Zooey Claire Deschanel (; born January 17, 1980) is an American actress, model, and singer-songwriter. She made her film debut in Mumford (1999) and next obtained a supporting role in Cameron Crowe's film Almost Famous (2000). Deschanel is known for her deadpan roles in comedy 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), Yes Man (2008) and 500 Days of Summer (2009). She has ventured into more dramatic territory with Manic (2001), All the Real Girls (2003), Winter Passing (2005), and Bridge to Terabithia (2007). From 2011 to 2018, she played Jess Day on the Fox sitcom New Girl, for which she 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 actress Samantha Shelton. In 2006, Deschanel teamed up with M. Ward to form She & Him, and subsequently released their debut album, Volume One, in 2008. They have since released five albums: Volume Two in 2010, A Very She & Him Christmas in 2011, Volume 3 in 2013, Classics in 2014, and Christmas Party in 2016. She received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Song Written for Visual Media for "So Long", which was featured in the 2011 film Winnie the Pooh soundtrack. Besides singing, she plays keyboards, percussion, banjo, and ukulele.
Deschanel was born in Los Angeles, California, the younger daughter of cinematographer and director Caleb Deschanel and actress Mary Jo Deschanel (née Weir). Her paternal grandfather was French, from Oullins, Rhône and her paternal grandmother came from a Quaker family; she also has Swiss, Dutch, English, Irish, and French ancestry. She was named after Zooey Glass, the male protagonist of J. D. Salinger's 1961 novella Franny and Zooey. Her older sister is actress Emily Deschanel, who starred in the Fox crime comedy-drama series Bones.
... 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 pursue acting.
Deschanel had a guest appearance on the television series Veronica's Closet in 1998 and made her film debut in Lawrence Kasdan's comedy Mumford (1999), revolving around the neurotic residents in a small town and co-starring Hope Davis, Jason Lee, Alfre Woodard and Mary McDonnell. Also in 1999, she appeared (non-singing) in the music video for The Offspring's single "She's Got Issues". Deschanel co-starred in Cameron Crowe's semi-autobiographical Almost Famous (2000), where she played Anita Miller, the rebellious older sister of a teenage journalist. Despite a modest box office response, the film received critical praise, winning the . Deschanel appeared in the independent drama Manic (2001), as the love interest of a troubled teen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). The film was screened at the Sundance Film Festival and received a limited theatrical release. The New York Times found Deschanel to be "particularly spontaneous, unaffected and emotionally direct" in her role.
Following early notice, Deschanel took on supporting parts in four feature films released throughout 2002: Big Trouble, The New Guy, The Good Girl, and Abandon. In the comedy Big Trouble, with Tim Allen and Rene Russo, she played the daughter of a devoted and reluctant woman, and in the teen comedy The New Guy, starred as a guitar player in a band. Deschanel portrayed a cynical, plain-spoken young woman working in a big-box store in the black dramedy The Good Girl, opposite Jennifer Aniston and Jake Gyllenhaal. The psychological thriller Abandon saw her play the roommate of a woman involved in her boyfriend's disappearance. Deschanel also made a one-episode appearance in Frasier, as an out-of-control young woman. The New York Times reported that Deschanel was "one of Hollywood's most sought-after young stars", in 2002, 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 obtained her first leading film role debut in the independent drama All the Real Girls (2003) as Noel, a sexually curious 18-year-old virgin who has a life-changing romance with an aimless 22-year-old. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was an arthouse success. Her performance received wide critical acclaim, and Variety remarked: "Performances are all credible and naturalistic, but standing out from the rest is Deschanel's work, which evinces an impressively direct connection to her character's emotions. The actress does a wonderful job presenting a young woman who is trying, with varying degrees of success, to give voice to all sorts of things she has never felt or expressed before". She received an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Actress. Also in 2003, Deschanel starred opposite Will Ferrell in the Christmas comedy Elf as a deadpan department store worker and the love interest of a man raised by Santa's elves. Reviewers found the film to be a "spirited, good natured family comedy", as part of an overall positive critical response, and budgeted at US$33 million, Elf made US$220.4 million worldwide.
