AMHERST, N.Y. (WIVB) — Ever walk into UB’s Center for the Arts and find the following items on stage?

  • a bicycle
  • a tetherball
  • a piñata resembling Summer Wheatly

If so, then you were probably at “Napoleon Dynamite Live” Thursday night — a celebration and discussion of the low budget indie classic that ended up becoming a huge hit.

Following a screening of the 2004 movie, three of the film’s stars made a musical entrance onto the stage — Jon Gries (Uncle Rico) on guitar, Efren Ramirez (Pedro) on harmonica, and down the center-left aisle, Napoleon himself — Jon Heder.

Side note: They sounded great!

In a night of trivia, games and “revenge therapy,” the three spoke of their time on set, roughly 20 years ago, answering audience questions and handing out tater tots.

And yes, Jon Heder actually likes tots.

“Everything you see is exactly what it seems,” Heder told the audience. And he meant it, sharing his love for the lunchroom (and classroom) snack, as well as noting his real disdain for Tina the llama and anything that looked like it tasted bad.

We learned a lot about the movie and its eclectic cast on Thursday night. Here are some of the fun facts they shared with the audience at the University at Buffalo:

  1. Napoleon’s neighbor in the movie, Lyle (played by Dale Critchlow), was an actual farmer from the area (the movie is based in Preston, Idaho), while the other farmer who couldn’t find his checkbook was an actor.
  2. Lyle’s post-credits marriage advice to Kip (Aaron Ruell) and Lafawnduh (Shondrella Avery) was one of the only off-script or improvised moments in the film.
  3. Many characters in the film were based on the younger brothers of cast and crew members.
  4. Heder’s iconic dance near the end of the film wasn’t choreographed. He insists on not calling it “the dance” or “the dance routine;” just “dance,” because that’s what he did.
  5. Those drawings Napoleon did? Yup, actual artwork of Heder.
  6. Jon Gries actually threw the steak at Heder, and yes, it really did hurt. (That wasn’t a sound effect)
  7. The steak scene was arguably the most difficult part to film.
  8. Gries played baseball in junior college.
  9. Where did they get Uncle Rico’s van? “That was just a local van,” Gries says, noting “It stunk.”
  10. The woman who joined Uncle Rico at the end of the movie was Aaron Ruell’s real-life wife.
  11. Ruell designed the opening credits sequence with the various plates of food.
  12. The cast says Ruell was a man of many talents, including the photography seen on the wall of the Dynamite household.
  13. Heder doesn’t believe the “book” of Napoleon Dynamite is closed just yet.

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Evan Anstey is an Associated Press Award, JANY Award and Emmy-nominated digital producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2015. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.