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Gosh! Napoleon Dynamite comes to the Gallo

In 2004 it was nearly impossible to go anywhere without hearing the phrase “Vote for Pedro” – let alone seeing it on a T-shirt. The pop culture phenomenon went from a small Indie movie to box office smash hit almost instantly. “Napoleon Dynamite” is one of the most quoted movies of the last 20 years and featured a quirky cast, off-beat music and perhaps one of the most memorable dance scenes in cinema history. On Nov. 8 stars from the movie will be appearing at the Gallo Center for the Arts in downtown Modesto for “Napoleon Dynamite Live.” The full-length film will be shown and following the movie, Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite), Efren Ramirez (Pedro Sanchez) and Jon Gries (Uncle Rico) will be in attendance for a cozy Q & A session.

The off-beat comedy is rated PG13 and is about a nerdy high schooler that has trouble fitting in and getting along with his uncle Rico. He befriends the new kid at school, Pedro, and helps him run for class president. The fresh look at high school misfits appeals to both teens and adults who can remember their own youth experiences. And after 15 years there is still excitement about this cult classic that has a passionate fan base.

“They are the nicest people,” stated Heder about the audience at the shows. “People who are so genuinely in love with such a sweet film. So that spirit kind of flows through the show and into the Q&A and everybody has a good time.”

The buzz about the movie is still in the air and Heder believes it is because generations are passing it down. The high school kids are now married with kids and sharing the movie with them. Although he appreciates the interest in the film 15 years later, it is a bit odd because for him it feels like just yesterday. 

“It (the film) has always been popular and people have loved it,” added Heder. “People are introducing it to their kids so there is kind of a new audience. I think it is really cool just to see people keeping it alive. It is one of those films that has a timeless feel. It can age in that way where you can introduce it to almost any generation and it speaks to everyone.”

Since he was a youngster, Heder was always interested in film. While he was in college, he met Jared Hess, who wrote and directed the feature film. After hanging out and having some classes together, Hess saw Heder in the leading role of Napoleon.

“I always wanted to get into film, performing and acting, writing, producing, directing, and all that kind of stuff,” said Heder. “When we did the short film back in 2001, we did that and then about a year and a half later that is when he decided that he wanted to make the feature film version. And we were both still in school. We shot during our summer break. We went up to Preston, Idaho and shot the film. Then the rest is history.”

Through the years, Heder has been in several films including “Blades of Glory” opposite Will Ferrell, “Benchwarmers,” “School for Scoundrels,” and voice overs for several characters like “Chicken Joe,” and currently the lead character Pickle in the animated television series “Pickle and Peanut” for Disney XD.

“I play Pickle and Johnny Pemberton plays Peanut and we are two friends that play a pickle and a peanut and we go on these misadventures,” said Heder. “Basically, this is one of my favorite projects I have ever worked on. I love the role. I got to really just play with the voice and really get out there. It is kind of crazy, “Sponge Bob Square Pants” meets “Ren and Stimpy”; it is wacky and weird. It is the kind of stuff I love.”

The role of Napoleon was easy for Heder to channel with some inspiration from his younger brothers and how they grew up. With the collaboration between Hess and Heder the voice, mannerisms and movements were dialed in and Napoleon was brought to life.

“Come see the movie and then afterwards we will do a live question and answer. With the three of us we do a question and answer with the audience and we just involve the audience and have tons of fun with them. It is always really fun because the three of us get a little crazy; not crazy, but yeah. We just mess with the audience. It has just been fun doing these shows because our audiences are just awesome.”