Napoleon Dynamite: 15 Heck Yes Facts
The year is 2004. You can’t leave the house without hearing a reference to tots, ligers, Tina, vote for Pedro, the Loch Ness Monster or “make yourself a dang quesadilla.” The little Sundance Film that could, Napoleon Dynamite swept the nation like a giant nation-sized broom, so here are 15 little-known facts to celebrate its reign.
It’s Based On A Short
The original version of Napoleon Dynamite was actually a class project at Brigham Young University entitled Peluca. The entire film is in black and white and Napoleon is named “Seth,” but the heart and energy stay the same. Hess and Heder shot the film in just two days in Hess’ hometown of Preston, Idaho.
Jon Heder Was Paid 1,000 Bucks
Napoleon Dynamite did not have a large budget, and Heder was certainly not a big name, so he was paid just $1,000 dollars for his role in the film. However, Heder has since added that after the movie started dominating the box office and the millions began rolling in, "They went a little bit higher."
Deb is based on Jerusha Hess
Jared told Rolling Stone “Jerusha (Hess, his wife) really was like Deb growing up. Her mom made her a dress when she was going to a middle school dance and she said, ‘I hadn’t really developed yet, so my mom overcompensated and made some very large, fluffy shoulders.’ Some guy dancing with her patted the sleeves and actually said, ‘I like your sleeves…they’re real big.’”
The Writers Are Married
The film was actually written by a husband and wife team, Jared and Jerusha Hess. Jared went on to direct the film as well, and Jerusha stepped in as the costume designer. Since then the duo went on to write Nacho Libre, Gentlemen Broncos, and Don Verdean.
Napoleon’s Dance Scene Was Inspired By Extra Film Stock
According to Jared Hess, Heder used to go to dance clubs and do synchronized dances with his brother. When Hess was finishing with Peluca he had about a minute of extra film stock so he asked Hess to dance for the final minute. Hess said, “So I had Jon stand down at the end of a dirt road, I turned on the radio in the car and that Jamiroquai song just happened to be playing. I just told him to start dancing and realized: This is how we’ve got to end the film! You don’t anticipate those kinds of things. They’re just part of the creative process.”
Fans Still Flock To Preston, Idaho To Tour The Movie's Locations
According to Rhonda Gregerson, a Preston Idaho resident, “Even 12 years past the movie's wide theatrical release, every summer at least 50 groups of fans walk into the office of The Preston Citizen, the local newspaper where she works as the circulation manager, wanting to know more about the film.” Up until recently The Preston Citizen offices sold vote for Pedro T-shirts, Chapstick and boondoggles.
The Title Sequence Features Several Difference Hands
Fox didn’t like the look of Heder’s hands, which were originally used for the opening title sequence shots, because of his hangnails. Instead, hand models were used to recreate the into, and over the course of it, Jared says you can spot three different sets of hands in the final film.
Heder Got A Disastrous Perm
Jerusha Hess had the idea for Napoleon to have a perm, but the hair studio he went to ended up making his curls too large so that he looked like “Shirley Temple.”
Jared said “my wife and her cousin spent the whole night re-perming his hair, until maybe two or three in the morning, just doing a water perm. Then they told me that Jon couldn’t wash his hair for the next three weeks! So he had this stinky ‘do in the Idaho heat for three weeks. We were shooting near dairy farms and there were tons of flies; they were all flying in and out of his hair.”
LaFawnduh's Real-Life Family Appeared In The Film
Hess called Shondrella Avery, who played Lafawnduh, and said ‘You remember that there were no black people in Preston, Idaho, right? Do you think your family might want to be in the movie?' Avery agreed, resulting in many of her family members appearing in the post-credits scene at Kip and Lafawnda’s wedding.
It Made A Lot More Than It Cost To Make
While the film only cost $400,000 dollars to make, it ended up sweeping the nation by word of mouth, resulting in the film raking in over $46 million at the box office. That’ll buy you a lot of Alpacas to add to your farm.
The Origin Of Napoleon Dynamite’s Name
As you may have guessed from the fact that the filmmakers attended Brigham Young University, Jared and Jerusha are members of the Mormon church. While Jared was on his mission in Chicago, Hess met an Italian man named “Napoleon Dynamite.” Now that’s what I call a sign from God.
Many Preston Residents Appeared In The Film
According to Deseret, all of the background extras in the high school scenes were actual high school students in Preston, Idaho. One of the secretaries was even played by Jared’s long-time neighbor growing up.
The Dance Was Improvised
Heder said he had the first eight counts sort of figured out (the shuffling), but told Hess to play three different songs and he would dance to each one until he felt like puking. They played a Michael Jackson song and two Jamiroquai songs, eventually ending with “Canned Heat” by Jamiroquai. Heder says the two were obsessed with the artist at the time.
In order to deceive Japanese audiences, Fox changed the name to Bus Man in Japan, in order to ride the coattails of another popular film in the country called Train Man. The two movies could not be more different, and Fox eventually apologized for deceiving Japanese audiences in 2013.
Kip Had To Wear Real Braces
Derek Aaron Ruell suggested Kip Dynamite have braces in the film, himself. He assumed a makeup team would have some sort of fake braces device to glue to his teeth for the film, but it turns out, Ruell needed real braces. Ruell said “They were the real deal. And quite painful for that first week. They moved my teeth. They said that this is only going to make them straighter, or they wouldn't have set them on.”
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