In 2004, Deschanel starred in Eulogy, and in 2005 played Trillian in the film adaptation of Douglas Adams's science fiction novel The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. She acted in Winter Passing (2005), co-starring Will Ferrell. Deschanel next appeared in Failure to Launch (2006), as the neurotic roommate of Sarah Jessica Parker's character. She also had a recurring role in four episodes of the Showtime television series Weeds from 2006 to 2007 where she played Kat, Andy Botwin's quirky ex-girlfriend. In September 2006, it was announced that Deschanel had signed on to 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 Bridge to Terabithia, in which she played a quirky music teacher, and the animated film Surf's Up, voicing a penguin. She took on the brief role of Dorothy Evans in the revisionist Western and starred in the B comedy Flakes, which was released in only one theater. Deschanel starred as DG in the Syfy Channel miniseries Tin Man, a re-imagined science fiction version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It aired in December 2007. Deschanel also narrated the children's book Players in Pigtails. She voiced Mary, Cletus's daughter in three episodes of The Simpsons since debuting on the April 27, 2008 episode, "Apocalypse Cow".
In M. Night Shyamalan's thriller The Happening (2008), she starred opposite Mark Wahlberg as a couple trying to escape from an inexplicable natural disaster. Despite largely negative reviews, critic Roger Ebert felt that Wahlberg and Deschanel's performances "bring a quiet dignity to their characters", and globally, the film made US$163 million. She starred in the independent comedy Gigantic (2008), which screened at the Toronto International Film Festival and was distributed for a limited release in certain parts of the United States only. In the comedy Yes Man (also 2008), she played an unorthodox singer and the girlfriend of Jim Carrey's character. The film grossed US$223.1 million around the world.
Deschanel reunited with Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the independent romantic drama about the development and demise of a relationship (500) Days of Summer (2009). The film garnered critical acclaim and became a "sleeper hit", earning over $60 million in worldwide returns, far exceeding its $7.5 million budget. Mark Adams of the Daily Mirror found the film to be a "modern romance for grown-ups" and a "sweet-natured, funny, deeply-romantic tale" blessed with "top-notch performances by Deschanel and Gordon-Levitt, who are both charming and have real chemistry". In December 2009, Deschanel guest-starred in a Christmas episode of the Fox crime procedural comedy-drama Bones, which was the first-ever on-screen pairing of the Deschanel sisters.
Deschanel starred in the comedy Our Idiot Brother (2011) as the independent and bisexual sister of a dimwitted but idealistic man (Paul Rudd). The production was screened at the Sundance Film Festival, to a generally positive critical reception. She played Belladonna in the stoner fantasy-comedy Your Highness (2011), with Danny McBride and James Franco. The film received negative reviews and bombed at the box office. Describing her role, Roger Ebert noted in its review for the film: "[Deschanel is] brought onstage, quickly kidnapped by an evil sorcerer, spends a good deal of time as a captive in his lair, is rescued and lives happily ever after. She might as well be a mannequin, for all she's given to say and do. This intelligent, nuanced actress, standing there baffled. Used as a placeholder".
Deschanel signed on to star as a bubbly and offbeat teacher Jessica "Jess" Day on the Fox sitcom New Girl, created by Elizabeth Meriwether. She became a producer on the show and helped build the character, which she has described as a part of her, especially in regards to "the sort of enthusiasm and optimism" of her youth. The series premiered in September 2011, and USA Today described her performance as "a role tailored to launch her from respected indie actor to certified [television] star, Deschanel soars, combining well-honed skills with a natural charm". She has received an Emmy Award nomination and three Golden Globe nominations for her role. The series finale ran on May 15, 2018.
In Rock the Kasbah (2015), she played a Los Angeles singer taken to Afghanistan by her former manager (Bill Murray). Despite a US$15 million budget, the comedy only made US$3 million at the North American box office. She obtained the role of a mysterious woman in the neo-noir drama The Driftless Area (2015), screened at the Tribeca Film Festival and released for VOD. She voiced a kind-hearted Bergen, Bridget, in the animated family comedy Trolls (2016), which grossed US$344 million worldwide.
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. It was reported that Deschanel and M. Ward, who had previously performed with Deschanel on-stage, were recording music under the moniker She & Him. Their first album, titled Volume One, was released by Merge Records on March 18, 2008. It received a strong response from critics, with Paste magazine voting it the No. 1 Album of 2008. Patrick Caldwell of the Austin American Statesman wrote: "The album gently rambled through 13 tracks of sun-dappled pop, with a gentle Orbisonian charm and sweet, wistful vocals from Deschanel."
