If you are a person of a certain age, odds are you are familiar with Napoleon Dynamite, the little indie comedy that took pop culture by storm ten years ago. Last week, the cast and crew reunited to celebrate the tenth anniversary and Nerdist interviewed writer/ director Jared Hess about the inspiration for the films wacky characters, revisiting the of Napoleon Dynamite world and what Hess has up next.
“Nothing like a bronze statue to commemorate a tenth anniversary,” says Hess, still excited about the unveiling and remembering when the film was just premiering. “After my mom saw the film up at Sundance she turned to me and was like, ‘Well that was a bunch of embarrassing family material.'” He continued, “I come from a family of six boys and most of what Napoleon says and does in the film like a best of collection of nerd highlights from my life or my brothers lives. So, it really was autobiographical for me.”
How much did actor Jon Heder contribute to the role? “When Jon and I met at film school and the idea for the character was germinating, I put him in the short film I had written and had talked to Jon at length about the mouth breathing – I mean, all of the character details that you see in the film, a lot of it was brought about by just experiencing adolescence with a bunch of brothers in Idaho and he also comes from a big family of boys and was able to identify and relate to a lot of it and really bring to life a lot of it and what my ideas were but in a much more authentic way then I ever could imagine.”
When bringing to life such a unique and specific kind of world filled with one of a kind characters, was Hess at all nervous? “I think any filmmaker is unsure about anything that he’s doing. You know, you have to trust in your own vision and trust in your gut when you’re coming up with ideas and trying new different things but at the end of the day you never know how its going t be received or interpreted by an audience but we got really lucky that people I think identified with the awkwardness and adolescence and the version of it that’s portrayed on the film I don’t think people had seen a character like Napoleon but after the film came out so many people came up to me and said, ‘Man, my brother is just like that’ or ‘I was just like that’ and seeing it acted in the way that it was I think just really struck a chord with people.”
Hess went on to direct Nacho Libre with Jack Black and Gentlemen Broncos with Jemaine Clement and Hess spoke a little about his next project, Loomis Fargo, saying, “I’m getting ready to direct a movie with Zach Galifianakis and Owen Wilson and Kristin Wiig in North Carolina, that’s in a month. I’m in the middle of preproduction on that.” When asked what draws him to a particular project Hess explained, “I think the characters and the story just have to speak to me in some way. More than anything I feel like I have to love the characters that I’m bringing to life.”
Napoleon Dynamite, celebrating its tenth anniversary this year directed by Jared Hess and starring Jon Heder, Efren Ramirez and Tina Majorino, is available on Blu-ray now.