Zooey Claire Deschanel (born January 17, 1980) is an American actress, musician and singer-songwriter. In 1999, Deschanel made her film debut in Mumford, followed by her breakout role as young protagonist William Miller's troubled older sister Anita in Cameron Crowe's 2000 semi-autobiographical film Almost Famous. Deschanel soon became known for her deadpan or "Manic Pixie Dream Girl" supporting roles in films such as Elf (2003), The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005), Failure to Launch (2006), Bridge to Terabithia (2007), and The Happening (2008). She then began playing lead roles in films, including Yes Man (2008) and (500) Days of Summer (2009). She currently stars in the Fox series New Girl. She has been nominated for Golden Globe and Grammy awards.
For a few years starting in 2001, Deschanel performed in the jazz cabaret act If All the Stars Were Pretty Babies with fellow actress Samantha Shelton. Besides singing, she plays keyboards, percussion, banjo and ukulele. She also often sings in her films. Deschanel teamed up with M. Ward to release their debut album Volume One (recorded with M. Ward under the moniker She & Him) which was released in March 2008. The follow-up album Volume Two was released in the U.S. in March 2010. She married Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard in September 2009, and filed for divorce from him in December 2011.
Born in Los Angeles in 1980, Deschanel is the daughter of cinematographer/director Caleb Deschanel and actress Mary Jo Deschanel (née Weir). She is of French (from her paternal grandfather) and Irish descent. She was named after Zooey Glass, the male protagonist of J. D. Salinger's 1961 novella Franny and Zooey. Her older sister, Emily Deschanel, is also an actress and stars in the TV series Bones.
Deschanel lived in Los Angeles, but spent much of her childhood traveling because her father shot films on location; she later said that she "hated all the traveling ... I'm really happy now that I had the experience, but at the time I was just so miserable to have to leave my friends in Los Angeles and go to places where they didn't have any food I liked or things I was used to." She attended Crossroads, a private preparatory school in Santa Monica, California, where she befriended future co-stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Kate Hudson. She sang throughout high school, planning to pursue a career in musical theatre. She attended Northwestern University for seven months before dropping out to work as an actress.
Deschanel appeared in a guest role on the television series Veronica's Closet before making her film debut in Lawrence Kasdan's 1999 comedy Mumford, and later in the year she appeared (non-singing) in the music video for The Offspring's single "She's Got Issues". In her second film, director Cameron Crowe's semi-autobiographical Almost Famous (2000), Deschanel played Anita Miller, the protagonist's rebellious older sister. The film received critical praise, but was not a box office success. She also appeared in Jimmy Fallon's "Idiot Boyfriend" music video as his lead girl.
Deschanel played supporting roles in a series of films that include Manic (2001), with Don Cheadle and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Big Trouble (2002), with Tim Allen and Rene Russo, Abandon (2002) alongside Katie Holmes, Benjamin Bratt and Melanie Lynskey, and The Good Girl (2002) alongside Jennifer Aniston and Jake Gyllenhaal. In late 2002, The New York Times reported that Deschanel was "one of Hollywood's most sought-after young stars," and the Los Angeles Times wrote in early 2003 that Deschanel had become a recognizable type, due to "her deadpan, sardonic and scene-stealing film performances" as the protagonist's best friend. Deschanel objected to her typecasting, arguing, "A lot of these roles are just a formula idea of somebody's best friend, and it's like, I don't even have that many friends. In high school, I stayed home all the time, so I don't know how I'm everybody's best friend now."
Deschanel appeared in Frasier, starring as Roz's out-of-control cousin, Jen, in the season 10 episode 'Kissing Cousin' in 2002. That year, she also appeared in the film The New Guy as Nora, the guitar player in the lead character's band, Suburban Funk.
After turning down several supporting roles, Deschanel played her first lead role in All the Real Girls (2003). Her performance as Noel, a sexually curious 18-year-old virgin who has a life-changing romance with an aimless 22-year-old, received critical praise, and she received an Independent Spirit nomination for Best Actress. Later in 2003, Deschanel played a deadpan department store worker opposite Will Ferrell in the comedy Elf, which became a box office hit.
