15 years after Napoleon Dynamite, Valley native talks about playing Kip

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- 15 years have passed since the quirky movie Napolean Dynamite was released. It would go on to become a cult classic.

The actor who played Napolean's brother, Kip, is from the Valley. Aaron Ruell now prefers to work not in front of, but behind the camera.

Ruell has lived in Portland for the past nine years. He said the character was based on an impression of his brother.

"Funny enough, there were elements that he recognized but not overall. He wasn't offended or didn't see himself too closely," he explained.

Ruell recently caught up with fellow cast members in Salt Lake City to celebrate the movie's 15-year anniversary.

He recalled shooting the movie in Idaho with his film school buddies from BYU including Jon Heder, who played Napolean Dynamite. Ruell said, "We were just out of school and he said, 'So Aaron, what are you gonna do if this movie makes it? Are you going to change paths and become an actor?' And I remember looking at him. This is so vivid in my mind to this day. I remember looking at him and just going, 'Jon, no one is going to see this film'.''

But the movie they made for $400,000 later sold for $5 million. It would go on to gross over $46 million. Some cast members renegotiated their contracts but not Aaron. "I made $25 a day for 18 days, yeah."

But he's done very well for himself. Aaron Ruell directs commercials for companies like Target and Master Card. Acting was never his deal.

Ruell said, "At Clovis West, my thing was photography. I had this really great instructor at the time, spent all my time in the dark room."

Ruell graduated from Clovis West in 1994 and will forever be known as Napolean's cool brother Kip.

He said, "Every year I'll get two or three requests to sing at people's weddings and I'm talking about all around the world. Like, it's ridiculous."

But he has never accepted the offers.
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