Deschanel recorded "The Fabric of My Life" for a 2009 advertising campaign for Cotton Incorporated. On March 23, 2010, the second She & Him album, Volume Two, was released. Deschanel and M. Ward both featured on The Place We Ran From (2010), the 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 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 was featured on bandmate M. Ward's sixth solo album, A Wasteland Companion (2012).
She and Him's next album, Volume 3 was released by Merge Records in May 2013. In the 15-track album, Deschanel wrote eleven songs, while three others are cover songs. It debuted at number 15 on the Billboard 200. The band's fifth studio album, Classics, received a December 2014 release by Columbia Records, and it features 13 covers of classic songs, recorded live and accompanied by a 20-piece orchestra. Response towards the album was positive, with Robert Hamm for Alternative Press writing that Deschanel "is a delight, at times coy and romantic, and in other moments, moody and pensive". She also appeared as a guest vocalist on Brian Wilson's album No Pier Pressure (2015). She & Him's second Christmas album and sixth album overall, Christmas Party, was released in 2016.
Deschanel made her on-screen singing debut in The New Guy (2002). In Elf (2003), she sings "Baby, It's Cold Outside" with Will Ferrell in the bathroom shower scene, "Auld Lang Syne" with James Caan on piano and with Leon Redbone on the soundtrack. Her piano composition "Bittersuite" was used thematically in the dark dramedy Winter Passing (2006), in which she co starred with Ferrell and Ed Harris, and also sings "My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean" in the film.
In 2007, other singing credits followed: 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 ("A Bird in a Gilded Cage"); and the 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 Bridge to Terabithia.
In Yes Man (2008), Deschanel sings several songs featured in the film and on the film soundtrack, and is shown singing "Uh-Huh" and "Sweet Ballad" with San Franciscan all-girl electro soul-punk group Von Iva in a fictional band called "Munchausen by Proxy". In 500 Days of Summer (2009), Deschanel sings a cover of The Smiths's "Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want" and it 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. Mason Novick, the film's producer 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 comedy Your Highness (2011). She also appears with M. Ward in a number of songs on the soundtrack album for Disney's animated version of Winnie the Pooh (2011), earning a nomination for "So Long". Deschanel wrote and performed the theme song to New Girl. Also, in season three's episode "Prince", the song "Fallinlove2nite" is sung by Deschanel and Prince. In Rock the Kasbah (2015), she sang a cover of Meredith Brooks's "Bitch", which is featured in the soundtrack for the film. In 2016, Deschanel was the voice of Bridget, the scullery maid in the animated movie, Trolls.
On September 27, 1999, Deschanel appeared as herself in the music video "She's Got Issues" for The Offspring. Deschanel was a judge for the 9th Independent Music Awards. In 2005, she modeled for Chanel and Clements Ribeiro, and in 2010, she signed to represent Rimmel.
In May 2011, after the success of her HelloGiggles YouTube channel, Deschanel, along with producer Sophia Rossi and writer Molly McAleer, founded the website HelloGiggles.com, an entertainment website geared towards women. HelloGiggles.com was acquired by Time, Inc. in 2015. 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 the comedy Must Be Nice, written by New Girl consulting producer J. J. Philbin.
Deschanel is allergic to eggs, dairy, soy, and wheat gluten. She used to be a vegan, which she gave up because she found it difficult to eat enough calories on a vegan diet due to her sensitivities to wheat and soy. 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 soy or gluten.After speaking with many food experts and farmers in her role as the host of the ATTN: series Your Food's Roots, she has since gone back to eating a vegetarian diet, citing the difficulty in knowing whether the animals used for meat have been sustainably and humanely raised.
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 filed for divorce on December 27, 2011, citing "irreconcilable differences". The divorce was finalized on December 12, 2012.
Deschanel confirmed her engagement to film producer Jacob Pechenik in January 2015, and they married in June 2015. They have two children: Elsie Otter, born in July 2015, and Charlie Wolf, born in May 2017. Deschanel and Pechenik announced their separation in September 2019. Her divorce was finalized on June 1, 2020.
Deschanel started dating Property Brothers star Jonathan Scott after her announcement of the separation from Pechenik. They met while filming an episode of Carpool Karaoke: The Series in August 2019.