Actor on Fame, New Holiday Film and Proudest Moments – The Hollywood Reporter

‘Tis the season for holiday movies, and this weekend Gravitas Ventures drops one under the Christmas tree courtesy of writer-director Adam White and his Funny Thing About Love. Starring Jon Heder, Barry Corbin, Summer Bellessa, Kevan Moezzi, Jason Gray, Brooke White, Pat Finn and Alaina Beaulove, the story follows a successful business woman who brings home her beau for the holidays only to find out that her scheming family is already hosting her ex-boyfriend. Ahead of the film’s release, The Hollywood Reporter caught up with comedy vet Heder via Zoom to talk about fame, family, his favorite moments playing the lovable brother Charlie and what life is like up north after he moved to Washington during the pandemic.

How are you? Where are you?

Great! I’m in Washington state, just outside of Portland.

Oh, nice. Is that home base for you?

That is home base now. We just moved here last year, and it’s our new home base.

Exciting, so you did a pandemic move?

We did do a pandemic move, which is crazy. In many ways, it was really exciting because we were all stuck where we were [during the pandemic] in California. And not that it had anything to do with problems in California, it’s just nice to try a different adventure when you’re having to deal with that adventure. We’ve been loving it so far.

Let’s talk Funny Thing About Love. What drew you to this?

A couple of factors. I was really itching to get out and work, and because of COVID, it was the first time that I flew anywhere. We shot in January and so, by that point, it felt like, “OK, let’s shoot something, let’s do something.” Secondly, in the movie, Brooke White plays my wife. I had worked with her about a year earlier on one of her music videos. She contacted me and told me that she was attached to this project and there were a few other people attached that I knew of and I thought it would be fun to work with them. I also loved working with Brooke so it felt like, yeah, let’s go for it.

The film is another entry into the genre of holiday films that feature a character bringing a significant other home only to have chaos or something unexpected happen. Why do you think audiences respond so well to these stories?

In the last couple of years, maybe five or more, people have just really missed romantic comedies. During the ’80s and ’90s, they seemed to reign supreme but then tapered off, especially in the 2010s, at least on the studio side. It felt like the well ran dry. I’m not exactly sure why but these past couple of years, there has been a boom. It’s just easy. People are still obsessed with love and feel-good family movies, and this one has both. In our society nowadays, too, so many people are online looking for love or to find their match. At the holidays, people really want that someone special and this film really speaks to that. Like, all right, let’s find some love.

One thing some of these films have in common is the fun-loving brother who might not be the smartest tool in the shed. That’s Charlie, the character you play. Do you have a favorite scene?

It was fun to be able to get to play this man-child who’s still obsessed with all his ’80s toys. I haven’t seen the film yet so I’m not sure if it made it in but there’s a scene when he talks to his sister and then his wife about his obsession with Cheetara from Thundercats. That was some of my favorite stuff.

One of the things that struck me about the film is that it’s good holiday fun, nothing dirty or raunchy, something that can be quite common in this genre. You said a few years ago that you tend to pick films that steer clear of foul language, etc. Is that still true? Is that why this film was attractive to you?

Yeah, for sure it is. Every single project I look at, I factor in everything. I certainly don’t always say no to things. I think people truly don’t mind raunchy comedies, whether it be romantic comedies or straightforward comedies. I mean, I like watching those a lot of the time, too. They’re really fun, and there was a slew of them in the 2000s and 2010s where it seemed that there was nothing but raunchy comedies. People miss it. The pendulum is always swinging but there are a lot of people out there who live their lives a certain way and they don’t invite that in. But [with this film], there is a cleanliness that feels wholesome and nice.

What is your favorite holiday film?

Speaking of raunchy comedies, Bad Santa is still one of my favorite movies and that is completely on the other side of the spectrum from this film. I am also a sucker for A Christmas Story. I watch that every holiday season, whenever we’re home. I try to watch all the classics. Over the last couple of years, my family and I have been putting in the classics over the holidays. It doesn’t even have to be a holiday film but something that is pre-1965 as far back as the ’30s and ’40s. Being in the film industry, it’s easy to get caught up in what’s new and right now but Hollywood is Hollywood — there’s so much great gold out there and so much good stuff in the archives. So, I’ve been trying to expose myself and my family to some of these really fun, classic films.

What are the holidays like in your full house?

We have four kids, an exchange student and four cats so it’s kind of crazy. I feel very much like Clark Griswold. I even bought myself a vest last year. Right now, it’s about trying to find the perfect tree, trying to do some cool lights on the house, getting out all the holiday decorations and just all the traditions. Not to sound sappy but every year I say, “All right, honey, we’ve got to remember this year that we’re going to focus less on presents and instead teach the kids about giving and the importance of service in doing something nice for those around us.” That’s the tradition I’m trying to focus on more and more.

Of course, I want cool stuff for the house and for the kids but seriously, the most important thing about Christmas, to me, is giving to others. So that’s what we’re trying to do. Now that we live in Washington, we have proper winters. Last year, it snowed during the holidays and we have a wood-burning stove so it feels cozier around here than our hot Southern California Christmases.

