Who's this gal with the tongue-bending moniker? You may not recognize Zooey Claire Deschanel's name (inspired by J.D. Salinger’s novella Franny and Zooey), but we’ll bet you recognize some of her credits. The 28- year-old actress most recently popped up as one of Brad Pitt's co-stars in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and the love interest in Surf's Up, and has appeared in movies as widely varied as Elf, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and now The Happening. In it, she stars with Mark Wahlberg as a couple on the run with their friend's young daughter from a terrifying phenomenon that’s wreaking havoc on the city’s inhabitants. She’s making no less than six films over this year, and up next, you can find her opposite Jim Carrey in the comedy Yes Man.
After some years of being typecast in her early career as the “best friend,” she started turning down second-banana roles and taking lead roles instead. By 2003 The New York Times was calling her one of Hollywood’s most sought-after young stars…and here are a few reasons we can see why.
Her pedigree: Dad is five-time Oscar nominee cinematographer Caleb Deschanel, and mom is Mary Jo Deschanel, an actress on David Lynch’s fabulously bizarre Twin Peaks TV series. Sis is “Bones” star Emily Deschanel. Zooey attended the elite Crossroads school in Santa Monica alongside the likes of Kate Hudson and Jake Gyllenhaal.
Her quirky choices: She’s managed to balance big-budget films with edgy work. Her first lead role was in the critically acclaimed All the Real Girls, which earned her an Independent Spirit Best Actress nomination. Some of her best efforts have been on television, even. As Kat in Showtime’s dark comedy series “Weeds,” she was hilarious as the zany ex-girlfriend, and she made the Sci Fi Channel’s The Wizard of Oz 2007 re-imagination Tin Man infinitely watchable. Oh, and she also once dated the uber-indie Jason Schwartzman.
Her gamine look:
She’s got an irresistible screen quality, helped no doubt by those enormous blue peepers. We love to see young actresses who don’t fit the Hollywood “type" still getting meaty roles.
She sings. Well. An Ella Fitzgerald lover, Zooey performs at various L.A. clubs as part of a cabaret group. She did her own singing in Elf and The Assassination of Jesse James. She also was considered for the role of Janis Joplin in a now-postponed biopic. And she writes music and recently released an album as part of a duet called She & Him (sorry, ScarJo—some have it, some don’t).
Her cool lifestyle: Instead of the typical showbiz brat who spends her nights at Hyde and Area alongside other Young Hollywood types who shall remain nameless, she’d rather stay in. She’s said she prefers baking over partying, likes to shop at flea markets, and plays the ukulele and piano. Reasons to love anyone, no?
Send feedback on this column to