“Napoleon Dynamite” is 20! Here’s where the cast of the indie classic is now (2024)

See what Jon Heder and his costars have been up to since he perfected his nunchuck skills and made his own dang quesadilla.

“Napoleon Dynamite” is 20! Here’s where the cast of the indie classic is now (1)

The quirky, quotable 2004 indie pic Napoleon Dynamite was filmed on a budget of just $400,000, but it became a sleeper hit and an enduring cringe-comedy classic. The tale of a teenage nerd growing up in Idaho struck a chord with anyone who felt awkward and out of place in high school (in other words, pretty much everyone).

In the film, the sleepy-eyed and perpetually irritated Napoleon Dynamite (Jon Heder) endures the daily disappointments of high school life. His older brother Kip (Aaron Ruell) spends his days chatting with hot babes online, while his uncle Rico (Jon Gries) shills cheap plasticware to lonely housewives. Napoleon becomes friends with new student Pedro (Efren Ramírez) and the shy girl next door, Deb (Tina Majorino), and they work together to support Pedro's long-shot campaign to become class president.

"I couldn't be more stoked about being this cult character," Heder told Entertainment Weekly in 2014. "I grew up loving Coen brothers films and Pee-Wee Herman, all those films that get quoted a ton."

Here’s what the Napoleon Dynamite cast has been up to since President Pedro took office.

Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite)

“Napoleon Dynamite” is 20! Here’s where the cast of the indie classic is now (2)

Director Jared Hess originally cast Jon Heder as Seth, the lead in his student film, Peluca. "Jon was in one of my directing classes," Hess told EW, "and that dude could be pretty funny just because of the way he talked already. He totally understood the mouth-breather kind of character that we were going for." When Hess expanded the short into a feature film, he renamed the character "Napoleon Dynamite," and a legend was born.

After his breakout role, Heder starred in a string of big-screen comedies, including The Benchwarmers (2006) with Rob Schneider and David Spade, School for Scoundrels (2006) with Billy Bob Thornton, and Blades of Glory (2007) with Will Ferrell. He had a supporting role in the Kristen Bell/Josh Duhamel rom-com When in Rome (2010) and starred in the biopic Walt Before Mickey (2015) as Walt Disney's brother, Roy.

Heder has also maintained an extensive voice acting career. He played the laid-back rooster Chicken Joe in the surfing penguins movie Surf's Up (2007), starred as Pickle in the Disney XD animated series Pickle and Peanut (2015–2018), and had a recurring role on the Disney Channel's Star vs. the Forces of Evil (2015–2019).

In 2012, Heder reunited with most of the Napoleon Dynamite cast for an animated series on Fox. The show was produced by original creators Jared and Jerusha Hess and continued the film's story, but was canceled after only six episodes.

Heder recently starred in the upcoming romantic comedy Plan B (2024) with Jamie Lee, Shannon Elizabeth, and Tom Berenger.

He has been married to Kirsten Bales since 2002. They have four children.

Efren Ramírez (Pedro Sánchez)

“Napoleon Dynamite” is 20! Here’s where the cast of the indie classic is now (3)

During the election, Napoleon's best friend Pedro Sánchez told the Preston High students, "If you vote for me, all of your wildest dreams will come true." Actor Efren Ramírez nailed Pedro's laconic, deadpan style that made his promise a hilarious highlight.

Reflecting on his Napoleon Dynamite experience, Ramírez told EW in 2014, "When you're auditioning, at first you don't get the movie at all. I read the Pedro character and I thought, 'This is a little odd.'"

Following Napoleon Dynamite, Ramírez appeared in the bonkers Jason Statham action film Crank (2006) and returned as his character's twin brother in the even more insane sequel, Crank: High Voltage (2009). His other big-screen work includes Gerard Butler’s sci-fi prison flick Gamer (2009), Will Ferrell’s Spanish-language Western comedy Casa de mi Padre (2012), and a voice role in Pixar’s Lightyear (2022).

Ramírez has appeared on many high-profile TV shows, including American Dad(2007), Scrubs(2007), Constantine (2015), and The Grinder (2016). Most prominently, he had a recurring role in season 2 of HBO's sports comedy Eastbound & Down(2010). He also had a supporting part in the neo-noir series Perpetual Grace, LTD (2019).

In 2020, Ramírez reunited with Jon Heder for a Burger King commercial, recreating their iconic cafeteria scene to promote BK's cheesy tots.

Tina Majorino (Deb Bradshaw)

“Napoleon Dynamite” is 20! Here’s where the cast of the indie classic is now (4)

Napoleon's neighbor Deb was an enterprising entrepreneur, selling glamor shots and home-woven handicrafts. While Deb was chronically unsure of herself, actress Tina Majorino already had plenty of experience in front of the camera.

Majorino began her career as a child actress. At age 9, she landed major roles in three films: as a young girl who makes friends with a seal in Andre (1994); as Ray Liotta's daughter in Corrina, Corrina(1994); and as Meg Ryan and Andy Garcia's daughter in When a Man Loves a Woman (1994). The following year, Majorino had a lead role in Kevin Costner's epic Waterworld (1995).

