Jared Hess with wife Jerusha and Sam Rockwell

Jared Hess is still best known to the world as the guy who directed Napoleon Dynamite, which still stands as the most enjoyable of his three feature films. Nacho Libre and Gentlemen Broncos just haven't quite climbed that same peak. But he's content to continue living in Salt Like City with his wife Jerusha and working outside of the Hollywood system, and I admire him for sticking to his guns and not caving in to make something like Napoleon Dynamite 2 or Napoleon Dynamite: The Middle School Years on Fox.

We sat down with Clement after the premiere of Broncos at Fantastic Fest (read Cinematical's review from that night right here), and you can catch the full interview beyond the break.


Cinematical: With Twitter , you get an immediate reaction to films these days. We were reading some of the reactions that weren't very favorable the other night. How does that affect you? Do you read that stuff or do you ignore it?

Jared Hess: I don't read a lot of stuff. I actually don't read any reviews. I don't know. It is not something either way that will really affect ...

What you do next?

Yeah, what I do and the projects that I want to make.

So many of your films have to do with characters in uncomfortable situations, or uncomfortable characters in uncomfortable situations. Do you just draw from your own experiences with those?

Definitely.

I mean obviously you haven't been a Mexican wrestler.

Yeah. I did move around a lot growing up as a kid. And I think just kind of that outsider dynamic is something that I really related to growing up and moving into different towns and having to adjust. And so definitely I think it goes into our films.

Well since you live in Salt Lake City, out of the Hollywood industry realm. Has that been a good thing for you do you think? Are you going to continue to stay there?

Yeah. I am really inspired by the inter-mountain environment that I live in. Yeah. For me, I think where you live influences so much creatively what you do in the people that you meet and the ideas that come to you through life experience of where you choose to live. And that is definitely a big part of me.

How do friends and family members feel when they realize that one of your characters is kind of modeled after them? They may not know, or maybe you have told them beforehand.

I remember when my mom saw Napoleon Dynamite for the first time, and she said, "That was a lot of embarrassing family material." She was a little taken back. And the mother character in Gentlemen Broncos was a lot based on her. They are cool, I think. I think it keeps them on their toes whenever they say something silly that might end up in one of our films.

What was casting like for this? Did you go to your go to people and they all said yes? Did you have shortlists and you send the script around?

Yeah. We definitely had shortlists. We knew that we wanted Sam Rockwell to play the part of Bronco in the film. But we had a fun time coming up with ideas of people that we thought could do it. And we were really lucky to be able to work with Jemaine Clement and Jennifer Coolidge and Mike White and everybody.

Sam was saying originally the idea was to have someone else play Brutus. Who would that have been?

We didn't know. We were probably going to cast like an unknown, just somebody that would play it really different. But Sam is so talented and incredible that he pulled it off wonderfully.

With Napoleon Dynamite, you had the advantage of making Peluca the short film version of it, which kind of gave you like a primer or a rough draft. You didn't have that with Nacho or this movie. Is it a different process for you now? Do you feel like you are streamlining without having a short film first? How has it evolved?

I think when you are trying to raise financing for your first feature film ... films cost a lot of money. And to kind of put a vision on what your feature length script is for investors, they kind of what to see a little bit of the world. In the case of Napoleon, Peluca was a great way we kind of showcased what the character would be like. And that is a very important thing, just to kind of kick start and be able to make your first feature length film. And then once you have made a feature length film that has had success, I think it is not as necessary to do a short film.

Do you storyboard a lot? I heard you didn't rehearse much for Gentlemen Broncos.

Yeah. I think it is fun to keep it spontaneous. But I do storyboard the whole entire film just so we know what we are doing, and you know exactly what you need to tell the story.

Your wife Jerusha was talking about an idea she has for a film. Is this something you guys will be doing together, or do you have your own next idea sort of planned?

