When Jared Hess first handed me my red promotional Peluca fanny pack a little over a year ago at Slamdance 2003 he assured me that I would soon be seeing the further adventures of Seth, an ubergeek high school kid living in rural Idaho who convinces a couple of his buddies to join him in ditching school so they can go thrift store shopping, as he and his wife Jerusha were busy working on the feature length version of this hilarious short.
Cut to Sundance 2004 where Napoleon Dynamite was introduced to the world. Seth’s name has changed, but the over-the-top geekiness remains. That same charming humor I found infectious in Peluca is also found in abundance in this feature length film that had all of Park City in hysterics. You’ve no doubt heard plenty about this one since its Sundance premiere. And thanks to Fox Searchlight, the rest of the world will get the extreme pleasure of knowing Napoleon Dynamite, as the film will be released nationally later this year. It’s gonna be huge!
I caught up with Jared once again to ask him a few questions about his Sundance hit.
How did you come up with the name for your title character?
One day on the streets of Chicago I met an old Italian man whose name was Napoleon Dynamite. From that moment on I knew it would be the title of my first feature.
Tell me a little bit about Jon Heder. How did he come to play Napoleon?
Jon is currently an animation student at BYU. Two years ago we had a couple of film classes together and I decided to make him the main character in my short film Peluca. Although he looks nothing like Napoleon in real life, once we threw him in a pair of moon-boots and gave him a tight perm, he truly became Napoleon Dynamite.
How did you cast the rest of your film? They’re fantastic!
About a month before production began we found our incredible casting director – Jory Weitz. He completely understood the tone of the piece and immediately went to work holding auditions in LA. Amazingly, we cast all the parts just two weeks before our first day of shooting.
How was it writing with your wife, Jerusha, on the film? Time of your life, ultimate nightmare, or none of your damn business?
It was interesting. Creatively we’re very different people, yet we share a lot of the same comic sensibilities. Still, we would disagree and feelings would get hurt, but ultimately our differences resulted in a better script.
Did you see yourself making a feature length film with the same characters when making Peluca?
Yes. I made Peluca to showcase what I wanted to do for a feature film. The characters and story had always been a feature length idea. The success of Peluca was instrumental in getting the finances and resources to make Dynamite.
What were some of the bigger problems in getting Napoleon Dynamite made?
We had to find a cow with five nipples – a rare oddity.
You have an amazing ‘80s soundtrack that totally compliments the film. Any chance of these songs staying in the film when Fox Searchlight releases it?
All songs will remain in the film.
Any word on when Fox has decided to release Napoleon Dynamite? And how big of a release can we expect?
It will be a summer or fall nation-wide release.
Beyond boarding up your door to prepare for the flood of Napoleon junkies, are there any other projects you’re working on?
We are currently writing our next comedy feature.
So, Jared, is there any Napoleon Dynamite in you?
Absolutely. I think there’s a little bit of Napoleon in everyone.