Zooey Deschanel might shine in every movie she makes, but she's got no interest in acting like a star.
This feature originally appeared in Complex's December 2008/January 2009 issue.
By pedigree, Zooey Deschanel is about as Hollywood as they come. Her dad’s a five-time Academy Award–nominated cinematographer, her mom’s an actress, and her sister is Emily Deschanel, the star of the Fox crime drama Bones.1 When she was 19, Zooey dropped out of Northwestern University after seven months to work on 2000’s Almost Famous, her second movie role, and hasn’t looked back, acting in an average of three films a year since. She’s even got the requisite inside-Hollywood dating past.2
By temperament, though, Zooey’s about as far from Hollywood as you can get. She lives with said sis, doesn’t have a DUI or even a Klonopin bust (that we know of), and has yet to be photographed without her underwear (though our lens cap is always open). Her movie choices reflect a quirky and open-minded, if demure, sensibility: In 2003 she filmed a (totally chaste, thank God) shower scene with Will Ferrell in Elf and played a (regrettably chaste) small-town virgin in the indie fave All the Real Girls.3 Perhaps most anti-Hollywood of all, she released a rock album that a) was critically acclaimed, and b) didn’t feature a single Tom Waits cover or Scott Storch– or J.R. Rotem–produced track.4
So while outsiders might see her ascension to big-budget leading-lady status in 2008’s The Happening and Yes Man as some sort of Hollywood destiny, to Zooey it’s just the next thing to do. If you have to, tag her Hollywood’s indie–blockbuster–cult fave or whatever else the pigeonholers come up with. Just don’t tag her It.
First off, I’ve noticed a slight Southern accent slips out when you speak sometimes. Where does that come from?
[Laughs.] All my life people have thought I’m from every place that I’m not from. I’m from Southern California, and it has a weird accent that I had to get rid of. [Adopts robotic voice.] People talk like this where I’m from, and I was like, I am not going to talk like that.
I’ve heard so many people say that so many times: 'You’re this year’s It Girl!' And I’m like, 'You said that to me in 2001 and 2004.' You go in and out of style.
I don’t know where it comes from. We moved all over the place when I was forming my speech.
So between the album and a couple of big movies, 2008’s been a pretty busy year for you.
Yeah, I worked a year and a half straight without a day off.
Any New Year’s resolutions for 2009?
You’re talking to somebody who doesn’t make New Year’s resolutions.
Well, I stopped biting my nails.
That’s good. When did you do that?
That’s really good! I did it last year, but it wasn’t a New Year’s resolution. I’m kind of making resolutions all year long.
And how often are those successful?
Most of the time!