Yeah. She has been developing a project for a while. And I have got other things that I ... we are always going to be working together. We help each other out on everything. But yeah, she has got a separate kind of romantic comedy project she is working on.

I know you guys have dabbled outside of films. Like you produced the Postal Service "We Will Become Silhouettes" music video. What other things are you guys involved in right now?

Right now I mean we are involved in this. We have got different projects and a few TV things that we might be working on as well.

Like new things, or you might be working on an existing show?

New things.

After you have had success with your films, do you tend to get contacted by, "We want you to direct an episode of Mad Men," or, "We want you to do this."

Yeah. I mean you get scripts and all kinds of things presented to you from your agents and things like that. So it is fun.

There was a lot of Ray Lynch music in this movie. I grew up listening to his music at a place I worked. Why did you choose Ray Lynch and that sort of bouncy ambient music?

It just seemed to fit really well with Chevalier's kind of new age vibe. And definitely the soundtrack to his version of the story just seemed like a good fit. I first got introduced to that music when a friend of mine used some of his music in a short film in college. We actually use the same track in this film. I mean it was used in a completely different effect than what he was doing. But, wow ... you are the first person I know that has mentioned Ray Lynch.

Do you see yourself sort of continuing to make sort of this level, semi-indie film you could say, it is a Fox Searchlight picture, but it is obviously a bigger budget than Napoleon Dynamite. Are you going to continue with that vein? Would you like to direct a huge big budget feature?

To me, to be able to make the kind of films that I have wanted to make, it is important to have that creative control and liberty to cast who you want and do the types of things that I like to do in my films. And often times, I think sometimes the bigger the budget, the bigger the scope of the film is, sometimes you end up losing a little bit of that control and freedom to do what you want to do. It is just a balancing act. A story may came along that requires that kind of a thing that I really want to do with that kind of a budget, but right now the things that have interested me thus far are simple stories like this.

Whenever you have downtime, do you read? Do you watch movies or TV? Do you play video games? Board games?

I do a little bit of all that. I love building maps with my son on Halo.

Are you picking up Halo 3: ODST that came out this week?

Heck yeah, when I get home it will hopefully be waiting for me.

That's funny because we found out Sam Rockwell is a bit of a Luddite. He doesn't have a computer or email.

Dude. He is a tough man to get a hold of.

Are you part of the Twitter phenomenon? Do you Twitter?

I don't. I don't Twitter and I don't have a Facebook page.

What do you think about the whole phenomenon of Twitter? Directors who Twitter while they work. Is that too transparent for you?

It is not transparent. I guess I just ... I don't really have a lot of time for it. In my off time I like to take road trips with my family and have some good family time.

When you guys first made the short film Peluca, did you know that was kind of ... "OK. We want to make this as a foot in the door to get a feature made." Or was it just a short film?

Well we had the feature idea that we wanted to do. We started to write the feature script and we were at film school. And I had written the short film ... we kind of did the short film first with the idea of doing the feature, and then started to write the feature as the short film was being made. We knew that it would help kind of showcase what we wanted to do for the feature film, so we did have in mind like this was kind of a great way to kind of flush out the world a little bit and show the type of comedy and characters that we want to have in the film. And it helped quite a bit.

With an experience like that, when you like at that back when you were making that short film, or even just writing down the original idea for it, versus where you are now, is it kind of where you hoped you would end up? Is it bizarre to be where you are now? What is it like looking back on that Jared Hess versus Jared Hess now?

I don't think that I really changed a whole lot. I think I am super happy that I am able to do what I love to do and to continue to make films. It is a great feeling and it is what we wanted to do. We hoped with our first film that it would allow us to...we didn't ever in our wildest dreams anticipate that it would take off like it did. We hoped that it would lead and open doors to other things, which it has. But we just feel very blessed that we are able to make films. That is what every filmmaker hopes that he can do.

Do you think you would work with Jon Heder again if something came up and it was appropriate?

Oh yeah, definitely. He is a very funny man.