Celeb Spotlight: Zooey Deschanel
Hometown: Los Angeles
Current gig: Playing the half-alien, half-human Trillian in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
When Zooey Deschanel showed up on the set of the movie The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, she felt like a time traveler from the future. "I was the only person in the cast who had a computer and an iPod," she says of her costars, who included John Malkovich, Mos Def and Sam Rockwell. "I was like, 'What? Come on, you guys!'"
Despite their lack of tech savvy, Deschanel found common ground with her fellow actors while making the film (based on Douglas Adams' cult novel about misfits who travel the universe after Earth is demolished to make way for an intergalactic freeway). "We were always on set talking about music," says Deschanel. "It was a big thing."
Deschanel's trip to outer space is just another step in her eclectic career. The 25-year-old actress played Jennifer Aniston's morose coworker in 2002's The Good Girl and a department-store Santa's helper in the hit 2003 comedy Elf – and she's determined to maintain that variety. "I usually choose movies for the characters," she says. "Like, is this something I can do something with? The main thing is making sure that you're not miscast or typecast. You want to keep your range open."
If she ever needs showbiz advice, Deschanel (whose first name comes from the J.D. Salinger novel Franny and Zooey) need not look far: Her father is Oscar-nominated cinematographer Caleb Deschanel and her mother is actress Mary Jo Deschanel (The Patriot). And she's always wanted to join the family business. "I think I was probably 2 years old. Okay, I can barely talk and I was like, 'Actress!'"
As a child, Deschanel attended the Crossroads School for Arts & Sciences in Santa Monica, Calif., and spent summers at the French Woods performing arts camp in upstate New York. She began acting professionally while still in high school, and in 1998 made her TV debut guesting on the Kirstie Alley sitcom Veronica's Closet. Soon she'd nabbed roles in the 1999 film comedy Mumford and 2000's Almost Famous.
These days, Deschanel, who has been dating I Heart Huckabees actor Jason Schwartzman, 24, for a year and a half, is also keeping good company onscreen: She'll reteam with Elf's Will Ferrell in the upcoming drama Winter Passing and will costar with Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew McConaughey in the romantic comedy Failure to Launch.
When she's not acting, Deschanel loves to sing (that was her crooning "Baby, It's Cold Outside" in Elf) and play the ukelele (yes, you read that right). "People expect me to be dry and sarcastic," she told InStyle. "But really, I'm pretty animated."