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Published: Wednesday, 4/20/2005

'Napoleon' cast to visit BGSU

BY CHRISTOPHER BORRELLI
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Yesssssssss.

Flippin' sweet.

Tonight at Bowling Green State University, three actors from the phenomenally popular comedy Napoleon Dynamite will answer questions, sign autographs, introduce a free screening of the film - and demonstrate various other skills.

But not bow-hunting skills.

Or computer-hacking skills.

From left, Jon Gries, Jon Heder, and Aaron Ruell in Napoleon
Dynamite. Gries, Ruell, and Efren Ramirez will be at BGSU.
From left, Jon Gries, Jon Heder, and Aaron Ruell in Napoleon Dynamite. Gries, Ruell, and Efren Ramirez will be at BGSU.
Enlarge

Or numchuck skills.

Confused?

For those who don't get the references - or the inside jokes your teenager walks around quoting all day - a quick, extremely nerdy explanation: The language of Napoleon Dynamite has become, less than a year after the film opened in theaters, a kind of code and lingua franca passed among high school and college students in the know. They've turned director Jared Hess' modest movie into a next generation This is Spinal Tap (or for the sake of those closer to retirement age, a new Rocky Horror Picture Show).

First, the bad news:

No Napoleon.

Actor Jon Heder is out making fresh movies.

The good news:

Those attending include Efren Ramirez (who played Pedro), Jon Gries (Uncle Rico), and Aaron Ruell (Napoleon's brother, Kip). The actors will discuss their experiences shooting the film and the surprising response - which started small and, like a lot of cult successes, slowly built into a word-of-mouth phenomenon.

Pretty sweet, right?

Take it from a fan.

Meredith Spencer, 15, is a freshman at Southview High School in Sylvania and plans on heading to Bowling Green today. "I'm the biggest fan," she said. "We have like a fan club here. I have my six best friends and we've watched it I think 20 times - no, make that more than 20 times. Every time, we find a new thing to laugh at. You can never have too much Napoleon."

You're still lost? GOSH!

Napoleon Dynamite tells the story of a tetherball-loving uber nerd - a real mouth breather with a red shock of Lyle Lovett hair. He cares for a llama named Tina. He wins the hand of a good woman who sells keychains door-to-door. His best bud is Pedro (a fellow mouth breather) and they speak in a stream of non sequiturs. Hess' movie was one of those out-of-nowhere hits from the Sundance Film Festival. It became a sleeper last summer, and in the Toledo area, it played in theaters longer than any other movie released in 2004 - from mid-August to about Christmas.

But then you can tell a film has entered the pop culture bloodstream when pizza parlors routinely get orders placed now under the name "Napoleon Dynamite" - or university libraries report books checked out for "Napoleon Dynamite." The "Vote for Pedro" and helicopter T-shirts Napoleon wears in the movie? Hot items. And there's even been a completely ridiculous rumor surrounding it - for months, fans have been whispering they heard from someone who heard that, seriously dude, the guy who played Napoleon Dynamite died or something.

He didn't.

But feel free to ask Pedro.

The event came together in the past week, said Brittany Barhite, a BGSU senior and president of the University Activities Organization. "I had a phone call in December from an agency that handles the actors. We had additional revenue from the Jason Mraz concert we had and wanted to do something big for the students, so we decided on this at the last minute. And to be honest, when we started discussing it, I didn't know everyone loved this movie so much."

One caveat:

Please do not bait the actors.

"When we set this up, their people were very clear," Ms. Barhite said. " 'They will not arrive in character. They are not going to pretend to be their characters.' "

GOSH!

"Napoleon Dynamite" cast members Efren Ramirez, Jon Gries, and Aaron Ruell will answer questions, sign autographs, and introduce a screening of the film tonight in Bowling Green State University's Olscamp Hall. The public event is free and is scheduled in two sessions: a 6 p.m. appearance followed by a screening for the first 280 people who arrive in Room 115, and an 8 p.m. appearance followed by autograph signings in Room 111. Seating capacity in Room 111 is 290 people. Information: 419-372-2486.

Contact Christopher Borrelli at: cborrelli@theblade.com

or 419-724-6117.



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