What if the world was destroyed by aliens and you were stuck with Zooey Deschanel as the only humans left alive. That's either a great sexual fantasy or the set-up for one of the most popular science fiction novels of all time. Zooey plays Trillian, the brainy but beautiful love interest of the hapless Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman). Zooey is well known for her work in independent films, but gained international fame as Will Ferrell's co-star in ‘Elf'. She continues the big-budget streak with her role in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Zooey, unlike most of her co-stars, had read the book before getting the part. She's a genuine fan of Douglas Adams and was honored to be a part of the film.
Were you a big fan of the Douglas Adams books before signing onto the film?
Zooey Deschanel: I read the first one in fifth grade. It was kind of a big thing to read ‘The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.' Everybody thought we were sophisticated, reading it when I was 10, but not of course getting really getting the humor. I revisited it when I knew I was testing for the movie. I flew over to London and tested with Martin — we had a great time — and I read it on the plane on the way over and thought, ‘This is pretty unbelievable.' I was just so excited and pumped to go and do this movie because I thought this was such a unique thing in a good way.
Are you worried at all about the disappointing fans?
Zooey Deschanel: Yeah, you worry but you just have to do your best and what's best your character and the movie because they hired me to do the best job I can. They had faith I could do it. That's all I can do. You can't just be like, ‘I'm going to be this for this person and that for that person' because everyone has a different idea for what they think every character should be. I mean everyone has their ideas — but all we can do is make the best movie that we can and do our best to do justice to the book and do justice to Douglas Adams.
The romance is a new element. How did you and Martin play that since you had no frame of reference?
Zooey Deschanel: Well, it's not brand new. There are some elements in the book. It's underlying. The Trillian character isn't really much in the book. She's always sort of pissed off at people in the book, flying the ship and like, ‘Why is everyone so dumb?' She's certainly one of the smartest characters and that was one of the things that I really wanted to remain intact. We were going for a kind of Tracy/Hepburn kind of feel, a screwball comedy thing. Two smart people who everyone knows should be together and somehow they can't get it together. I always like that. I like seeing that tension. I think it's interesting and romantic and exciting, so it was fun to get to do that.
What about Martin Freeman? What was it like working with him?
Zooey Deschanel: He was awesome. He's so great. I was a fan of his from ‘The Office.' I thought he was so good in that show, which I actually hadn't heard about until they said, ‘They're testing you with Martin Freeman.' I'm like, ‘Who is Martin Freeman?' So, I got all ‘The Office' DVDs and thought he was completely brilliant. We got along really well. He's a really smart guy. He knows a lot about music. He only listens to records; he's a really interesting guy. He's cool.
In the book, Trillian isn't really fleshed out. She doesn't have any of these deep, romantic thoughts. What did you base the character on?
Zooey Deschanel: That's a good question. I watch a lot of different movies — ‘The Apartment' and ‘Annie Hall' were two of them I watched a lot. I always watch a lot of movies before I start a movie to have references of characters I think are interesting. I'm a big fan of the films of the 30's and there are a lot of smart, sassy women — Rosalyn Russell, Katharine Hepburn and Carol Lombard — who talk fast and speak their minds. I didn't want to make it into some caricature. I just like to watch it and have it influence me.
How was it being primarily the only woman on that set?
Zooey Deschanel: It was fun. All those guys are so nice and really good actors. Really, it just makes my job easier to work with good actors. It was certainly something we had to talk a lot about with making Trillian more into a three-dimensional character because the other ones are so distinct in the book. She does sort of fall back a little bit. Adding substance to her was important to me but it made it that much easier having great actors.
Can you talk a little bit about the vibe on the set and how it differed from other film sets you've worked on?
Zooey Deschanel: It was so fun. It was such a fun movie. It never felt so stressful like, ‘God, we've got to get this shot, goddamnit!' or ‘You're going to ruin this!' Not that anyone's been like that. It always felt like the stress was on important things we all agreed upon. Basically we all wanted to make a good movie that does justice to the book and is as clever as the book, does justice to Douglas's memory, and is a movie that everyone will want to watch, whether they're fans of the book or not. This it going to introduce a whole new group of fans to the franchise of ‘Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy'. Garth [Jennings, the director] always came to the set with a smile on his face and a new idea. He always had great ideas and really great things to talk about. I would say that everyday there was a new incredible set or prop or costume or something that was really fun and made it come alive for all of us. It was a great set.
Is Mos Def as charismatic in person as he is onscreen?
Zooey Deschanel: Yes, he is. He's the coolest guy I've ever met. Honestly, I can't believe how cool he is. I was scared to talk to him.
How does that coolness manifest itself?
Zooey Deschanel: He's so laid back about everything. He's really smart and he knows a lot about music. He kind of knows everything about everything. He is really charismatic and a really great actor. It was really an honor to work with him.
Are you going to be involved in ‘Elf 2'?
Zooey Deschanel: I don't know because it's so early. I don't know.
I'd heard they were starting work on that...
Zooey Deschanel: Yeah, I've heard rumors about it, but if it was something I'd be involved in, I wouldn't be involved in it until later. I don't think they've even written it yet.
What were the specific things in the book that you wanted in the movie?
Zooey Deschanel: I think keeping her intelligence intact was very important for me because I think a lot of times, female characters become ditzy or become boring. I was very committed to making sure that she was the smartest person besides Marvin in the movie. You can't cover exactly every single tiny element, but I think we covered pretty much everything. There was nothing glaring to me where I thought, ‘Why the hell isn't this in the script?'
Have you guys signed on to do possible sequels?
Zooey Deschanel: There's no impending plans, but it could happen. It's very possible I think. I don't know.
Would you like to do them?
Zooey Deschanel: I would love to do a sequel, yeah! How fun would that be? I worked with the greatest people. I can't wait to do another movie with them.
What are you doing next?
Zooey Deschanel: I'm going to do a movie called ‘Failure to Launch' with Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew McConaughey.
Your sister is doing pretty well as an actor too. Is there any chance of you guys working together?
Zooey Deschanel: Yeah, we've thought about it. It's funny because she's three years older than me. She's actually four years in school, so when I was in middle school, she was in high school. She finished high school and I didn't. I started working in high school and so I still think of her as my beautiful older sister, so I would love to work with her. We're so different. She does a lot of period pieces. We don't really look alike at all, so I don't even know if people would believe we're sisters. Some people think we look exactly alike, saying ‘We look exactly alike.' I'm like, ‘She's a foot taller than me. We have totally different facial features.' I'm flattered if people think we look alike. But yeah, I'd love to work with her!
Dont't forget to also check out: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy