Interview with Jared Hess
With “Napoleon Dynamite” finally behind him, writer/director Jared Hess will try to duplicate the cult success with the release of the new Jack Black comedy, “Nacho Libre.” Jared found time in his incredibly busy schedule to sit down and talk with Bullz-Eye.com, and after speaking with him for only a couple of minutes it was clear that this guy is Napoleon Dynamite (though he only admitted to being 85%). Jared also discussed more about the world of Luche Libres, his earlier experiences working on independent features, and what the future has in store for him.
Bullz-Eye: Hey Jared, how are you?
Jared Hess: Hi, good.
BE: Well, I know you’ve been busy, but I do appreciate you taking the time out to talk with me. I just saw “Nacho Libre” last night, and I have to say that I have mixed feelings. The potential was certainly there, but the story didn’t move quite as quickly as it could have. Then again, I absolutely hated “Napoleon Dynamite” the first time I saw it, and now it’s one of my favorite films.
BE: I think that your movies sometimes require multiple viewings, because there are so many layers there. Do you feel that this will be the same for “Nacho Libre”?
JH: Man, I dunno. That’s a good question. We’ll have to wait and find out, I guess. I’ve directed both movies, and it definitely has my comic sensibility in both of them, and I think that they’re both very different worlds, but we’ll just have to wait and see.
BE: Fair enough. You’ve also mentioned before that you’re a fan of the Santo films. Did this have any influence on your decision to make a film about Luche Libres?
JH: Definitely. I’ve been such a big fan of the world of (in the perfect Spanish accent) Luche Libres for such a long time. It’s a wonderful opportunity to make a film about that world. I was very excited and passionate about it.
BE: To clear a few things up about the film, Jack Black’s character (Nacho) actually isn’t Mexican, is he?
JH: No, he’s a guerro. (Note: Guerro is a Mexican term that means “white man.”)
Jared and I get into a brief discussion about the term, and then Jared puts me on hold to tend to his two newly born children with wife (and- co-writer) Jerusha Hess. When he returned to the phone, we had been disconnected. Fortunately, we were back up and talking in under a minute.
BE: Glad to hear your voice. Now, you wrote “Dynamite” with your wife, but this time around, the pair of you actually co-wrote with Mike White (“The School of Rock,” “Chuck & Buck”). How did you guys come about teaming up with him?
JH: I’ve been a fan of Mike for a very long time, and was able to meet him and Jack (Black) after “Dynamite” came out. We decided that we all wanted to collaborate together, and Mike and Jack had recently formed a production company, and when the idea for this project came about, it was something that happened very naturally and quickly.
BE: And did Jack have any impact on the final product, like improvising your carefully written lines?
JH: Jack really likes to be prepared. He’s very talented at what he does, and is a very smart comedian. So, yeah, he often does, but he also likes to be prepared.
BE: Jack doesn’t deserve all the limelight though. Efren Ramirez could be considered one of the scene-stealing stars of “Dynamite,” and in “Nacho,” you have another relative unknown in Hector Jimenez.
BE: What possesses you to create such oddball characters, and why do you think they’re so appealing?
JH: I’m just very interested in characters and personalities that you’re not really used to seeing on screen. Hector was someone who came to one of the first auditions in Mexico City (and Mike White was in town) and he was actually auditioning for a different role. After he was done, I said “this guy can play this character and this character," but ultimately we decided that the dynamic between him and Jack was too much fun, and it was too hard to pass up.
BE: I completely agree. Hector was by far the best part of the film, and it’s always nice to see a pure comedic duo. In fact, “Dynamite” and “Nacho” are what I like to refer to as pure comedies. And by that I mean that it carries a PG rating. Do you feel that, as a Mormon, you bring a different style of filmmaking to Hollywood?
JH: Yeah. Just the accumulation of experiences for me growing up and how I was raised. You know, I moved around a whole lot, and coming from a big Mormon family of six boys. All those things have an effect on the type of filmmaker that I am. I don’t really think about a rating when I’m involved in something, it’s just whatever better serves the characters and the story. That’s what I try and stay focused on.
BE: It seems that the Mormon film community has its own little genre – my personal favorite being “God’s Army” – but you actually worked as a camera assistant on “The R.M.,” possibly one of the most popular Mormon comedies. How was that experience being a novice entering the industry?
JH: I worked as a camera assistant, and started interning for a cinematographer when I was fourteen. And when I was in college, working as a crew member totally helped to pay the bills at the time. I think that I learned a lot from a production standpoint while working on different independent films, and just learning the logistics and what was required to make the movie. Any kind of experience definitely helps those who want to be a director or work in this town.
BE: Well, that experience has certainly paid off. You’ve actually established yourself as a quirky director in the same vein as Wes Anderson. Is this a trend that you plan on continuing to follow, or is this just your comedic prowess hard at work?
JH: I just want the freedom to do what inspires me, and to make films that I would want to see myself. Whatever that it is, it just comes down to how I see things, and how I want to do things.
BE: Well, again, I know that you’re very busy with the film scheduled to open on Friday, so I’d like to wrap this up with a few quick questions.
JH: Yeah, of course.
BE: I’m 20% Napoleon Dynamite. How much are you?
JH: (laughs) You know, after my mom saw the film, she was like “well, that was a lot of embarrassing family material.” (laughs) But for me, gosh, I feel like I’m probably like (laughs) 85% Napoleon.
BE: What were some of your favorite films growing up?
JH: I really was a big fan of 80’s underground movies. For me and my brothers, I think the most watched movie was the BMX movie “Rad," but “Raising Arizona” is probably my favorite comedy.
BE: Trust me, that explains a lot. If you had the chance, would you be interested in remaking the film?
JH: I dunno, man. I’m just not into that. I don’t really like films being remade, to be perfectly honest. I think the ones that have been done, have been done by people who have a great passion for whatever films they are remaking, or want to give it a new spin, but I just think it’s more exciting to tell original stories.
BE: Thank you! There is hope in humanity!
BE: Ok, final question. “Nacho Libre” comes out this Friday, but what does the future hold for Jared Hess?
JH: A very long needed family vacation, and then in the Fall, I’ll begin working on an original comedy.
BE: And who will that be for?
JH: Gee, I don’t know yet. There were a few things I was working on before “Nacho,” but I have to fnish writing them. I haven’t decided which one I’m going to do yet.
BE: Great. Well, congratulations again on the new film and the newest addition to your family, and I hope “Nacho Libre” opens well.
JH: Great, thanks man. Have a good day. It was nice talking to you.
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