Jon Heder is on the phone from Los Angeles nearing the end of a long string of press interviews for “Blades of Glory,” his comedy with Will Ferrell that hits theaters Friday.
Despite the cumulative grind of the process, Heder doesn’t sound the least bit tired or distracted. He does sound aware of the personal stakes involved.
Blades of Glory
Will Speck, Josh Gordon (II)
Will Ferrell, Jon Heder, Will Arnett, Amy Poehler, Jenna Fischer
US theatrical: 30 Mar 2007 (General release)
UK theatrical: 6 Apr 2007 (General release)
“Blades of Glory” may be a very silly movie about the world’s first male figure skating pair, the arrogant Chazz Michael Michaels (Ferrell) and the anal Jimmy MacElroy (Heder). But it’s also Heder’s biggest opportunity since coming out of nowhere to star as the goofy, fad-inspiring title character of 2004’s surprise cult hit, “Napoleon Dynamite.”
Q. Why did you say yes to “Blades of Glory”?
A. I thought it was pretty obvious.
Q. It was because of your peacock costume?
A. No, no. They hadn’t made that yet. It was just an easy sell. I mean, the world of figure ice skating, plus two guys who have to skate together. Anytime I would mention the premise to anybody, they were like, “Oh, my gosh, that just sounds like such a great idea for comedy.” I loved it right away.
Q. Were you at all apprehensive about getting on the ice?
A. Not really. I was like, “OK, I’m getting into something I don’t know how to do. I’m not very good at it.” But, definitely, I embraced it. I just started really working hard. I mean, not to toot my own horn ...
Q. Go ahead and toot.
A. I improved quite a bit.
W. More than Will?
A. Well, you make that judgment. You know, we’re just physically different people. Will’s just huge in sports, but he’s tall and, being that big of a guy, it’s a balance issue about trusting your weight. And he’s just got a little bit more of it.
Q. It looks like it’s always you two guys skating, even when it can’t be.
A. There’s some great digital trickery. I’ll bet you anything there are some moments that you think it’s someone else and it’s actually me. Will? It’s definitely someone else.
Jon Heder in Blades of Glory
Q. Is he really holding you aloft on the ice?
A. Well, he’s holding me around my waist.
Q. Even when you’re upside-down with your crotch in his face?
A. Because it was such a close-up shot, that might have been a dummy, honestly, a fake body.
Q. Was that OK with you?
A. I’m sure it was better for him.
Q. Any ankle injuries?
A. I broke a bone in my left ankle. I love how you called it. You knew it.
Q. What happened?
A. It’s funny, because there are four skaters in the movie: Me and Will, and then Will Arnett and Amy Poehler. And out of the four of us, I was like, “Dude, someone’s got to break a bone, you know?” And it had to be me. I was going up for a spin, not even that cool of a trick - well, I mean, spins are cool - but I was going into a spin, and I kept spinning and my leg was stuck in the ice a little bit deeper and I kind of fell down.
Q. Did it affect the shooting schedule?
A. Miraculously it all worked out. We shot all the non-skating stuff first. And at that point I was barely out of my cast. And then we shot all the skating stuff in August. And we trained intensively for about three weeks before that. So it was all good. And, like I said, there’s some visual trickery.
Q. Will’s been at this comedy-star thing longer than you. Were you nervous working with him?
A. No, I didn’t feel nervous. Definitely, it was a huge mistake, because he just steals everything. But the guy’s so easy to work with. He’s so nice. He takes your ideas. You give him an idea and he’ll do it. There’s no ego. He’s so low maintenance.
Q. How much of the movie was improvised?
A. Off the ice, yeah, there was improvising. But Will’s kind of a master at it, and he’s had a lot more training at it. And his character calls for more, because he’s kind of this outspoken, raunchy sex addict, you know?
Q. I take it your character is the goody two shoes.
A. He’s also very much about following the script. When he learns a routine, he learns it to a T. He’s all about form and precision.
Q. How many times did you watch Will precision-touch Jenna Fischer’s breasts during their seduction scene?
A. I got to watch it a lot.
Q. Get bored?
A. I got jealous. But it was fun to play my character, Jimmy, walking in on something like that. It’s like, “Oh, my gosh, I’ve never even done that before and Chazz probably does it all the time! It’s not fair!”
Q. Where does “Blades of Glory” fit into your plan for ongoing international movie stardom?
A. I definitely knew that being in a movie with Will would help the career, seeing where his career has gone. I don’t know if it was like: “OK, now I’ve got to do a movie that has another huge star or that has a huge star to get me ahead.” But that comes with involving yourself in projects like this. We all knew - my agents and managers and myself - that this was going to be a huge thing for me, because since “Napoleon” it’s my biggest thing.
Q. Since “Napoleon Dynamite,” have you felt typecast as the nerdy guy?
A. A lot of people look down upon typecasting. I’m like, “Dude, if you’re typecast, that means you’re getting jobs.” But I felt that Napoleon and Jimmy were quite different characters. I mean, Napoleon’s this crusty kind of an ugly greaseball teen-ager who can’t do anything right. And he’s quite a klutz. Whereas Jimmy is professional, and he looks immaculate. He’s perfect about what he does.
Q. Your public wants to know: Will there be a sequel to “Napoleon Dynamite”?
A. Nothing’s happening right now.
Q. Do you want it to?
A. I mean, it would be fun. I’m indifferent. If it doesn’t happen, I’m fine. If it does happen, cool.
Q. Back to “Blades of Glory”: Is it aimed at 14-year-olds?
A. You want everybody to see it, but I definitely think 14-year-olds will like this movie. You’ve got Will Ferrell. You’ve got me. You’ve got a lot of physical comedy. There’s some crude humor - nothing too bad - but the Will Ferrell fans will get Will Ferrell at some of his best.
Q. How much of that has to do with you? Toot your own horn some more.
A. I think I accentuate it. What helps Will’s character a lot is being around the complete opposite in me. He’s a disgrace to the sport in my very particular character’s eyes. And by having that little mini-audience, it helps the comedy. It amplifies the rudeness of this guy and how he has no problem just saying whatever comes to mind.
Q. Would you say “Blades” is your favorite Will Ferrell movie?
A. “Anchorman” is kind of my favorite Will still. But maybe I need to watch this a couple more times. It’s definitely my favorite movie with both Will and me in it.