BEVERLY HILLS, California — Gosh, life has been pretty frickin’ sweet lately for Jon Heder.
The “Napoleon Dynamite” star has gone from obscurity to near-ubiquity, thanks to his little indie film that could — and no one is more amazed at its success than Napoleon himself.
“It was just surprise mixed with, like, shock. Wait, that’s the same thing,” the 27-year-old said recently while promoting his upcoming flick “Just Like Heaven,” in which he plays an eccentric bookstore owner who believes in the supernatural.
“I hoped ['Napoleon'] would do well, but we just didn’t know with a small film,” Heder explained. “It’s just been very cool to see this film go [so] far.”
Still, the actor, who has developed a cult following for the quirky, curly haired, four-eyed hero, says he has yet to get used to the newfound attention. “Sometimes I’ll have really awkward situations where I’ll be walking and someone recognizes me and will go, ‘Gosh!’ and I’m like, was I supposed to hear that? Are you talking to me?”
Now the overnight sensation has six films on deck, including the aforementioned “Just Like Heaven,” which he filmed in just four days (see ” ‘Napoleon Dynamite’ Star To Play More Nerds” ). The ethereal flick, directed by Mark Waters (“Mean Girls,” “Freaky Friday”) and starring Reese Witherspoon and Mark Ruffalo, hits theaters September 16.
Soon Heder will begin shooting “School for Scoundrels,” in which he will play a wimpy (male) meter maid who takes a confidence-boosting course helmed by Billy Bob Thornton, although they’re both vying for the affections of the same girl.
Next up is the animated flick “Surf’s Up,” set in the world of competitive penguin surfing. Heder will provide the voice for Chicken Joe, a surfer who plans to tackle killer waves on Pen Gu Island, home to the Big Z Memorial Surf Off. He will also voice a character in another animated flick, “Monster House,” which features an ensemble cast including Nick Cannon, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Kevin James.
“I love animation. You become a completely different character and you don’t even look like yourself, so it’s nice to work in that way … and not having to worry about hair and makeup,” the actor said. “It’s awesome.”
Heder has already wrapped shooting on “The Benchwarmers” with Rob Schneider and David Spade (see “Non-Athletes Schneider, Spade, Heder To Kick Hairless Butt” ), and the romantic comedy “Moving McAllister” with Mila Kunis (“That ’70s Show”) and newcomer Ben Gourley. The film, slated for release next year, features a young man (Gourley) who must lug all of his boss’s belongings, including his niece (Kunis), from Florida to Los Angeles.
“It’s kind of a romantic comedy between this guy and this girl on this road trip, and I play this hitchhiker that they pick up along the way,” Heder said. “He believes he’s an Indian. He’s kind of a weirdo.”
Despite having shot down hopes for a “Napoleon” sequel, Heder expressed a possible shift in the winds. “I’ll never say yes or no to that kind of thing, unless we start shooting it,” Heder said. “We get [the sequel] question a lot, but we never thought about it when we made the [first] movie. I guess it could happen.
“I think it would be fun to do, but it’s just gotta be done right, I guess,” he continued. “Nothing is written down yet, but I don’t know. We’ll see what happens. It’s been more, like, joked about, but we have no idea.”
Heder added that he’s not afraid about being typecast as “the nerd.”
“I don’t mind. It’s fun playing a dorky guy — or someone ugly,” Heder said. “It’s easy playing someone ugly and eccentric.”
Check out everything we’ve got on “The Benchwarmers.”
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