movie so relatable?
The movie is relatable because it doesn’t fit into any neat stereotypes. Napoleon is simply an awkward teenager who’s not particularly smart, or geeky, or funny, or anything else – he’s a simple guy who loves to dance, draw, and eat Tater Tots. His character was sort of inspired by a trip to a thrift store!
“Jared had the general idea of the character...he was basically writing his two younger brothers and writing himself into it. And so when he brought me the script for Peluca [the short film on which the movie was based] … I was like, “I get it. This is that crusty kid. It makes sense.”
Jared’s wife suggested a perm and glasses – “…really tight, gross, curly hair. And maybe we should give him some glasses.” Then they went to the thrift shop to look at clothes, and created the characters there.
What was the original inspiration for the movie?
Speaking of, the movie was based on a short called “Peluca”. Jared Hess created it in 2002 for an assignment while attending Brigham Young University. Much of it is similar to the big-screen movie, and also features Jon Heder as Seth – a character identical to Napoleon.
The movie – 8 minutes long – follows Seth and his friends Pedro and Giel as they skip school, try to buy a lottery ticket, and head to a thrift shop. Click through to the end to see the movie!
What happened to the town where the movie was shot?
The movie was set in Preston, Idaho, which really exists. For four years – from 2004 to 2008 – they held a Napoleon Dynamite festival in the summers. Locals were excited that the movie had brought so much attention to their town, and sales of tater tots increased!
What’s the funny backstory behind the time machine?
In real life, Aaron Ruell (Kip’s) brother bought a time machine on the internet! Just like Kip! He spent $800 on it and apparently it featured crystals, and looked even shoddier than the one Kip purchased, though we can hardly believe that. Time machines are hard to come by, even on the internet, so we don’t blame him for trying!
Why didn’t we see much of Jon Heder after Napoleon Dynamite?
Jon Heder (Napoleon) never smiles during the movie. Never.
Also, most of the characters are Mormon, which is why there is no profanity or sexual conduct of any kind during the film. It’s also the reason why Jon Heder never really became a big movie star – most of the roles he was offered were too raunchy for his belief system.
He has appeared in several movies which are rather PG – Blades of Glory and The Benchwarmers being two of them. He currently keeps a low profile with his wife and three kids in LA.
The original Napoleon Dynamite is next!
Finally, check out the original Napoleon Dynamite!
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