In 2004, Deschanel starred in Eulogy, and in 2005 as Trillian in the film adaptation of Douglas Adams' science fiction novel The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Also in 2005, she played the main character, Reese Holden in the film Winter Passing with supporting role from Will Ferrell. Deschanel then played Sarah Jessica Parker's neurotic roommate in Failure to Launch (2006), and appeared on four episodes of the Showtime television series Weeds from 2006 to 2007, playing Andy Botwin's quirky ex-girlfriend, Kat. In September 2006, Variety announced that Deschanel would play 1960s singer Janis Joplin in the film The Gospel According to Janis, to be co-written and directed by Penelope Spheeris. Deschanel planned to sing all of Joplin's songs, and took four months of singing lessons "to approximate Joplin's gritty vocals." The film, scheduled to begin shooting on November 13, 2006, was postponed indefinitely. However, the project is now back on track and will be released in 2012.
In 2007, Deschanel appeared in two children's films: Bridge to Terabithia, in which she played Jesse's quirky music teacher, and the animated film Surf's Up, in which she voiced a penguin named Lani Aliikai. She played DG, the lead in the Sci Fi Channel miniseries Tin Man, a re-imagined science fiction version of L. Frank Baum's children's book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Tin Man aired on Sci Fi in December 2007. Deschanel also narrated the children's book Players in Pigtails.
On April 27, 2008, she performed on The Simpsons, playing the role of Mary, Cletus's daughter, and in June she starred opposite Mark Wahlberg in M. Night Shyamalan's poorly received environmental thriller The Happening.
Also in 2008, Deschanel starred in Gigantic, and later that year in the comedy film Yes Man, opposite Jim Carrey.
Deschanel was next seen as the title character in the 2009 award winning romantic-drama-comedy (500) Days of Summer, opposite Joseph Gordon-Levitt (for a second time after Manic). The film, about the development and demise of a relationship, received widespread praise and was directed by long-time commercial and music video director Marc Webb. The film received a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Motion Picture (Comedy or Musical), but was ultimately defeated by The Hangover.
Deschanel guest starred in a Christmas 2009 episode of Bones as Brennan's never-before-seen cousin. In the first-ever on-screen pairing of the Deschanel sisters, Zooey portrayed Margaret Whitesell, a distant relative of Emily's Dr. Temperance Brennan. Brennan's father, Max Keenan (guest star Ryan O'Neal), invites Margaret to spend Christmas with him and his daughter.
In 2010, Deschanel secured the role of Belladonna in the fantasy comedy film Your Highness alongside Natalie Portman and James Franco. Deschanel will star in the pilot for the HBO series I'm with the Band: Confessions of a Groupie, in which she plays the role of Pamela Des Barres, who wrote a memoir based on her own experience as a former groupie. She is also now appearing as the lead in the new Fox series New Girl, created by Elizabeth Meriwether.
The New Guy (2002) was the first of Deschanel's films in which she sang onscreen. In Elf, she sings with Will Ferrell in the bathroom shower scene on "Baby, It's Cold Outside", and was also heard singing it on the soundtrack with Leon Redbone. Her piano composition "Bittersuite" was used thematically in the dark, off-beat 2004 dramedy Winter Passing, in which she starred alongside Will Ferrell and Ed Harris. Subsequently, Deschanel also sings in Winter Passing ("My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean").
Others include: the television musical Once Upon a Mattress ("An Opening for a Princess", "In a Little While", "Normandy", and "Yesterday I Loved You"); an old cabaret song in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford ("A Bird in a Gilded Cage"); and the 2007 short film Raving ("Hello, Dolly!").
Deschanel and the cast of school children sing the Steve Earle song "Someday" and War's "Why Can't We Be Friends?" in the 2007 film Bridge to Terabithia.
In the film Yes Man, Deschanel sings several songs featured in the film and on the film soundtrack, and is shown singing "Uh-Huh" and "Sweet Ballad" alongside San Franciscan all-girl electro soul-punk group Von Iva in a fictional band called "Munchausen by Proxy".
