Zooey Claire Deschanel (/ˈzoʊ.iː deɪʃəˈnɛl/; born January 17, 1980) is an American actress and singer-songwriter. In 1999, Deschanel made her film debut in Mumford, followed by her breakout role as Anita Miller in Cameron Crowe's 2000 semi-autobiographical film Almost Famous. Deschanel soon became known for her deadpan comedy and roles in films such as The Good Girl (2002), The New Guy (2002), Elf (2003), The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005), Failure to Launch (2006), Bridge to Terabithia (2007), Yes Man (2008), and (500) Days of Summer (2009). She has portrayed the role of Jessica Day on the Fox comedy series New Girl since 2011, for which she has received an Emmy Award nomination and three Golden Globe Award nominations.
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. In 2006, Deschanel teamed up with M. Ward to release their debut album Volume One, under the name She & Him which was released in March 2008. Their follow-up album Volume Two was released in the U.S. in March 2010, with their Christmas album A Very She & Him Christmas being released in 2011 and Volume 3 in 2013. She also often sings in her films.
Deschanel was born in Los Angeles, California. She is the daughter of Academy Award-nominated cinematographer and director Caleb Deschanel and actress Mary Jo Deschanel (née Weir). Her paternal grandfather was French, from Oullins, Rhône; her ancestry also includes Swiss, Dutch, English, Irish, and other French roots. She was raised as a Roman Catholic. 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, where she befriended future co-stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Kate Hudson. She sang throughout high school, planning to pursue a career in musical theatre and attending French Woods Festival of the Performing Arts. She attended Northwestern University for nine 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 as Jimmy Fallon's girlfriend in the music video for his single, "Idiot Boyfriend".
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 was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award 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. In 2005, she played Trillian in the film adaptation of Douglas Adams' science fiction novel The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and played the main character, Reese Holden in 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, it was 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. The film was scheduled to begin shooting in 2006, but was then postponed indefinitely; it was then resurrected again, with a planned release date of 2012, before being cancelled altogether in 2011. Deschanel expressed frustration with the cancellation, saying she had spent three years working on imitating Joplin's scratchy singing voice.
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, as a voice of 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 The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which aired in December 2007. Deschanel also narrated the children's book Players in Pigtails. On April 27, 2008, she appeared on The Simpsons, voicing the role of Mary, Cletus's daughter, and in June she starred opposite Mark Wahlberg in M. Night Shyamalan's horror The Happening. Also in 2008, Deschanel starred in Gigantic, and later that year in the comedy film Yes Man, opposite Jim Carrey. Deschanel then starred in the 2009 romantic comedy-drama (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. The film received a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Motion Picture (Comedy or Musical), losing to The Hangover.
Deschanel guest starred in a Christmas 2009 episode of Bones as Brennan's distant 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, a pilot was made for a potential HBO series, I'm with the Band: Confessions of a Groupie, in which she played the title role of Pamela Des Barres, but the pilot was not picked up. In 2011, Deschanel played Belladonna in the fantasy-comedy film Your Highness alongside Danny McBride and James Franco.
Since September 2011, Deschanel has been the lead character, Jess Day, on the Fox sitcom New Girl, created by Elizabeth Meriwether. She has received one Emmy and three Golden Globe nominations for her role on the show.
Deschanel hosted Saturday Night Live on February 11, 2012.
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 & Him. She also sings a cover of "Sugar Town" by Nancy Sinatra. Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt did a music video, called Bank Dance, directed by (500) Days of Summer director Marc Webb, to accompany the film. It uses the She & Him song "Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?", and some complicated choreography, choreographed by Michael Rooney. The film's producer, Mason Novick, said, "We made the short because Zooey came in and said, 'I have this idea ... because I didn't get to dance in the movie'" (as Gordon-Levitt did).
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 New Girl. Also, in season three's episode "Prince", the song "Fallinlove2nite" is sung by Deschanel and Prince.
See also: She & Him
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 featured 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 the 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 recorded "The Fabric of My Life" for a 2009 advertising campaign for Cotton Incorporated. Deschanel performed "God Bless America" during the seventh-inning stretch in 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. On October 23, 2011, Deschanel performed "The Star-Spangled Banner" before game four of the World Series between the Texas Rangers and the St. Louis Cardinals at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas. 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 YouTube channel. It was immensely popular and within four days had over 6 million views. Deschanel, producer Sophia Rossi and writer Molly McAleer later founded a website, HelloGiggles.com. Deschanel is also featured on She & Him bandmate M. Ward's sixth solo album, A Wasteland Companion.
On September 27, 1999, Deschanel starred as herself in the music video "She's Got Issues" for The Offspring. Deschanel was a judge for the ninth Independent Music Awards.
She has signed on to represent Rimmel, a cosmetics brand. In May 2011, she launched HelloGiggles, an entertainment website geared towards women, with producer Sophia Rossi and writer Molly McAleer. In 2012, she was featured in a commercial for the iPhone 4S (Siri).
During a May 2012 performance at the Ryman Auditorium, country music singer Loretta Lynn announced that she was in the development stages of creating a Broadway musical from her autobiography and Deschanel would play the title role. Lynn said, "...there's a little girl back stage that's going to do the play of 'Coal Miner's Daughter' on Broadway." She then brought Deschanel onstage and the two sang a duet of the title song.
On September 21, 2012, it was announced that Deschanel was producing a comedy called Must Be Nice, written by New Girl consulting producer J. J. Philbin.
In December 2008, Deschanel became engaged to musician Ben Gibbard, lead vocalist for Death Cab for Cutie and The Postal Service. They married on September 19, 2009, near Seattle, Washington. On November 1, 2011, they announced their separation. Deschanel subsequently filed for divorce on December 27, 2011, citing irreconcilable differences. The divorce was finalized on December 12, 2012.
Deschanel became an aunt on September 21, 2011, when her sister Emily Deschanel gave birth to her son, Henry Lamar Hornsby.
Deschanel is allergic to eggs, dairy, and wheat gluten. She is a former vegan. 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. A year prior to giving up her 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.
Good Girl, TheThe Good Girl
New Guy, TheThe New Guy
Sweet Friggin' Daisies
Whatever We Do
All the Real Girls
It's Better to Be Wanted for Murder Than Not to Be Wanted at All
Gas Station Girl
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, TheThe Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Failure to Launch
Live Free or Die
Good Life, TheThe Good Life
Go-Getter, TheThe Go-Getter
Bridge to Terabithia
Miss Pussy Katz
Lani Aliikai (voice)
Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, TheThe Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Happening, TheThe Happening
(500) Days of Summer
Our Idiot Brother
Rock the Kasbah
In post-production; April release set
The Driftless Area
Episode: "Veronica's Fun and Pirates Are Crazy"
Episode: "Kissing Cousin"
Episode: "Birds Do It"
Once Upon a Mattress
Simpsons, TheThe Simpsons
Mary Spuckler (voice)
Episode: "The Goop on the Girl"
Funny or Die Presents
Mary Todd Lincoln
Sketch: "Drunk History Vol. 5"
Jessica "Jess" Day
Lead Role; also producer
Saturday Night Live
Host / various characters
Episode: "Zooey Deschanel/Karmin"
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license