When she was 14, Majorino took time off from show business to allow herself to have a more normal childhood. She later returned to acting for Napoleon Dynamite. "I wasn't allowed to audition for comedies as a kid," she told EW in 2014, "and this was my first audition back. My family didn't think the script was funny at all, but I loved it."

From there, Majorino moved to the small screen, playing computer expert Cindy "Mac" Mackenzie on the high school noir series Veronica Mars (2004–2007). She then played Heather Tuttle on Big Love (2006–2011), the vampire Molly on True Blood (2012), and surgical intern Heather Brooks on Grey's Anatomy (2012–2013). She also had a recurring role as the chemist, Flo, in season 4 of Scorpion (2017–2018).

In 2022, Majorino opened up about her mental health struggles in the "My Good Day Face" series on Mental. She credited her weekly therapy sessions for helping her overcome a lifelong battle with anxiety and self-criticism, and to find her way toward self-love. "I don't think I ever truly understood what that actually meant," she said. "But I feel like I have been able to grasp what that looks and feels like to me. It's hard to be a human. And I've struggled a lot. The difference now is that I have a deep knowingness that I'm learning tools that will carry me throughout the rest of my life."

Aaron Ruell (Kip Dynamite)

“Napoleon Dynamite” is 20! Here’s where the cast of the indie classic is now (5)

Napoleon's brother Kip's daily chatroom schedule seemed as absurd as his dreams of becoming a cage fighter, but his relationship with LaFawndah turns out to be the real deal. This was one of Aaron Ruell's few acting performances before he moved behind the camera.

After Napoleon Dynamite, Ruell wrote and directed two short films in 2005. The next year, he had a role in the film Think Tank (2006), which also featured Napoleon costar Tina Majorino. His final onscreen role was in the movie On the Road With Judas (2007).

Ruell has since become a director of TV commercials, including spots for T-Mobile, Nintendo, co*ke, and Burger King.

Ruell's wife, Yuka, had a small part in Napoleon Dynamite as "Girl on Bike."

Jon Gries (Uncle Rico)

“Napoleon Dynamite” is 20! Here’s where the cast of the indie classic is now (6)

Napoleon's Uncle Rico was obsessed with recapturing his glory days as a high school football star. He even tried to purchase a time machine in a failed effort to return to the past. Fortunately, actor Jon Gries has found success, both in the past and the present.

Before Uncle Rico made him a cult favorite, Gries was a regular face on the big and small screens. He was a main cast member during the first two seasons of Martin Lawrence’s iconic sitcom Martin (1992–1994) and also popped up in The X-Files (1994), Beverly Hills 90210 (1994), Seinfeld(1995–1998), and ER (2001). He had another primary role in the crime drama The Pretender (1996–2000). As for film, he appeared in Get Shorty (1995), Men in Black (1997), and The Rundown(2003), among others.

After Napoleon Dynamite, Gries landed a recurring role on Lost (2007–2010) as Ben Linus' father Roger, a DHARMA Initiative workman. His numerous subsequent TV appearances include CSI: NY (2008), Sons of Anarchy (2010), Psych (2010), Supernatural (2010–2012), and Criminal Minds (2014). He is currently best known for his role as Greg, Tanya's shady husband on The White Lotus (2021–2022).

In a surprising turn, Gries made his runway debut as a model for Eckhaus Latta at New York Fashion Week in February 2023.

Haylie Duff (Summer Wheatley)

“Napoleon Dynamite” is 20! Here’s where the cast of the indie classic is now (7)

Pretty, blonde, and popular, Summer Wheatley seemed like a sure bet in the race for class president. Haylie Duff, the older sister of actress and singer Hilary Duff, has found success in several different ventures.

Early in her career, she appeared in several episodes of her sister's hit Disney Channel show Lizzie McGuire (2002–2003), and the pair collaborated on singles for Disney shows and movie soundtracks, including The Lizzie McGuire Movie (2003).

Following Napoleon Dynamite, Duff joined the main cast of family drama 7th Heaven (2005–2006) for its final two seasons. She also made guest appearances on shows like Joan of Arcadia (2005) and The Secret Life of the American Teenager (2012).

She started her food blog, Real Girl's Kitchen, in 2012 and published a cookbook in 2013. This led to a television show on the Cooking Channel in 2014.

Duff still finds time for acting roles. She headlined The Baby Pact (2022), a sequel to her starring vehicle The Wedding Pact (2014), and recently directed and starred in the TV movie Project Baby (2023).

In 2014, Duff got engaged to clothing entrepreneur Matt Rosenberg, although the couple has been in no rush to get married. They have two daughters.

Shondrella Avery (LaFawndah Lucas)

“Napoleon Dynamite” is 20! Here’s where the cast of the indie classic is now (8)

Toward the end of the film, Kip's online girlfriend LaFawndah Lucas surprises the audience by a) actually existing, and b) being just as serious about Kip as he claimed she was.

