INT: Jon Heder

Jon Heder enjoys a peculiar kind of celebrity. He's instantly recognizable, yet most people would be hard-pressed to say his name. They know him simply as NAPOLEON DYNAMITE, the character made famous by last year's eponymous indie hit. Perhaps no actor has been more associated with a character he played, even more so than that guy who played Luke Skywalker. Still, Heder doesn't seem to mind - at least not now. We'll see how he feels after Napolean Dynamite 6 comes out.

Check out what Heder had to say about his latest project, THE BENCHWARMERS, opening this week.

Jon Heder

So, were you a benchwarmer?

I was kind of in between. I would say I was in the neutral zone. I was definitely never the best on the team but I did play a lot. Middle school was the turning point. Grade school, I did soccer, basketball, baseball. Those were the main sports I did every year at the local Boys and Girls Club, those sports where you don’t have to try out. Every kid is given a chance. Then, high school, when it got into that, I knew I would never make any sport if I tried out so I did sports where you didn’t have to try out, like cross country or track or swimming. Middle school was a mix. I remember actually trying out and making it onto the A team basketball but I was never the best but I wasn’t the worst. So I would have some time on the bench and some on the court.

Your director, Dennis Dugan mentioned at your athletic skills, that you could still play with your hands taped to the bat.

I don’t know why he said that. I didn’t get a lot of chance to show… I remember thinking, "Oh cool," when I read the script, "It will be fun to go out there and play some baseball." But then I was thinking, "Well, my character stinks at it and I probably won’t get a chance." When you are shooting the film you think, "We’ll be hitting the ball around," but really, there’s all this camera equipment out there and set ups and it’s too dangerous to do any of that. So, I didn’t get a chance to play but I really enjoyed hitting the ball and, when I had to, I could whack it.

Are you attracted to movies that involve sports?

Are you talking about this and the ice skating movie (Blades of Glory)? Those are such different films. I don’t think of ice skating as a sport as more of an art. It’s so technical and it’s not a team sport. It’s not like you’re scoring goals. I was attracted to the ice skating thing because I thought it was a funny script and I was like, whoa, that would be awesome to learn ice skating and to really get into that. I love it. With baseball, I was like, well, it’s nice, it’s outside, it’s with kids. It’s a fun, silly movie. It wasn’t that I was thinking, "Ahhh, I love sports." Honestly, I’ll say it here. I’m not a sports fan. I like to play now and then but I don’t know who anybody is or what teams are playing. I’m out of my element in that world.

What kind of input did you have into your costume for this?

Originally, I was imagining this guy with really short hair and then I mentioned to Adam Sandler, "Well, what if we did this kind of geeky guy who has a paper route, rides a bike and has a helmet and he’s the type who would walk into a store and still wear his helmet." I was thinking more like, just a couple of times in the film, he’d wear his helmet and then Adam was like, "Oh, that’s great. Let’s have him wear the helmet the entire movie" Then they wanted to make wings [points to his hair]. There wasn’t a lot of round table discussion on it.

How hard is it for you to find a character that isn’t like your Napoleon Dynamite guy?

(This character) is kind of a bit like him. It’s kind of a watered down…no it’s different because he actually smiles and you get to see his teeth. You see a little bit more different sides and he’s a much nicer guy straight up than, I guess, Napoleon, but it was nice to do something different.

Are you resigned to the fact that some people are probably going to see you as Napoleon forever?

Yeah, I knew that the second I… I knew that basically at Sundance when we knew that something might happen, when we were first showing it to audiences, I knew that, if this goes anywhere, if this becomes a hit I’ll probably be forever known as Napoleon but there’s a lot of actors out there who are remembered for their famous roles and I don’t think that’s such a bad thing. It’s kind of cool, making a little spot on the history map.

Did you think that Napoleon would ever become this cult hit? Teenagers love that movie.

You have no idea when you do something like that. Hey, this might do well, this might not be seen. Really, Sundance was when we could start using our imaginations because it was the first time people were seeing it who were involved in the industry and that was our first step into that world. We thought, "It’s going to open up a lot of doors. The chance for it to be seen by a lot more people is better now." The way the reaction was at Sundance, it was like, "Wow, I wonder if this is mirrored though the rest of the country. Who knows?" It became the ideal expectation. We all loved it and when we made the original short in college, the college students loved it so it was kind of like if this catches on the same way, picture that. And it was exactly that and in some ways a little bit more.

Could there be a Napoleon Dynamite sequel at the end of the year?

Right now, there’s no plans. I read it on the internet sometimes. I don’t know where they hear it from. Obviously, everybody will mention it but nothing is determined. There’s no "yes or no."

Would you do another one?

I’d do another one if it involved a lot of the same people. Obviously if Jared Hess was writing and directing it and if it was a good script, which I think it would be if he was writing it.

Are there any Napoleon Dynamite groupies now?

