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Napoleon Dynamite pops into Virginia restaurant

Posted at 12:03 PM, Jun 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-24 12:03:59-04

PETERSBURG, Va. -- They don't serve tots, but that did not stop Napoleon Dynamite (actor Jon Heder) from dropping into Saucy's BBQ in Petersburg for a bite earlier this week. Heder is in town filming Tapawingo, a "coming-of-age comedy," with actor Billy Zane (Titanic).

Saucy's BBQ owner Tom McCormack called Heder's 2004 breakout performance in Napoleon Dynamite one of his favorite movies.

"[Heder] would be the biggest celebrity encounter I ever had in the restaurant," McCormack said. "I love that movie."

Unfortunately, McCormack was running his Saucy's BBQ location in Hopewell when Heder arrived.

"When they told me Napoleon was in the building, I thought about shutting down Hopewell and racing over," he said.

McCormack ultimately stayed in Hopewell but asked for his crew to send him a photo.

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Jon Heder (back row center) at Saucy's BBQ in Petersburg.

"It was really nice of him to stop in and interact with our staff," McCormack said.

Tapawingo is just the latest in a string of movies and television shows in production in Central Virginia.

Michael Keaton's Dopesick and The Walking Dead spin-off, The Walking Dead: World Beyond are also in production around town.

McCormack, who opened Saucy's 11 years ago, said whenever production crews rolled into town business booms.

"There's no doubt about that," he said. "The place fills up."

Other recent Central Virginia celebrity sightings include Michael Keaton (The Lily Pad, The Stables at Belmont) and the cast of The Walking Dead: World's Beyond at Maymont.

On a recent episode of the Eat It, Virginia podcast, Richmond chef and restaurant owner Joe Sparatta mentioned Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan often dines at Heritage when he returns home to Richmond.

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Vince Gilligan, Joe Sparatta, Emilia Sparatta (left to right)

He also shared that Claire Danes and Mandy Patinkin were frequent guests when they were in town filming Homeland.

"Mandy Patinkin, he became my Jewish grandfather," Sparatta said on the podcast. "He was so nice and always gave a lot of advice on family. He would come every day and just read scripts because he had a place right down the street from Heritage. He was there a lot, like 20 or 30 times. He was very kind."

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