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v a shoestring budget, offbeat characters, and a largely-unknown cast, indie comedy "Napoleon Dynamite" is among Hollywood"s most surprising success stories.

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"Napoleon Dynamite" was very first released in 2004 after ~ premiering to critical acclaim at the Sundance movie Festival in Park City, Utah. The was also a significant hit when it obtained a more comprehensive release indigenous Fox Searchlight Pictures. "Vote for Pedro" shirt soon became ubiquitous, as did recommendations to "ligers" — a half-tiger, half-lion hybrid attracted by Napoleon.

Jared Hess and also his wife, Jerusha, composed a film about a high institution loner Napoleon (Jon Heder) and also his eccentric one of friends and family.

Set in Preston, Idaho, where Hess self spent much of his adolescence, the movie perfectly records the backwards charm that a little rural town, where Cyndi Lauper and Moon Boots reign supreme even in the year 2004, and also after-school chores encompass feeding pet llamas.

One of the film"s many iconic moment occurs near the end, once Napoleon performs a stunningly skillful dance (to funk tape Jamiroquai"s "Canned Heat") in front of his partner in stimulate to aid his girlfriend Pedro (Efren Ramirez) come to be class president.

Napoleon"s moves ended up being the stuff of legend after the movie turned right into a blockbuster. But Heder told he just kind that "winged it" as soon as it concerned filming the scene due to the fact that there was no choreographer functioning on the movie.

For the film"s 17th anniversary, spoke to Heder, Hess, who also directed the film, and also Ramirez around how Napoleon"s now legendary solo dance scene became — and also why the film"s quiet charm endures years after the release.


Jon Heder throughout his solo run scene in "Napoleon Dynamite." Fox Searchlight; CBS via Getty images

The director first learned the Heder"s dance skills while they were both students in ~ Brigham Young University

The way Heder described it, he and his twin brother, Dan, were always "obsessed" with the 70s and "loved the 70s all through high school."

But when the brothers arrived on Provo, Utah"s BYU in the so late 90s, your obsession reached new heights. Motivated by disco music and the 1977 movie "Saturday Night Fever," they began dancing with each other on nights out. As soon as the twins" stays started "forking," or farming apart, the actor ongoing to dance on his own, mainly at the bidding of his friends.

"I to be obsessed through Jamiroquai. I just loved them. As soon as their newest album come out that was the album ns was dancing come everywhere," Heder said of the brothers funk band"s 2001 project, "A Funk Odyssey."

It didn"t take long before Heder"s dance moves captured the fist of Hess, that was additionally enrolled at BYU at the time. The two shortly collaborated ~ above a short film, "Peluca," which adhered to a quirky high schooler called Seth (Heder), whom Hess described to together "kind that the exact same character" as Napoleon.

While shoot "Peluca" in Idaho, the crew had actually extra movie left therefore Hess chose to film Heder grooving in character, influenced by the actor"s now infamous dancing.

You simply wouldn"t suppose a man that looks favor that come throw down some wicked moves. Director Jared Hess

"I to be like, "Jon, if you"re tho dressed increase in the moon boots and also everything, let"s go shoot this shot,"" Hess recalled come ""At the end of this empty dust road, I"ll simply turn ~ above the radio, and also whatever"s playing, just dance to the music.""

Hess ended up filming Heder dancing for "a minute and a half" come a Jamiroquai song that just so occurred to be play on the radio.

"The dynamic of see this male that looked favor , gift able come throw down some pretty outstanding moves, is for this reason strange and entertaining and also funny all at the same time," the director said. "It was simply kind of this incredible epiphany the occurred."

Ultimately, that dance step didn"t end up do it right into "Peluca." yet Hess and his wife were inspired to include a comparable sequence in the feature they were creating — dubbed "Napoleon Dynamite."

Heder recalled Hess informing him at the time, ""Yeah, it"s going to be the orgasm for the film; girlfriend dancing.""


Efren Ramirez and Jon Heder in a still from "Napoleon Dynamite." Fox Searchlight; CBS via Getty pictures

Heder obtained the "Napoleon Dynamite" run scene excellent in 3 takes

In the film, Napoleon"s impassioned dance to Jamiroquai (during an assembly in prior of the entirety school) comes together a desperate effort to secure votes for Pedro, his new friend who desperately wants to be class president. But the dance additionally impresses Napoleon"s friend and also maybe-crush Deb (Tina Majorino), and forces his high college classmates come think of that in a new light.

Hess and Heder told that they took a more unorthodox strategy to filming the now-iconic scene. To run low ~ above funds and also unsure what track Napoleon would certainly actually it is in dancing to, the cast and crew were compelled to get creative.

