Jon Heder's dynamite career

Last updated 05:00 16/04/2010
Heder bets on dynamite future
EXPLOSIVE PERFORMER: Jon Heder as Lance, the 'creepy' street magician alongside Kristen Bell in When in Rome.

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His name is Jon Heder, but the world knows him as Napoleon Dynamite.

It has been six years and 10 movies since Heder played what the New York Times described as the "awkward, frizzy-haired hero" in the title role of the comedy, Napoleon Dynamite, a film that cost a group of college friends just $US400,000 ($NZ555,736) to make and went on to earn $US46 million in theatres worldwide and many tens of millions more in DVD, video and merchandising sales.

"Initially," said Heder, confirming reports he was paid just $US1000 for the role.

When the millions of box office dollars began rolling in, Heder re-negotiated and received a cut of the huge profits.

"They went a little bit higher," he said.

It was the last time Heder would earn less than six figures for a film role, with Napoleon Dynamite transforming the actor from a nobody to one of Hollywood's hottest young actors, earning roles in Adam Sandler's Benchwarmers, alongside Will Ferrell in Blades of Glory and Billy Bob Thornton in School for Scoundrels.

Next up he plays a creepy, lovestruck magician in the romantic comedy When In Rome, co-starring Kristen Bell, Anjelica Huston, Danny DeVito, Josh Duhamel and Dax Shepard.

"Everybody keeps saying 'creepy magician'," Heder says.

"The role description just says 'magician'.

"Is it creepy?"

He seems surprised when the answer he hears is "Yes".

As Lance, the "creepy" street magician, his character pursues successful and single Guggenheim art curator Beth (Bell) after she randomly picks out coins from the Fountain of Love in Rome, Italy. Beth also pockets coins tossed in by a sausage entrepreneur (DeVito), a male model (Shepard) and a painter (Will Arnett).

The men become obsessed with her.

As the interview with Heder progresses, he concedes some audience members may find his character creepy.

"When someone is chasing you and is in love with you that's stalker territory," he says.

"That's inherently creepy. Magicians, particularly street magicians, they have always been labelled kind of creepy.

"I was stoked to play a guy who was not only creeping you out, but was also after your heart."

The film's director Mark Steven Johnson was so impressed with Heder's performance he included the actor in some scenes shot in Rome. Originally the plan was to keep his character in New York.

"It was pretty rad," Heder said of the working trip to Rome.

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"It was very cool. Originally I wasn't supposed to go, but I was so creepy and good they wrote me into the Rome scenes."

Away from the film set Heder lives a very un-Hollywood life.

The 32-year-old is a devout Mormon and says his life is void of alcohol, drugs and caffeine. He has been married to college sweetheart Kirsten for eight years  and the couple has two young children.

In an era in Hollywood where studios are pumping out sequels - later this year we will see Sex and the City 2, Iron Man 2, Nanny McPhee 2, Wall Street 2, Toy Story 3, Twilight 3, Step Up 3, Shrek Forever After and big screen versions of old TV series like The A-Team - surprisingly a Napoleon Dynamite 2 has not been produced.

Heder is not 100 per cent behind a sequel, but does not rule it out.

"I don't know if it's a good thing," Heder says of a Napoleon Dynamite 2.

Asked why he does not think it is a good thing he struggles to come up with an answer

"I don't have any idea," he says.

"I think we are all old and frumpier now aren't we?

"But you never know.

"Our cards could be played right."

- AAP

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