Napoleon Dynamite's ‘Vote For Pedro’ T-Shirt: A Definitive Oral History


Powell: We worked together on different student projects for a couple of years, until [Jared] went on to serve a mission for the LDS church. But right before he left, he’s like, “When I get back, we’re going to shoot a feature film together. And I was like, “Whatever, dude.”

Yuka Ruell (Napoleon Dynamite costume department and actor): Jared introduced me and my future husband [Aaron Ruell, who plays Kip]. And then I was friends with Jerusha, and we introduced Jerusha to Jared.

Skousen: Jared and Jerusha were people who were early married in our group. Most of us were just single guys. And so I would just stop by and we’d hang out, we’d talk about scripts.

Jared Hess: Jon Heder was studying to become an animation student, but he was in a lot of the film classes. I’d written this short film called Peluca, which was the beginning of the Napoleon Dynamite character, and was like, “Oh my goodness, that guy can play an awesome mouth breather.”

Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite): When I read [Peluca] we were both kind of like, “Oh my gosh, we are 100% in sync with who this character is.” Like, I know this guy. This is me and my younger brothers. I made homemade nunchucks. I was pretty good with a Bo staff. At least, I thought I was pretty good with a Bo staff.

Jared Hess: [Jon] was kind of a cool dude. He had a twin brother and they would, like, go to dance clubs and do these weird twin choreographed dance routines. And so Jerusha was like, ‘You’re gonna have to perm that man’s hair to, like, really get him into the role.’

Heder: My brother, I think we danced together freshman year. I’m not sure exactly where they heard that from. Or that word got out. But there were definitely, like, solo dance sessions that I had done.

When we started talking about getting ready for the short film, [Jerusha] was like, “Jon, what do you think about getting a perm? How do you feel about that?” I didn’t tell her this, but in my head, I was like, Aw, man. I’m still single. I’m still trying to find a lady friend. I’m still trying to hit the dating scene. I wasn’t a big dater, but I was definitely interested in girls. And I was like, Hmm, a perm…that’s not gonna help me out. [Then] I was like, “Let’s do it. It comes out right after, right?” She’s like, “No. It’s called a ‘perm.’ It’s—permanent.”

Jared Hess: We sent him to this hair academy in Provo where they use people’s hair as guinea pigs. They permed his hair for free.

Around the same time, Jeremy Coon, a friend and fellow BYU classmate of Jared, Jerusha and co, had been wanting to produce a film. His older brother Jonathan Coon — who started 1-800-CONTACTS in his BYU dorm room in the ‘90s and had taken it public in 1998— agreed to financially back the venture.



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