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The kids of ''Napoleon Dynamite'' are breakout stars of 2004

NAMES Jon Heder, Efren Ramirez, Tina Majorino AGES 27, 21, 19 HOMETOWNS Salem Ore.; Los Angeles; Thousand Oaks, Calif. THEIR BREAKOUT MOMENT Leading the lovable cast of the nerd-empowerment comedy Napoleon Dynamite — an ultralow-budget (estimated at $400,000) indie that grossed $43 million. ON SPAWNING CUSS-FREE CATCHPHRASES While playing Xbox Live online, recalls Heder (Napoleon’s titular Übergeek), he heard one young opponent yell, ”Gosh!” ”I said, ‘What?’ He said, ‘I’m quoting my favorite movie.’ I told him who I was; now I’m gonna have all these invites to be online buddies. Crap.” FIRST MAJOR PURCHASE When Ramirez (who plays student-body-prez wannabe Pedro) had to choose between offers from no-budget Napoleon or big-money bomb The Alamo, his father urged him to ”follow his heart.” After Napoleon hit big, he chipped in with his four brothers to buy their dad a house. ALL GROWN UP This was the first role for Majorino (Napoleon’s side-ponytailed crush, Deb), the young costar of the 1994 drama Corrina, Corrina, since taking a self-imposed five-year acting break. ”I didn’t want to experience my first kiss on screen,” she says. WHAT’S NEXT Heder will star with Reese Witherspoon as a goofy occult expert in the romantic comedy Just Like Heaven; Ramirez appears in the upcoming Brad Pitt-Angelina Jolie spy caper Mr. and Mrs. Smith; Majorino continues her recurring role on UPN’s Veronica Mars.

Originally posted December 13 2004 — 12:00 AM EST

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