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See Napoleon Dynamite Now at 44

Jon Heder played the titular high schooler in the quotable 2004 comedy.

Jon Heder became one of film history's most iconic nerds when he was cast as the lead in Napoleon Dynamite, the surprise hit comedy that hit theaters in 2004. Prior to that, his onscreen career amounted to just three shorts, including the one that was adapted into the cult classic feature, so the breakout success of Napoleon Dynamite took him completely by surprise. But the popularity of the quirky film persists. Heder said in a 2014 interview that fans have continued to recognize him, even though he looks so much different from his character, because his distinctive voice often gives him away. Read on to find out what Heder is up to now, almost 20 years after the release of the hilarious high school comedy.

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He's continued acting, mostly in comedies.

Jon Heder in 2004
Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage

Heder went on to star in a number of movies after Napoleon Dynamite, though none would provide quite as much notoriety. They include The BenchwarmersJust Like HeavenBlades of Glory, and When in Rome.

On TV, Heder has played guest roles on shows including My Name Is Earl and How I Met Your Mother, in addition to appearing as himself in a handful of comedy and sketch series.

The actor also does a lot of voice acting in both TV and movies. He reprised his character in the animated Napoleon Dynamite TV series, of course, and has contributed voices to Star vs. the Forces of Evil, Pickle and Peanut, The Legend of Korra, and other shows. Voice film roles include My Dad Is ScroogeWalt Before Mickey, and Bling.

One of his most recent live-action projects is the 2021 film, A Funny Thing About Love. Heder told The Hollywood Reporter that he was excited about doing something that felt nostalgic. "In the last couple of years, maybe five or more, people have just really missed romantic comedies," he explained. "…People are still obsessed with love and feel-good family movies, and this one has both. In our society nowadays, too, so many people are online looking for love or to find their match. At the holidays, people really want that someone special and this film really speaks to that. Like, all right, let's find some love."

He has a twin brother who's also in the business.

Daniel James Heder and Jon Heder in 2009
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Heder, who originally hails from Colorado, has a twin brother named Dan Heder (above left). Dan is also involved in the film industry. While he's acted in a few shorts, he's been much more prolific as a visual effects artist. Some of his major credits in that field include GodzillaThe BFGAvengers: Endgame, and Spider-Man: Far From Home.

His brother Jon told in 2012 that they took advantage of being identical siblings, though their schemes often had consequences. "In 6th grade we switched class for an entire day. His teacher was in on it, but my teacher was an older lady who was a little 'off,'" Heder said. "But we paid the price because my teacher gave the kids a quiz which my brother obviously wasn't prepared for. But what did it matter to him? It was my records the poor scores were put onto."

He's a father of four.

Jon Heder with his children in 2018
Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Heifer International

Heder married his wife, Kirsten Bales in 2002. The two met when they were attending Brigham Young University (which s also where the actor met Napoleon Dynamite filmmaker Jared Hess). The couple are members of the Church of Latter Day Saints and have four kids together: oldest daughter Evan, sons Philip and Timothy, and a new baby girl born in late 2020.

He's reunited with his Napoleon Dynamite co-stars.

Jon Heder, Tina Majorino, and Efren Ramirez in 2018
Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images

It appears that the Napoleon Dynamite cast has stayed close over the years, since they rarely let the opportunity to celebrate one of the film's milestone anniversaries pass by. In 2014, they gathered to mark 10 years since the movie and to unveil a Napoleon statue. In 2019, Heder, Jon Gries (Uncle Rico), and Efren Ramirez (Pedro) attended 15th anniversary screenings and looked back on their time making the movie during Q&As. And in 2020, even more cast members took part in a virtual reunion fundraiser. Heder often shares Napoleon Dynamite flashbacks on his personal Instagram and posts photos whenever he hangs out with his former co-stars, like when he went geocaching with Tina Majorino (Deb) in 2018.

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He moved his family away from Hollywood.

As much fun as he apparently had making Napoleon Dynamite with his friends, being famous didn't come easily to him, Heder told THR. "After Napoleon happened, [my life] felt like it was moving strongly in that direction and suddenly people were recognizing me and I had to deal with fame. Then about 10 years ago, maybe more, I was letting it bother me a lot more," he explained. "I felt like I was always having to deal with it and tell people why people can't treat you this way. It really got to my head. But then it was like flipping a switch, I started to tell myself that this was stupid and I am not going to let it bother me anymore. It became self-therapy. I just didn't want to be bothered by it anymore."

He added that after COVID lockdown ended, he decided to leave Los Angeles and settle outside of Portland, Oregon, with the goal of giving his family a more "normal" life. While the actor misses LA, he explained that he's determined to keep his personal and work lives separate.

"Being able to continue to work in this industry but also being able to feel as normal as I've been able to feel. I've also led a normal life," he said. "I have a wife and we are raising a family and we are doing that in the most normal way possible. That's what I'm most proud of."

Karen Fratti
Karen Fratti is an entertainment and culture writer. She went to Temple University, where she received a B.A. in English and has an M.A. in Media Studies from the New School University. Read more
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