Katie Robertson, Broadside Correspondent

Jared Hess is an award-winning writer and director who, in just five short years, has created two blockbuster films and made a lasting impression on popular culture and the independent movie-making world, creating an unassumingly unique genre all his own.

Hess, who brought us the weird world of Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre, has a new movie called Gentlemen Broncos opening in selected cities Oct. 30.

Gentlemen Broncos tells the story of 15-year-old Benjamin Purvis, an aspiring science fiction writer, played by Michael Angarano (Lords of Dogtown).

Benjamin’s mom, played by Jennifer Coolridge, sends him to a writer’s camp where Benjamin gets a chance to meet his idol in the science fiction writing world, Dr. Ronald Chevalier.

Flight of the Conchords star Jemaine Clement plays the Bluetooth-wearing, novel-stealing antagonist of the film. Chevalier, in a fit of desperation, steals Benjamin’s story to submit to his publishers.

The story that unfolds follows Benjamin’s misadventures to get recognition for a story that was rightfully his.

Broadside got a chance to sit down with Hess to ask him about the inspiration for his new film, a surprising Ninja Turtles connection, and the danger that comes with getting too weird.

Napoleon Dynamite took everyone by surprise. How did that idea come about and how did you get it made?

We [Jared and wife Jerusha] wrote the script while we were in film school.
Jon Heder [who played Napoleon in the film] was a friend. The film premiered at a movie festival called Slamdance and never in our wildest dreams did we think it would be as big as it was- that it would get into Sundance and get picked up. Napoleon really became a monster all its own. It’s fun to see how people have taken to it.

What is it like co-writing movies with your wife?

Well it’s funny because she blames all the disturbing stuff on me. Working with my wife is getting easier…I slept on the couch a lot while writing Napoleon Dynamite.

Is Gentlemen Broncos a more personally-inspired script?

Napoleon was an accurate representation of my social life at that age and this is kind of more of an accurate representation of my current life.
I mean it’s not a total autobiography by any means, but my personal life definitely.

What was your inspiration for creating the eccentric characters for Gentlemen Broncos?

It has a lot to do with what I know and living in a lot of rural towns growing up and that whole dynamic…and people living in small places but with big dreams.

It’s definitely a theme in our stuff. The characters are inspired by life. I like seeing the underdog win and these people are definitely underdogs.

Do you ever worry about getting too weird or pushing things too far in your films?

Yeah this might be as weird as we get. You know, we just try to make the film that we’ve always want to see with characters and situations we haven’t seen before and that’s what fun to do as a filmmaker.

A lot of your characters are very awkward and nervous, but also heartfelt at the same time. How do you find a balance?

We’re definitely laughing at them throughout the film, don’t get me wrong.

Have you ever seen a comedy where you know you’re laughing with the characters not at them – well, they’re not laughing when something bad happens to them.

At the same time we have a lot of love for them.

I identify so much with their predicament because a lot of it is drawn from my life. But, our movies end happily thus far…we like a happy ending.

What was the casting process like for this film?

For all the bit parts our local casting director in Utah would take a video camera to the grocery store and put people on tape.

It’s fun to cast non-actors in movies. And I don’t know if too many people know the guy that plays the camp counselor [Josh Pais]…that dude was Raphael in the first Ninja Turtles movie.

He was the only guy in the suit to also do the voice. So a lot of the conversations on set were about Ninja Turtles.