15 Trivia Tidbits About ‘Napoleon Dynamite’

It’s pretty much my favorite trivia
15 Trivia Tidbits About ‘Napoleon Dynamite’

Back in 2004, a mouth-breathing, liger-drawing oddball with a ridiculous name somehow captured moviegoers hearts, making oodles of money at the box office and, most amazingly, somehow getting the American public interested in an election. Now, nearly two decades later, wed like to celebrate the Netflix-breaking Napoleon Dynamite by assembling some trivia about how it was made, such as…

It Began With as a Short Student Film

The seeds of Napoleon Dynamite were first planted in the short film Pelucamade by director Jared Hess for a class at Brigham Young Universitys film school and starring Jon Heder as a very Napoleon Dynamite-like character named Seth.

Heder Was Originally Cast as the Bully Character

Heder, who was also a student in the film program, was originally cast as Randy, more of a bully character. But after failing to find someone he liked during auditions, Hess told Heder, Actually, look at the lead role.

The Jamiroquai Song Happened to Be Playing on the Radio While Heder was Dancing

Napoleon Dynamite famously ends with Napoleon triumphantly busting a move to Jamiroquais Canned Heat. The song selection was happenstance; while making the short, Heder was dancing on the side of the road while in costume, and Canned Heat randomly came on the radio. Hess, who had already started writing his feature script, thought, This is how we've got to end the film!

The Song Wasn’t Cheap, Though

According to Heder, while making Napoleon Dynamite, they weren’t sure which tune they would be able to license for the film, so he performed his dance to three different songs — including a Michael Jackson track from Off the WallIn the end, they were able to get Canned Heat, and as Heder recalled, I think that was half our budget.

Heder Was Originally Paid Just $1,000

The budget for Napoleon Dynamite was around $400,000, and its star was paid just $1,000 for his work — at first. Heder later revealed that he was able to renegotiate for a percentage of the film's profits.

The Name Napoleon Dynamite Came From a Random Old Italian Man

The name Napoleon Dynamite wasnt invented for the movie. According to Jared Hess, while he was fulfilling his Mormon missionary duties in Chicago, he encountered an elderly Italian man who called himself Napoleon Dynamite. Hess later said of the event, My mind was blown. Clearly, it wasnt his real name. But I remember writing down on a piece of paper: Title of first movie must be Napoleon Dynamite.’”  

The Movie Was Full of the Directors Embarrassing Family Material

Hess packed the film full of real-life remembrances. When his mother first saw Napoleon Dynamite at the Sundance Film Festival, she remarked: Well, that was a lot of embarrassing family material.

Uncle Ricos Mail-Order Time Machine Was Based on a Real Incident Involving an Actor s Brother

One of the wackier subplots in the movie involves Uncle Ricotime machine, which he orders online — but this was also based on true events. Aaron Ruell, who plays Kip, revealed that his brother purchased a time machine from a man in Florida.

There’s a Fan Theory That the Time Machine Totally Works

At least one fan has speculated that Rico’s time machine does actually work, and we witness multiple timelines in the film.

A Dentist Gave Kip Real Braces in Exchange For Movie Tickets

A dentist straight-up put real braces on Ruell for the movie, which actually started to move his teeth. And he did it all in exchange for free tickets to the film’s premiere.

‘Vote for Pedro’ T-Shirts Were a Big Deal

Those ‘Vote For Pedro’ shirts from the movie were obviously printed up and sold in real life, becoming a major trend at the time. A 2020 VICE article investigated how all these shirts seemingly disappeared without a trace into Goodwill bins, dumpsters and Buffalo Exchange resale piles across the U.S.

The Cast Reunited for a Short-Lived Animated TV Show

While there was no big-screen sequel, Hess, Heder and rest of the cast re-teamed for a 2012 Fox animated series, which only lasted for six episodes.

A Filming Location in Idaho Has Been Renamed Napoleon Dynamite Lane

Napoleon Dynamite put the town of Preston, Idaho on the map, and while some residents love the association, others arent so enthusiastic. (Could be worse.)

The town has since honored the film by renaming a street next to the house that stood in for Napoleons home: Napoleon Dynamite Lane. Come on, Worst Day of My Life, What Do You Think? Blvd. was right there.

You (yes, you) should follow JM on Twitter (if it still exists by the time you’re reading this). 

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