Shondrella Avery began her career in improv comedy, working with the Groundlings in Los Angeles and The Second City in Chicago. She put her lightning-fast comedy skills to good use in the Oxygen comedy prank show Girls Behaving Badly (2002–2004), working with Chelsea Handler and Ken Jeong.

Avery had a recurring role on the UPN sitcom One on One (2002–2005) as nail stylist Candy. She later reprised the role in the spinoff Cuts (2005–2006).

On the big screen, Avery had supporting roles in the Keira Knightley bounty hunter actioner Domino (2005), The Secret Life of Bees(2008), and the Jake Gyllenhaal/Michael Peña cop drama End of Watch (2012). She's recently appeared in sitcoms like The Neighborhood(2022) and Single Drunk Female (2022).

Avery is married to Ade Kester.

Emily Kennard (Trisha Stevens)

“Napoleon Dynamite” is 20! Here’s where the cast of the indie classic is now (9)

Trisha was Napoleon's unhappy prom date, whom he memorably wooed by drawing an unappealing portrait of her. She was played by Emily Kennard, now Emily Dunn.

Napoleon Dynamite was Dunn’s feature debut, which she followed with appearances in Pirates of the Great Salt Lake (2006), Forever Strong (2008), and the Alyssa Milano rom-com My Girlfriend's Boyfriend (2010).

Dunn ventured into video game art and design in the 2000s, contributing visuals to a Rugrats game, a Meet the Robinsonstie-in game, and the Tak and the Power of Juju series. She was the lead designer on a Hannah Montana game in 2007. She currently works on Disney video games as an art manager.

She is married to Adam Dunn and has five children.

Sandy Martin (Grandma Carlinda Dynamite)

“Napoleon Dynamite” is 20! Here’s where the cast of the indie classic is now (10)

Napoleon and Kip's fun-loving grandma took a little spill at the sand dunes and spent most of the movie in the hospital before finally returning home to Tina, her beloved llama.

The actress who brought Grandma to life, Sandy Martin, previously appeared in a handful of hit ’80s shows, including St. Elsewhere (1982), Hill Street Blues (1982–1984), Night Court (1984–1988), and Designing Women (1987). She also made brief appearances in several major films, including 48 Hrs. (1982), Real Genius (1985), Barfly (1987), and Speed (1994).

In the years since Napoleon Dynamite, Martin has enjoyed even greater prominence. She plays Mac's grouchy, chain-smoking mom on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia(2006–present) and was a recurring character on Big Love (2007–2011), where she reunited with Napoleon costar Tina Majorino. She also had supporting roles on Ron Perlman’s Hand of God (2014–2017) and the final two seasons of the crime drama Ray Donovan (2018–2019).

Martin played Sam Rockwell’s mother in the Oscar-winning film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017) and landed roles in Tim Burton’s live-action Dumbo (2019) and Pixar’s Luca (2021) as the title character’s grandmother.

Diedrich Bader (Rex)

“Napoleon Dynamite” is 20! Here’s where the cast of the indie classic is now (11)

Although he possessed the strength of a grizzly, the reflexes of a puma, and the wisdom of a man, the founder of the Rex Kwon Do self-defense system failed to win the respect of Napoleon or his brother. Actor Diedrich Bader, on the other hand, has had a much more impressive career.

When Bader filmed his scenes for Napoleon Dynamite, he was coming off nine seasons as Drew's friend Oswald on The Drew Carey Show (1995–2004). He’s been a constant on TV screens ever since, appearing on everything from Curb Your Enthusiasm (2007), CSI(2008), and Bones (2009–2010) to featured roles on Veep (2014–2019), Better Things(2016–2022), and American Housewife (2015–2021).

Of course, many viewers know Bader best from his role as Ron Livingston’s neighbor in the cult classic Office Space (1999). His big-screen career has also included roles in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001), Miss Congeniality 2 (2005), and Shazam! Fury of the Gods (2023).

Bader has maintained a fruitful voice acting career, playing the Caped Crusader himself on Batman: The Brave and the Bold (2008–2011), as well as characters on BoJack Horseman (2016–2020), Ultimate Spider-Man (2013–2017), and Big Hero 6: The Series (2017–2021). He reunited with Napoleon Dynamite costar Jon Heder in the animated feature Surf's Up (2007). Recently, he returned to the role of Batman as a supporting player on DC's animated Harley series (2019–2023).

Bader is married to Dulcy Rogers and has two children.

Read the original article on Entertainment Weekly.

“Napoleon Dynamite” is 20! Here’s where the cast of the indie classic is now (2024)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: The Hon. Margery Christiansen

Last Updated:

Views: 5820

Rating: 5 / 5 (70 voted)

Reviews: 93% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: The Hon. Margery Christiansen

Birthday: 2000-07-07

Address: 5050 Breitenberg Knoll, New Robert, MI 45409

Phone: +2556892639372

Job: Investor Mining Engineer

Hobby: Sketching, Cosplaying, Glassblowing, Genealogy, Crocheting, Archery, Skateboarding

Introduction: My name is The Hon. Margery Christiansen, I am a bright, adorable, precious, inexpensive, gorgeous, comfortable, happy person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.