Zooey Deschanel was born in 1980 into a showbiz family. Her father, Caleb Deschanel, is an Academy Award-nominated cinematographer (perhaps most notably for The Passion of the Christ (2004)) and her mother, Mary Jo Deschanel (née Weir), is an actress who appeared in Twin Peaks (1990). Her paternal grandfather was French, and her other roots include English, German, Scottish, Irish, and Dutch.
Driven from an early age to become a successful actress, Zooey got her big break, at age 17, playing a model in the TV sitcom, Veronica's Closet (1997). She got her first film role, the following year, in Mumford (1999), which prompted her to quit university to pursue acting full-time. Mostly thanks to a role in Cameron Crowe's popular biopic, Almost Famous (2000), Zooey's rise to fame has been steadily increasing as the 21st century wears on. Her distinctive acting style found her critical acclaim in 2003, when she was voted Best Actress at the Mar Del Plata Film Festival for her role in David Gordon Green's All the Real Girls (2003). She also gained a Best Female Lead nomination (for All the Real Girls (2003)) at the following year's Independent Spirit Awards, but lost out to Charlize Theron.
Zooey has appeared in such films as 500 Days of Summer (2009), Our Idiot Brother (2011), Yes Man (2008) (opposite Jim Carrey), Elf (2003) (opposite Will Farrell), Your Highness (2011), The Happening (2008) (opposite Mark Wahlberg), The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005) and is the star of the FOX sitcom, New Girl (2011).
Zooey is often compared to golden era Hollywood starlets and is also a talented singer. She has said in interviews that she believes her singing ability was pivotal in gaining the role of "Jovie" in Elf (2003). She also sang (and acted) in the Disney-produced musical, The Wonderful World of Disney: Once Upon a Mattress (2005).