August 31, 2022
By WB King—
Years ago, a woman struggling with severe depression sat down and painstakingly wrote goodbye letters to each of her family members. She didn’t want to live anymore and planned to kill herself that night.
As she carefully placed the respective letters into envelopes and addressed them, the phone rang. An old friend called unexpectedly with an invitation to see a movie that night. The exhilaration in her friend’s voice briefly shook off the melancholy that gripped her tightly. She accepted the kind offer thinking, “Why not see one more movie?”
Arrived at the theatre, Napoleon Dynamite was about to begin. Actor Jon Gries, who played “Uncle Rico” in the film, said Hudson’s Independent that after seeing the movie, the woman went home, tore up those goodbye letters, sought treatment, and is now counseling others with depression and suicidal thoughts.
“She said it [the movie] changed the course of his life. It’s amazing to think that someone’s life could improve just by seeing a movie,” said Gries, who, along with Jon Heder (“Napoleon”), and Efren Ramirez, who played “Pedro,” learned about this life-affirming story after a screening of the iconic indie film.
“There are so many incredible stories – soldiers in Afghanistan after fighting all day would tell us that they would sit down and watch the movie every night just so they could take the pain away from the day,” Gries said.
When asked what made this film, which was shot in Preston, Idaho and produced in 2004 on a shoestring budget with a cast of mostly unknown actors, such a universal touchstone in all data demographics, Ramirez said these are the themes of hope and inclusion.
“Everyone has a hard time in life, it’s not easy, you know. And it’s okay to make mistakes and not fit in and try to figure out life — and that happens to all characters,” Ramirez said. “I think when people watch the movie, they can understand.”
Foster inclusion and kindness
On September 9, 2022, Tarrytown Music Hall will host a screening of Napoleon Dynamite. After a screening of approximately an hour and a half of the film, which won numerous awards and nominations, Gries, Heder and Ramirez will answer questions from the public. Peter D. Kramer, journalist with News from the magazinewill serve as master of ceremonies.
“We’ve done quite a few over the last few years, with the exception of COVID, and sometimes we’ll do a few in a row. We are going to rent a car and go on a road trip together, listen to music and talk… Jon [Heder] and Efren are really into this Geocaching game, and I’m not a big cell phone guy, but I go with them because it’s fun,” Gries said. “We are having a great time together. The entire cast got along really well while shooting this movie. We are a family.”
It’s not uncommon at these lively screenings to see cheerful attendees – from seven to 70 years old – dressed as their favorite characters, such as Kip, Lafawnduh, Deb, Rex or Summer Wheatley. Many fans bring reimagined props — like soccer balls, piñatas, and tater tots — to the show. At one screening, Ramirez said, a llama was even on hand, a nod to Tina, the Dynamite family pet. “The fans run the gamut,” Gries said. “The film breeds inclusion, kindness and it has its nervousness, but there’s an incredible positivity and optimism.”
While Gries is well known and proud of his role as Uncle Rico, the actor, writer, musician and producer’s credits date back to 1968 when, at the age of 11, he played “Boy Horace” in the film directed by Charleston Heston, Will Penn. The film was written and directed by her father, Tom Gries.
“My dad died when I was 19. And after he died, I wore his graduation ring everywhere at Georgetown University thinking that onyx was like a TV camera and he could see everything. that I was seeing and doing,” Gries explained, adding that from an early age, her father taught her the importance of inclusion, especially on set.
“After Napoleon Dynamite was out, I realized, and had forgotten, that I was wearing her ring in the movie,” he said. “It was so appropriate in a nostalgic sense that I had that ring throughout the whole experience. It was pretty amazing.
Over the years, Gries has appeared in countless movies and TV shows including, true genius, Get Shortythe Taken movie franchise, Martin, Seinfeld, Lostthe black comedy series Dream Corp LLCand more recently the HBO series white lotus.
When it came to playing Uncle Rico, Gries drew inspiration from then-“obsequious” 25-year-old director and co-writer Jared Hess, who said he viewed the character as an amalgamation of David Hasselhoff. , Burt Reynolds and Elvis Presley.
“When I heard that, I said, ‘Say no more.’ I left and drove from that meeting, down Wilshire Boulevard to a Korean wig store and found this wig [worn in the movie] for forty dollars,” Gries recalled. He did not make his prop purchase known to the production crew until he arrived on set. Gries was allowed to show the wig with a wardrobe and without the wig — the rest is movie history.
Use your voice to make a difference
At a recent screening of the film near Los Angeles, the hometown of Ramirez, the actor, who has also starred in films such as Employee of the month, Nacho Libre and Mr and Mrs Smithwas struck by a collective sense of community and acceptance.
“Here I was on stage with my two brothers, Jon Gries and Jon Heder, and we’ve known each other for so long now – we’re artists but we’re also family,” said Ramirez, who is currently filming a new show. . in New York, which he was not free to name. “The fact that I had family on stage and family in the audience…I feel lucky that as an artist I can do this for the rest of my life.”
A defining aspect of the film is the controversial high school presidential election that gave rise to the “Vote for Pedro” campaign and the iconic t-shirt that supported the successful canvassing effort. And with Napoleon Dynamite turning 18 in 2022, Ramirez said he would continue to encourage people to vote.
“Whatever party you vote for, get out there and use your voice… it’s your voice and you can make a difference. We can all do something good not only for ourselves but also for each other,” he said. “It’s a thing about Napoleon Dynamite. Napoleon and Pedro are both weird balls but they help each other achieve each other’s dream. Napoleon recovers the girl and Pedro becomes president.
‘My God ! That’s the dumbest question I’ve ever heard’
While there are some serious takeaways from the movie, there are also plenty of fun moments that inevitably arise during the Q&A segment, which can last an hour or more, depending on location, Gries said.
“I’m always amazed at how warm the experience becomes. We joke with each other; we pick on each other and pick on people for their questions — it’s almost like we’re still those guys [in the movie]laughed Gries. “Everyone jumps into character for a minute when asked a question. Jon [Heder] might say, “’Gosh! That’s the dumbest question I’ve ever heard.
According to Gries, this film is admired by an ever-growing global audience because of its unique and relatable storytelling, imbued with genuine sentimentality. “I’m a fan of the movie as much as I’m in the movie and sometimes I forget I’m in the movie, you know,” he continued. “It’s like when you listen to a favorite record. There’s a certain smell that you might remember from that time in high school and that’s your window, it’s right there. But once it’s over, it’s over. You care about it, but you don’t quite get that visceral experience in the same way and I think maybe Napoleon Dynamite does all this for people.
For more ticket information, visit: www.tarrytownmusichall.org.
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August 31, 2022
By WB King—Years ago, a woman struggling with severe depression sat down and painstakingly wrote goodbye letters to…
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