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Sweet! 'Napoleon Dynamite' stars enjoying film's longevity

Efren Ramirez (left) and Jon Heder in "Napoleon Dynamite." Fox Searchlight Pictures / Special to The Forum1 / 2
"Napoleon Dynamite" stars Jon Heder and Efren Ramirez will talk about the movie at the Fargo Film Festival. Special to The Forum2 / 2

FARGO — Efren Ramirez has never been to Fargo, but he has a pretty good idea what he’ll see when he gets here.

Ramirez and his “Napoleon Dynamite” co-star Jon Heder will screen the comedy Thursday night, March 21, at the Fargo Theatre as part of the Fargo Film Festival.

The two have been doing similar appearances celebrating the 15th anniversary of the film’s release. Everywhere he goes, he sees fans approach him wearing “Vote for Pedro” T-shirts. He’s even had people give him “Vote for Pedro” cakes and a “Vote for Pedro” pinata.

“That’s pretty sweet,” he says, a response straight from the film.

“‘Napoleon Dynamite’ has been a gift,” Ramirez says. “Who would’ve known that after 15 years it is still going so strong?”

When the idea of a 15th anniversary celebration was brought up, he thought there would be mild interest. But after the positive reaction to the early events, he knew the reunion would work.

He says a big part of the film’s appeal is its quirky, family-friendly humor.

“Families can sit together and enjoy it,” he says, adding that at recent screenings he’s seen parents bring their kids. He particularly gets a kick from kids who come as his character, Pedro, the likable new kid at school befriended by the outsider, Napoleon Dynamite (Heder).

“I am grateful. When you see a 10-year-old dressed up as Pedro and has a mustache and the dad is dressed up like Napoleon, that’s just awesome,” he says.

Some people come up and speak imitating Pedro’s nasally voice and quote a line from the movie.

“It’s become one of the most-quoted films of the generation,” says Emily Beck, executive director of the Fargo Theatre and one of the Fargo Film Festival’s organizers.

“It’s timeless. All of the characters are so unique. How can you not quote that movie?” Ramirez says.

The characters are what makes the indie film so appealing. From the awkward yet overly confident Napoleon to his dreaming brother Kip or their jock wannabe uncle Rico, the roles are all memorable.

Ramirez credits writer/director Jared Hess with having a vision not only for the storyline, but for exactly what he wanted out of the actors.

“The director knew what he wanted the characters to be,” Ramirez says.

Ramirez recalls being intrigued by the script and wanting the role, but not really sure how it would all be pulled off. When he got to the set, he met Heder, who was in full costume and character.

“You’re Pedro?” he asked. “Sweet.”

“I thought, ‘OK. Maybe this will work,’” Ramirez says.

And it worked in a big way.

Filmed for about $4,000, “Napoleon Dynamite” brought in $44.9 million worldwide.

“It’s the little indie film that could,” Beck says.