Napoleon Dynamite cast members will be heading to Tulsa on March 14 for a screening of the cult classic film.
The movie came out on June 11, 2004, and was well-received by audiences worldwide. Although the film takes place during the 2004-2005 school year, the set design exudes a nostalgia from the 1980s and 1990s. The screenplay is the brainchild of husband and wife writers, Jared and Jerusha Hess.
The script takes place in the small town of Preston, Idaho. The storyline focuses on awkward teen Napoleon Dynamite, played by John Heder and many of the authentic characters who play his family and friends.
In one of the main storyline’s Napoleon meets Pedro Sanchez who’s from Juarez, Mexico and is the new kid in school. Napoleon is impressed by Pedro’s mustache and his bike. The two become fast comrades.
KJRH spoke with Efren Ramirez who plays Pedro Sanchez, one of the main characters about his Napoleon Dynamite experience.
When Ramirez was originally offered the role he was also up for a role in a different project.
“I ended up booking two movies. I booked Napoleon Dynamite and I got [a] job for a big picture. I remember asking my family, ‘What do I do?' And then, my dad said, ‘Just follow your heart.’ That's what Napoleon says to Pedro. ‘You just follow your heart,’ and that's what I did. It was a lead role and it was a character role. I just tend to take risks, because I just like them,” said Ramirez.
Napoleon Dynamite was filmed in the summer of 2003.
“We shot for about 22 days. Napoleon Dynamite was shot on film, so every frame mattered. It was an independent film and at that time we didn't really have much of a budget at all. I got paid pretty much nothing. But the life of an artist, of a true artist, whatever the budget is, you take a look at a script and you got to find what the passion is in that script. For all of us, it turned out that we all had the same gut feeling that we didn't know what's going to happen to this film, we just thought that maybe we could make a cool movie and add it to our career as actors. But when it got accepted at the Sundance Film Festival, we were all surprised.” said Ramirez.
KJRH asked Ramirez why the characters in the film deeply resonate with the fans.
“When you do something honest, you're going to find an audience. At some point in our tweens and in our teen years, we're all oddballs, even the coolest guy, who was the quarterback, he could be weird, too. The cheerleader, the emo kid, the skaters, the hip hop kids. And Summer Wheatley's odd. Even Tina Majorina's character, Deb, she's a little odd, too, but she's cool. We're all weird. In the end, we are all a little strange. And that’s what makes the film so great is that we learn to embrace those oddities of the idiosyncratic ways of each individual,” said Ramirez.
Ramirez’s character, Pedro, who is shy and quiet in nature, decides to run for school president.
“Pedro's [goal] was him to find something different, something that's bold enough that makes him want to make a change somehow, to be a part of something that's not normal. He didn't know if he was going to win or not. And who's going to support him? And it just so happens that in that friendship between Napoleon and Pedro, that friendship alone, where they help each other out [is] what makes it so great. Maybe they become accomplished, maybe they won't, but he's going to be honest about it. And that's what makes it awesome. And he really led with honesty and ambition. Even as different as he was to many, he really was trying to fulfill those aspirations and those words. [Pedro says in the film] ‘I’m going to make everyone's wildest dreams come true,’” said Ramirez.
The campaign slogan used in the film, ‘Vote for Pedro’ is now a quote recognized by many generations.
“It's everywhere. I mean, everyone knows this movie and they love it. That's what makes it such a cult classic. I walk around this earth and people all over the world recognize me. And they're like, ‘You’re Pedro!’,” said Ramirez.
Ramirez tells KJRH that he has worked as a busboy and a teacher's assistant. This iconic film has opened up many doors for Ramirez as an actor professionally. He has continued to work on many film and television projects, including an animated series version of Napoleon Dynamite. His successful career isn’t all he took away from the independent film production.
KJRH asked Rameriz if the chemistry between Napoleon and Pedro on-screen is as true off-screen.
“He's like a brother from a different mother. I love the guy. He's an artist. He truly is a wonderful person,” said Ramirez.
To celebrate the success of Napoleon Dynamite, actors John Heder, Efren Ramirez, and John Gries, who plays Uncle Rico have been touring the country attending screenings of the movie.
“It's been surprising and I am grateful. We've gone through a few of these screenings and to almost sold-out shows and see families who are dressed up as the characters in Napoleon Dynamite. I'm just lucky that I've been [and] I'm a part of something that has such a positive message,” said Ramirez.
There are so many memorable lines from the Napoleon Dynamite movie. In one of the scenes Napoleon says to Pedro, “My old girlfriend from Oklahoma was gonna fly out for the dance but she couldn't cause she's doing some modeling right now.”
Oklahoma will have an opportunity to screen Napoleon Dynamite and meet members of the cast on March 14 at the Tulsa Theater.
To learn more about the Napoleon Dynamite screening at the Tulsa Theater, click here.
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