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The Surprising Amount Jon Heder Was Paid For Napoleon Dynamite

The 2004 indie comedy Napoleon Dynamite was a cringey, yet adorable success story that gave viewers an intimate and hilarious look at life in small-town Idaho. Writer and director Jared Hess managed to craft an endearing film on a minimal budget. Its filled with quirky characters and awkward one-liners that helped the film earn a place in pop culture.

Of course, the entire project was destined to fail or succeed on the strength of its title character, Napoleon Dynamite, played to perfection by Jon Heder. The character had been developed by Heder and Hess, while the two attended Brigham Young University together, according to Rolling Stone, and first appeared in the 2001 short film Peluca. Although the character is referred to as Seth in that film, he has the same unmistakable persona that became a national phenomenon just a few years later.

Heder's success in Napoleon Dynamite would ultimately become a launching pad for a successful career as an actor — which is good because his original compensation on the film was limited. Here is the surprising amount that Jon Heder was paid for Napoleon Dynamite.

Jon Heder was initially paid just $1,000 to star in Napoleon Dynamite

It is no secret that Napoleon Dynamite was shot for just about as little money as possible — $400,000, according to Box Office Mojo. Making a movie on that tight of a budget means making some sacrifices, especially for the individuals who are closest to the project. This included Jon Heder, who received only $1,000 to star in Napoleon Dynamite.

While it is unclear where that figure was first reported, Heder has confirmed it at least once, during an interview with Stuff. When asked if he was really only paid $1,000 to star in Napoleon Dynamite, Heder said, "Initially." However, after the movie began its successful run in theaters across the nation, he was able to renegotiate for a percentage of the film's profits, and "They went a little bit higher."

While Heder has never opted to discuss what his final earnings for Napoleon Dynamite were, he was without any doubt paid a great deal more for the projects he landed later. His very next movie, Just Like Heaven, had a budget of $58 million, and even though Heder had only a small role in that film, he definitely was compensated well for his involvement.