In (500) Days of Summer Deschanel sings a cover of "Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want" by The Smiths—it also appears on the soundtrack of the film, as performed by She and Him. She also sings a cover of "Sugar Town" by Nancy Sinatra. (500) Days of Summer director Marc Webb also directed Deschanel and Gordon-Levitt in a music video, Bank Dance, with the She & Him song "Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?".
Deschanel sings "The Greatest Most Beautiful Love Song in All the Land" with James Franco in the film Your Highness. She also appears in a number of songs (with M. Ward) on the soundtrack album for the 2011 release of Disney's Winnie the Pooh. Deschanel wrote and sings the theme song to her current television series New Girl.
In 2001, Deschanel formed If All the Stars Were Pretty Babies, a jazz cabaret act with fellow actress Samantha Shelton. The pair performed around Los Angeles.
In March 2007, Deschanel contributed vocals to two songs "Slowly" and "Ask Her to Dance" on the album Nighttiming by Jason Schwartzman's band Coconut Records. In May 2007, singer/songwriter M. Ward, who had previously performed with Deschanel onstage, said that he was "just finishing work" on her debut album, which will feature songs written by Deschanel and produced by Ward. Fox reported that Deschanel and Ward were recording under the moniker She & Him. Their first album, titled Volume One, was released by Merge Records on March 18, 2008.
On March 23, 2010, the second She & Him album, Volume Two, was released. In spring of 2010, She & Him went on tour in the USA and Europe to promote the album.
Deschanel and M. Ward both featured on The Place We Ran From, the 2010 album by Snow Patrol member Gary Lightbody's side project, Tired Pony. Deschanel contributed vocals to the tracks "Get On the Road" and "Point Me at Lost Islands", while M. Ward contributed vocals and guitar to the track "Held in the Arms of Your Words" and guitar to the track "That Silver Necklace".
Deschanel also recorded "The Fabric of My Life" for a 2009 advertising campaign for Cotton Incorporated.
Deschanel also performed "God Bless America" during the seventh inning stretch during game three of the National League Championship Series between the Philadelphia Phillies and San Francisco Giants on October 19, 2010 at AT&T Park in San Francisco, California.
On October 23, 2011, Deschanel performed the National Anthem before game four of the World Series between the Texas Rangers and the St. Louis Cardinals at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington in Arlington, TX.
Deschanel contributed a cover of Buddy Holly's "It's So Easy" for the tribute album Listen to Me: Buddy Holly, released on September 6, 2011. She had previously appeared on Rave On Buddy Holly with She & Him performing "Oh Boy", released in June 2011.
A Very She & Him Christmas was announced on Pitchfork.com in September 2011. The 12-track Christmas album was released October 25, 2011 under Merge Records.
On December 28, 2011, she and Joseph Gordon-Levitt recorded an informal version of "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" for her Hellogiggles You Tube Channel. It was immensely popular and within four days had over 6 million views.
Deschanel was a judge for the ninth Independent Music Awards.
She has signed on to represent Rimmel.
In May 2011, she launched HelloGiggles, an entertainment website geared towards women, with producer Sophia Rossi and writer Molly McAleer.
In 2011, Deschanel collaborated with Will Ferrell and Don Cheadle on "Drunk History", on the website Funny or Die.
In December 2008, Deschanel became engaged to musician Ben Gibbard, lead vocalist for The Postal Service and Death Cab for Cutie. The couple married on September 19, 2009 near Seattle, Washington. On November 1, 2011, they announced their separation after two years of marriage. Deschanel subsequently filed for divorce on December 27, 2011, citing irreconcilable differences.
Deschanel—who is allergic to eggs, dairy, and wheat gluten—formerly adhered to a vegan diet. She was featured on episode eight of season one of Bravo's Top Chef Masters, in which the chefs participating in the competition were challenged to cater a vegan lunch party for her family and friends using no eggs, dairy, soy, or gluten. However, according to a March 2010 interview with Health magazine, she had to come off the diet because her food sensitivities made it too difficult for her to stay healthy as a vegan. Deschanel has also stated that she has Attention Deficit Disorder.