In late July of 2004, people of all ages everywhere experienced what was to be a motion picture phenomenon. The title “Napoleon Dynamite” was quickly replaced with “The Funniest Movie of All Time.”

A slow and seemingly boring movie, “Napoleon Dynamite,” came fully-equipped with the hilarious catchphrases – “Gosh!,” “Nunchuck skills,” “I caught you a delicious bass” and “Vote for Pedro”- and characters that we all fell in love with almost instantly. Since the release of the movie, the actors have been busy touring the country in an effort to raise money for schools everywhere to encourage the importance of education. Along their seemingly endless tour is a visit to the River Campus.

Efren Ramirez, who plays Pedro, took some time off this leg of the tour to talk to the Campus Times about this past year in addition to the excitement and craziness of newfound fame.

Ramirez has been involved in the acting business for years, but didn’t see his real breakthrough until the release of “Napoleon Dynamite.” With roles in TV shows like “Boston Public” and “Judging Amy,” Ramirez knew that he wanted to make it big time in the industry, but little steps would be what took him there. Around the time that he was offered a role in “Napoleon Dynamite,” an offer came through for the big-time Hollywood movie “The Alamo.”

“I read scripts for both ‘Napoleon Dynamite’ and ‘The Alamo’ around the same time,” Ramirez said. “What appealed to me most about ‘Napoleon [Dynamite]’ as I read the script was that it gave me a chance to have a lead in a movie that would generate some interesting hype. So I took it.”

Like many fans, Ramirez was shocked at the success of the movie.

“I thought it might go on DVD. I generally try to focus more on the work than on the result, but suddenly this movie was a giant success. No matter where I went – the supermarket, the bank, the airport – people stopped me and said things like, ‘Do you have any skills?'”

Growing up in Burbank, Calif., childhood for Ramirez was, in a sense, similar to that of Pedro Sanchez. He was the guy who sat in the back, quietly reading poetry and answering only when called on.

“People are shocked sometimes when they realize that we are not actually who we played in the movie,” he said. “This is a movie about high school misfits just looking to find their way in an image-obsessed world. They want to know that it is okay to be that loser handing out lanyards, so that people will vote for them as class president.”

Since the release of the movie, some of the actors, specifically Jon Heder, who played the title role of Napoleon Dynamite, have found themselves landing big roles in mainstream Hollywood movies. Since many of these actors found their starts in “Napoleon Dynamite,” it is hard to see them as characters other than the ones that we first knew and loved.

Now that the hype over the movie has slowly started to die down, Ramirez is busy working on his upcoming projects.

“This movie opened so many doors for me,” he said. “I have been working non-stop for quite some time now – I have a TV show and many movies lined up.”

He continued, “All of them are different kinds of roles that will give me the chance to prove myself as an actor. I don’t want to be type-casted and I think I have done a good job of that.”

A good-humored guy who could not be more grateful for his place in this business, Ramirez wanted to leave UR with one very important piece of advice – “Vote for Pedro and all of your wildest dreams will come true.”

Lewis can be reached at slewis@campustimes.org.



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