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Interview with Jon Heder from the Comedy Movie "School for Scoundrels"

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Interview with Jon Heder from the Comedy Movie

Jon Heder in School for Scoundrels.

© The Weinstein Company

Jon Heder stars as a hapless guy picked on at work and ignored by his female neighbor (who happens to be the woman of his dreams) in the comedy movie, School for Scoundrels, directed by Todd Phillips and co-starring Billy Bob Thorton. Loosely based on the Stephen Potter novel and the 1960 movie it inspired, School for Scoundrels follows Heder as a hopeless parking enforcement officer who tries to increase his confidence level by enrolling in a special class dedicated to helping losers build up their self-esteem.

Slipping Into the Role of a Loser: Heder says that it's surprisingly easy for him to play a loser. “It’s not being comedic; it’s just acting like me. No, especially this character was fun. It was kind of more like I looked at it as like, ‘Okay, here’s my chance to kind of play more of the natural me, kind of the straight guy.’ But I was reminded yesterday when I saw the film for the first time that he really is a pathetic, sad person at the beginning. I forgot about that, so I’m not that sad and pathetic in real life. But yeah, a lot of Roger is kind of how I was in high school. I had no confidence with women. But I wasn’t that much of a pushover at my work. I don’t know. I mean, I was very similar. I started to get more backbone as I got older, but not when I was younger.”

Heder says he can relate to not getting the girl: “In high school I really was like Roger. If I liked a girl, yeah I definitely was. I wouldn’t know what to say. But Roger tries. I don’t think I would have tried, but he makes an attempt. [It’s] really painful, but he makes an attempt. I didn’t have the confidence. I was confident that I had no confidence and so I’d be like, ‘No, I’m not gonna go talk to her because I know I will make a fool of myself, probably.’ I’d get a little tongue-tied in a traditional kind of like shy guy way. You know, there’s one girl I really wish I had made the move on and never did. Doesn’t matter, I’m married now.”

And speaking of marriage, Heder’s about to become a dad for the first time - although he’s not exactly sure of the due date. “I think in the Spring, not quite sure. But you know, it’s the time of growth and plants coming up - sprout a baby...”

Jon Heder Didn’t Turn to the Standard Self-Help Books: Heder’s character seeks help in gaining self-confidence by enrolling in a class designed to help those with low self-esteem. However in real life, Heder avoided self-help books – with a couple of exceptions. “I never read a self-help book except for the Bible. The Scriptures is maybe the closest thing, but I never owned a self-help book. I’m not that into reading. If I’m gonna read, I’m gonna read some cool sci-fi book or something, not some stupid self-help book. Although I did pick up The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. I tried it because it was such a popular book. I read it for two seconds and I just didn’t get into it. I was like, ‘I’m highly effective.’”

Opposites Do Attract: Heder shares the screen with Billy Bob Thornton, a seasoned actor who’s pretty much the exact opposite of Heder in every way. Heder says the relationship we see between his character and Thornton’s in the film does mimic reality in many ways. “It’s a real thing, just as in the movie. They’re polar opposite. It was kind of like that. But, obviously, the cool thing about acting and just like the business world is like he is very different, but he was nice. He’d get right into character but in between we’d sit down, we’d talk, he’d tell stories. The three of us [including Jacinda Barrett] had a lot of fun. We’d all joke around. He was very cool, very nice. It was really cool. He was very nice to all of the crew. Everybody really liked being around him.”

Heder, who doesn’t smoke or drink, admits he didn’t find anything shocking about Thornton’s behavior. “No, it wasn’t shocking. Shocking is if I didn’t expect it (laughing).”

Playing the Romantic Lead: Don’t mistake School for Scoundrels as the first time Heder gets the girl onscreen. “I get the girl in Napoleon Dynamite. I do, I’ll tell you (laughing). I mean true, I don’t kiss her….. I don’t know how he could ever kiss her.” But it is the first time in a mainstream film Heder tackles the part of the romantic leading man. Heder confessed to loving the idea of playing the underdog who goes after the girl of his dreams. “Yeah, you root for the character. You want him to get the girl. I mean like any other romantic comedy, you want the guy to get the girl.

It was weird. I had a complex shooting the film like, ‘Am I really…’ Like the wardrobe people would always be telling me, ‘Don’t worry, you look handsome in this outfit. Don’t worry, when you kiss a girl it will be all worth it.’ You know, like, ‘People will love it.’ And I’m like, ‘Okay...’ I will never know because I can’t watch it. I can’t watch it. I can watch the whole film, but I can’t watch romantic stuff. It’s awkward.”

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