Well, if there are, they don’t hang out with me. I think so. Just yesterday, we were driving in town and we saw these two girls riding bikes who looked like they were all dressed up in all this classic ‘80’s stuff, like headbands and knee-high sox, like they were doing it for show and one of them was wearing a Napoleon shirt. That was kind of fun.

Is it weird seeing yourself on shirts and on all the merchandise?

I’m getting a little more used to it but it’s still weird when you see it. Like, I had my first bus experience. I know a lot of people do that but I was riding on the way to the airport and I looked at the bus right next to me and it had a Benchwarmers thing on it. I know everybody has that first experience…. Well, not everybody…those who are in the acting world. I thought "oh, that’s weird". I can mark that off on my "to do" list.

What about getting your own action figure?

That’s another thing I got to mark off on the list. I don’t feel like it’s yet fully an action figure. It’s a figurine. Unless it has moving parts or a shooting net or something like that. This costs about 20 bucks. It’s more like a collectable piece. You just stand it up. But, once you are a toy, where kids are going like..[makes gun shooting noises], that’s cool. But, I’m almost there. I’m not complaining.

Is there kind of a Saturday Night Live player's club that you aren’t a part of on this?

And they’d play poker at night? No, I think they’ve all sort of faded off into their own lives now. It was really mostly Lovitz and Schneider and Spade. Schneider had to train for baseball so he’d be doing his thing most of the day. If he ever had breaks or if wasn’t on set, he would be in his little workout trailer hitting balls or whatever. Spade and I would hang out at lunch and play hacky sack and eat fattening food and Lovitz would do the same. That’s how it played out.

Any projects planned after Blades of Glory?

I’m doing another movie Mamma’s Boy with Diane Keaton. I play the mamma’s boy.

Is it a romantic comedy or just a comedy?

I guess there’s some romance in it but it has more of an indie feel. It’s a pretty simple movie but it’s just different because it’s a pretty funny character but it is kind of the same story about a guy who lives at home with his mom and he’s got to get out of the house. I didn’t see Failure to Launch but I’m guess they’re pretty different.

What character do you play in School for Scoundrels?

I play the main guy. Roger is his name and he is like a meter maid, a parking enforcer. It’s a guy who doesn’t really have any backbone. Everybody steps on him and he’s really just a nice pushover guy. He starts to enroll in this class because there is this girl he likes and he’s like "I’ve got to get her." He enrolls in this class taught by Billy Bob Thornton’s character that teaches guys how to be tougher and get what they want out of life but he’s kind of a hardcore guy who does things illegally and is kind of rough on the guys. It turns into my character and him going after the same girl. The girl is Jacinda Barrett. It’s a great cast. The smaller roles are filled with Michael Clarke Duncan, Luis Guzman, David Cross, Ben Stiller has a cameo. Sarah Silverman. It was a lot of fun. I think it comes out in the fall.

When you are walking down the street on any given day, how many people come up to you and go "it’s Napoleon Dynamite”?

I don‘t go out anymore. [laughs]. On average, maybe a couple of people a day. Every day is different and it really depends on where I go. How often am I walking down the street, just strutting, "Hey what’s goin’ on?" [laughs] Maybe to get to my car or going out of the doctor’s office. It just depends on where I go. It’s a lot more often than it used to be.

Did you expect this kind of career after Napoleon Dynamite?

Obviously it will be hard to top Napoleon, not just performance wise but I want to do different performances and there are a lot of other things to do. To make another film that is as kind of culty, the way it’s been described. It’s got a lot of good lines and that phenomenon might not be topped again which is fine. We all get one of those in our lives.

Did you even have to deal with a bully or just an annoying person?

Yeah, I’ve dealt with annoying people. Growing up for me was different because I had a twin brother and I think that changes so much of your childhood in a lot of good ways. I loved it. It’s like you are backed up constantly. Although we were definitely kind of nerdy guys, but when you’re nerdy together you kind of have your own thing going, especially in school, we were known as the artists. We loved to draw. We were pretty good at it and I think people respected that. It was like, "Okay, you can do something." All the more bully type guys at school kind of thought that was cool. They love art, despite their mean looks, they like art! Getting a little bit older into middle school and into high school it was the same thing. We did our own thing. We did a lot of nerdy, creative stuff. We were friends with a lot of the jocks and friends with the nerds, kind of a mix.

How were you nerdy?

Not that making videos were nerdy but you considered nerdy back then not doing the sports kind of thing. We weren’t that athletically inclined. We were making videos with our Ninja Turtle toys and I was kind of nerdy and we were making up languages and we watched Star Trek but we did it all with a cool sense of humor. We knew how to blend it into the regular lifestyle and make it cool I guess.

Can you still speak the secret language?

It faded away after a bully made fun of us. That was my only bully experience. This big jock in high school saw us doing it and I can’t remember what he said but it was making fun of us and it was right then I knew, "Yeah this is kind of nerdy."

Questions? Comments? Manifestos? Send them to me at [email protected].

Source: JoBlo.com



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