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Jon Heder and his children attend the Feeding Families and Building Communities: Heifer International event with NBC at Universal Studios on Oct. 21, 2018.
Jesse Grant/Getty Images

I love the service angle. Do you volunteer at any local organizations?

Yeah, and you know, through our church we find opportunities for service projects. Really anything that we can get the kids out to do, whether it’s a food drive or helping older folks around the neighborhood. There are so many that you can find anywhere as long as you are proactive and get out there and do it.

You mentioned hosting an exchange student. Does the student know you are a famous actor?

They do now. She didn’t know when she came and so it’s been kind of funny to see her learn that. Once we started going out in public more and more and I was getting stopped by people, which normally happens, so I decided to let her know. It wasn’t bragging at all but just to let her know why it was happening. At first, she was like, “Wait, what is going on?” But now she understands even though she’s not seen Napoleon Dynamite or any of the movies I’ve done. We may have an American education night with her where we pop in some VHS tapes.

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Jon Heder poses with a statue of his Napoleon Dynamite character during a 10th-anniversary event on the Fox Studios lot on June 9, 2014.
Valerie Macon/Getty Images

It seems like stardom was never an objective for you. What is your perspective on fame and success these days?

Fame and success, obviously, sometimes go hand in hand but I certainly never planned on that. It was not a lifelong goal. I wanted to get into the entertainment industry when I was in high school. I would dream about being famous for doing something cool, like whether that be a project people watched or animation or something but it was never about becoming a huge, famous star. After Napoleon happened, [my life] felt like it was moving strongly in that direction and suddenly people were recognizing me and I had to deal with fame. Then about 10 years ago, maybe more, I was letting it bother me a lot more. I felt like I was always having to deal with it and tell people why people can’t treat you this way. It really got to my head. But then it was like flipping a switch, I started to tell myself that this was stupid and I am not going to let it bother me anymore. It became self-therapy. I just didn’t want to be bothered by it anymore.

I know that sounds simple but it really helped me change my perspective. Now and then, I still deal with a lot of the same, I guess you can call them hassles, but I embrace it more. When people stop me or try to talk to me, OK, great. I’m proud of the work I’ve done, especially the early work that people know me for, whether that be Napoleon Dynamite or Blades of Glory. I love those films. And it would really stink if I was not happy with those films. So, certainly for me, that success and people being fans of those films is great. Now, I’m not thinking about how I become a bigger star. I’m just looking at how I can continue to push myself creatively and, in a way, to work on fun projects, with good people and be happy with the world. I feel like I’ve essentially been doing that.

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Jon Heder appears on The Tonight Show opposite Jay Leno on April 5, 2006.
Dave Bjerke/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal/Getty Images

What are you most proud of?

Being able to continue to work in this industry but also being able to feel as normal as I’ve been able to feel. I’ve also led a normal life. I have a wife and we are raising a family and we are doing that in the most normal way possible. That’s what I’m most proud of.

I’m curious how your life has changed after leaving California where you were probably more surrounded by the entertainment industry, even going to the grocery store you hear conversations about scripts. Have you had any new revelations about your life or career since you left?

I’m still learning. It’s been very interesting because moving up here, I am now in a place that is very much out of the industry. I’m surrounded by people who do not work in entertainment. I’m looking back on what I envisioned my future life to be because my wife and I talked about moving up to Oregon or the Pacific Northwest for years. I had always imagined this more of a picturesque life for us in a place with my family, with four seasons, in a much more normal environment rather than raising them in Hollywood, which wasn’t necessarily bad. I miss California so much and I will always look back fondly on it. There are so many people that we love there.

But, yeah, I’m still learning about myself. I’ve always felt that I don’t know exactly where I fit. I felt like an outsider when I got into Hollywood and yet now, when I’m back here, closer to where I grew up, I still feel a bit like an outsider. Because now, I am kind of a Hollywood guy at heart though I am a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I don’t know. What I’m learning is that no matter where I go, I feel a bit like an outsider, in a good way. It keeps me on my toes creatively. It’s a work in progress.

Lastly, about the work, everyone is talking about vaccines right now. What is your take on vaccines? I know the Mormon church issued a statement urging members to get vaccinated. Where do you stand?

I’m vaccinated and I believe very strongly in doing what we can to get back to normal. Be safe, be smart on set and follow the rules. I’ve been on a few sets since COVID happened and there are [protocols] in place that take time getting used to because it’s new. You have to remember that while it may be fun being on asset, there are new rules to follow but if we can follow the rules, it helps to get this thing eradicated so we can be back to normal sooner and safely.

I haven’t experienced [COVID] firsthand but about a month ago, this couple that lives in our neighborhood got COVID and the husband passed away. He was this amazing person that I had barely known for a year since we moved here. He was the closest person to me geographically but seeing it happen so quickly really shocked us and hit our neighborhood hard. I take it very seriously.

Interview edited for length and clarity.

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Jon Heder poses on the carpet at the premiere of Blades Of Glory held at the Chinese Theater on March 28, 2007.
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

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