Whatever Happened to Napoleon Dynamite?

Jon Heder and Jared Hess

Back in 2004, Napoleon Dynamite became a phenomenon. You couldn’t go anywhere without hearing stuff like “Gosh” and “Vote for Pedro”. After the movie became a hit, it seemed like its star, Jon Heder, and it’s director, Jared Hess, would go on to better things. But they were never really able to capitalize on Napoleon’s success and both of them have kind of faded into obscurity.

Whatever happened to them?

Jon Heder grew up as a Mormon. One of his first gigs was even doing a local commercial for, a business where you can write letters to Mormon missionaries.

His acting gigs didn’t focus solely on his religion, though. He did print work for board games, appearing on the box of the game, Quip It.

He also started off doing some short films, including Funky Town, The Wrong Brother, and Peluca. Peluca, the latter movie, would pretty much start his career.

Peluca was directed by Jared Hess. He was inspired by the short film to make Napoleon Dynamite. If you watch the short above, you can definitely see the influence. And, when they made Napoleon Dynamite, the rest, as you can say, is history. Thanks to Napoleon‘s success, many studios were banking on Heder to become the next big thing.

His first role was a supporting role in Just Like Heaven. Yet, the movie bombed at the box office. However, seeing as he wasn’t the main star, it didn’t really affect his career in the long run.

He had a bigger role in The Benchwarmers, starring alongside Rob Schneider and David Spade. The movie didn’t do quite as badly as Just Like Heaven, but it did under perform at the box office plus it was blasted by critics. Considering it was his first after-Napoleon role, that wasn’t really a good sign but he wasn’t in the dog house just yet.

He then starred in School for Scoundrels, where he was the lead. As a result, the film rested solely on his shoulders. Unfortunately for him, though, the movie again bombed not only with critics but at the box office as well.

However, he had one more shot at stardom and he didn’t completely blow it. In 2007, he starred alongside Will Ferrell in Blades of Glory. Blades of Glory got decent reviews and it was actually a box office success, grossing $145 million dollars on a $61 million dollar budget.

So you’d think, even if his first three attempts at post-Napoleon Dynamite stardom bombed, this would’ve saved his career.

But it didn’t. After this movie, the only big mainstream movies he was in was a voice role in Surf’s Up and a supporting role in the romantic comedy, When in Rome. Otherwise, his roles for a long time made up of just independent films, guest spots on TV shows, and web series.

Yet, as it turns out, it wasn’t really the fact that the majority of his post-ND movies bombed at the box office that affected his career. Instead it’s because, due to his Mormon Faith, he felt like too many of the movies that were offered to him were too raunchy and he didn’t feel comfortable doing them:

“I still am [picky]. I enjoy success and I certainly want the projects I did to do well. But I realized how happy I am trying to be somewhat normal without becoming huge. But I did get a lot of offers, especially back then, of stuff that I’m not comfortable with. A lot of the projects just seemed too raunchy. Quite honestly, a lot of it was that: the raunch factor. I’ve never been interested in doing those kinds of projects.”

His uneasiness to do more raunchy projects might’ve been his downfall when it came to becoming a movie star. In fact, there’s a rumor that he fought with the director of a film he was working on because he felt one of the scenes was too raunchy. He was also criticized at the time for being typecasted as nerds. Heder noticed that as well and wasn’t particularly fond of that:

“If I look back at the scripts I received after Napoleon Dynamite, I think the town thought I had multiple personalities that were all a variation of that character. They probably just thought of me as someone their kids liked, but was more like the goofy kid that asked to mow their lawn, not a professional actor”.

Yet, even though he may have never become a big name, in recent years, Heder has carved a nice career as a voiceover artist. He’s pretty much guest starred on every cartoon out nowadays. Not only that but he currently has a starring role in the show, Pickle & Peanut.

So, while he may not be an A-list actor, he’s still managed to be pretty successful.

Unfortunately, Jared Hess’s story hasn’t ended quite as happily as of right now.

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Posted on October 28, 2016, in Movies and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. After Jon Heder’s recent birthday, good choice on writing this article. I actually viewed the Napoleon Dynamite animated series, but I forgot that I did up until reading this article. It was okay I guess.
    Jared Hess directed “Masterminds”? I didn’t know that. I’ve seen a lot of trailers for that film.


  2. Why Hollywood won’t cast Jon Heder

    Jon Heder shot to fame with the 2004 indie hit Napoleon Dynamite. Just a few years later, he’d pretty much disappeared from the spotlight, and these days, it seems like movie studios want nothing to do with him. Why isn’t Jon Heder welcome in Tinseltown anymore?


  3. It’s too bad, really. NAPOLEON DYNAMITE was such a fun, bizarre, out of left field pop sensation. I was ahead of the curve as I saw it at a film festival months ahead of most people, and was immediately attracted to its quirky humor and oddball characters.


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