"We had one roll of film left and also basically had actually just three takes to obtain the whole dance sequence filmed," Hess said. "I remember after each take ns was like, "Oh, man." ns didn"t think the we had actually it. Ns was really worried."

"And for this reason I just kind of had to live v it and also cross my fingers," the added.

Although the movie didn"t have actually a choreographer to aid Heder with his dance moves, the gibbs knew that he wanted to do Napoleon"s run markedly different from the character"s typical physicality.

"Like, Napoleon proper moves. The doesn"t to express a lot, the doesn"t obtain that animated," Heder recalled. "We knew the vibe the the entirety movie and also the function of this dancing would be so different than the method Napoleon commonly moves."

He also had part pretty straightforward direction from Hess: "Dude, you simply do her thing."

"That to be his direction. He simply put that in mine hands," Heder said. "Then ns realized, you recognize what, I"ll just do what I generally do. I"ll just do my finest to do it as funky together I can and as great as ns can."

Really the Napoleon run is just dancing from her heart. Jon Heder

Hess likewise told that some skillful modifying was involved to make Heder"s dance even an ext memorable, combining the ideal shots indigenous multiple takes because that the final version.

"When we gained into the cutting room, as soon as we were modifying the film, it was like, "Oh, wow. Yeah, we"ve certainly got it,"" the manager recalled. "We ended up kind of Frankensteining together different dance moves from all three takes that us did and them together as one."

"It worked since it wasn"t a professionally choreographed sequence," Heder added. "It had actually a tiny of that "just making it up as I go" vibe."

Adding to the push was the fact that Heder had to dance to multiple songs with similar tempos, in the event that their license request because that Jamiroquai"s "Canned Heat," the 2nd single indigenous the band"s 4th album, "Synkronized," was denied.

"One take to be to "Canned Heat." another take was to "Little L," which is one more Jamiroquai monitor from your album "Funk Odyssey,"" Heder detailed. "And then we danced to a Michael Jackson tune from "Off the Wall.""

Both creatives agree that the scene wouldn"t have actually been quite the exact same if lock hadn"t secured the rights to "Canned Heat," yet that ultimately, the success the the step came down to the hilarious visual of Heder"s personality dancing his heart out.

"At the end of the day, friend still would certainly have had actually a nerd performing some ridiculous dance move in former of a high school," Hess said.

And Napoleon"s audience? Those were actual high college students native Preston, Idaho, who functioned for free, according to the director.

"We didn"t have any type of money we might offer them," Hess recalled of spreading the students. "It was just like, "Hey, wanna come it is in in a movie and get a complimentary bottle that Gatorade" or everything we had actually out that the cooler. However we readily available everybody a credit in the film. So it"s a pretty long credit succession at the end."

The extras didn"t even get to see Heder"s dance, nor did any kind of of the other cast members.

"We actually shot all of their reaction stuff, weirdly enough, there is no Jon dancing. Reason they didn"t want Jon come overdo it," Hess explained. "Jon was literally simply performing because that the crew. The wasn"t even performing for an really audience that extras, i m sorry is sort of weird. He was boogieing under for just a bunch of film school friends."

The result was among the many memorable movie climaxes in current years: a quiet joyous, slow-building celebration of dance and movement, performed by among film"s most unassuming protagonists.

"We had actually no idea just how it to be gonna turn out until we went to the Sundance movie Festival and also we experienced the whole thing," Ramirez, who played Pedro, recalled. "It was just perfect — indigenous the crowd"s reaction to Heder"s dancing."


Jon Heder in "Napoleon Dynamite." Fox Searchlight Pictures; CBS via Getty photos

In the years since its release, Heder"s dance has end up being an soon recognizable component of the film

Nothing has been fairly able to match the barely-contained exuberance and also self-effacing coolness of Napoleon"s run since, and also the scene has end up being as lot of a calling map for the movie as a "Vote because that Pedro" shirt.

"As a character, it certainly won Napoleon some lengthy overdue respect," Hess said of the dance. "It"s like, here"s a man that"s simply flying under the radar in life and also is underestimated by everyone. All of sudden he has a showcase for this weird secret talent, however he"s utilizing it to assist his ideal friend. "

Ramirez agreed.

"This is what a girlfriend would carry out for his friend, and also that Napoleon placed himself on the line like that, that"s so exorbitant to see," he told "It"s like, wow, that"s what friends space for."

But if you"re expecting Heder to ever bust a groove favor that again, don"t wait on it.

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"It was every freestyle. I didn"t memorize it. I mean, look, I"ve viewed it numerous times, so there"s absolutely moves I could do, however I don"t psychic the order," he said.

"I always tell people: really the Napoleon run is just dancing from her heart," Heder added. "It"s simply like, feeling it and just letting it go. Due to the fact that what that was. That"s simply all ns did for it, was simply feeling the groove."