“This is pretty much the worst video ever made” is what a large number of audiences said after seeing Napoleon Dynamite in theaters, but the line wasn’t an accurate summation of the film it’s from. Jon Heder, the actor behind the film’s title character, was poised for comedic supremacy in the mid-2000s, embodying the awkward outsider character perfectly. So why is he a seeming outsider in Hollywood these days?
Born in October of 1997, Jon and his twin Dan were brought up briefly in Colorado before moving to Salem, Oregon early in their lives.
They would finish out high school there, before going to Brigham Young University after living for two years in Japan as part of his Mormon faith. During this time he would also become fluent in Japanese, learning in order to preach to the Japanese people about his religion.
His time at BYU would prove to be the door to his success onscreen and in love as he met both director Jared Hess and his wife Kirsten Bales there.
Are You Going to Eat Your Tots?
Jon Heder and Jared Hess would become fast friends, bonding over their love of film and acting. Together they created the short film Peluca, which would serve as the basis for their breakthrough success Napoleon Dynamite. Filmed on a shoestring budget with assistance from those in the community surrounding the film, the movie went on to return millions in profits and a boost in fame for the whole cast.
With the impeccable timing of an oddball introvert and looks to match, he quickly became a typecast awkward guy in movies like The Benchwarmers and School for Scoundrels. His charm would keep him around for a while in the comedy scene, even landing a hosting gig on Saturday Night Live, along with the musical guest being a returning Ashlee Simpson, who had been caught lipsyncing only a year earlier.
The Iron Lotus
While most remember Jon Heder from Napoleon Dynamite, his defining role came in the 2007 comedy Blades of Glory alongside Will Ferrel. He would play the role of Jimmy MacElroy, one of the dueling skaters turned partners in the farce of competitive figure skating. Seriously, this movie is comedic gold, and I encourage everyone to watch it.
Heder took a small step back and kept things low-key for the next couple of years, providing voice roles and producing his own independent web series called Woke Up Dead. The voice roles were not good at all, and I have a lot of questions for his agent, but it paid the bills as he and his wife had also welcomed four children throughout the years following their marriage.
While he would mostly take up comic-relief roles, he flexed a few muscles in drama and rom-com roles on occasion. Giving performances in Just Like Heaven alongside Mark Ruffalo and Reese Witherspoon.
Another defining role would come in the underrated For Ellen, co-starring Jenna Malone as well as up-and-comers still Paul Dano and Dakota Johnson. Though Heder turned in good dramatic performances, he didn’t actively seek them out.
He and others would return to the roles that brought them initial fame with the very short-lived animated adaptation of Napoleon Dynamite in 2012.
The show would only see six episodes before cancellation, unfortunately, with Heder going on to mostly stick to voice roles and indie film for a majority of the 2010s, voicing a surfing chicken in both Surf’s Up and its sequel that nobody asked for which crossed over with the WWE for some reason that Vince McMahon has yet to be held accountable for.
Where is Jon Heder Today?
These days Heder has effectively stepped away from the Hollywood scene, only contributing voice work to smaller animated shows like Star vs. The Forces of Evil and even in Avatar: The Last Airbender sequel The Legend of Korra.
He still makes the occasional live-action appearance, but usually only for indie films with lower budgets, much like Napoleon Dynamite. He would also reprise the role of Napoleon in 2015 alongside Pedro actor Efren Ramirez in character for the promotion of the Utah state fair.
As for why he left the Hollywood life behind, Jon Heder said that he always felt like an outsider in the scene.
Being from a smaller family without connections or influence in Hollywood made him feel like he didn’t belong in all the hustle and bustle at the center of entertainment, so he simply left. He still takes up these voice roles and indie films, but does it on his own terms, picking the roles he wants.
He’s still active and interacting with fans of not just Napoleon Dynamite but his other roles as well. He’s active on sites like Cameo and sporadically updates Instagram with new adventures or throwback pictures from his various roles.