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Zooey Deschanel on Tackling the Smiths in "(500) Days of Summer"

July 17, 2009 10:52 AM ET

"Every relationship has a soundtrack," says director Marc Webb, who is making his feature film debut with (500) Days of Summer after years of shooting music videos for the likes of My Chemical Romance and Green Day. And this one between hopeless romantic Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and his doe-eyed-adorable would-be soul-mate Summer (Zooey Deschannel) is winning over critics, including our own Peter Travers (read his review here).

From the moment Deschanel tickled a little snippet of the Smiths' "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out" in the trailer, it was clear the soundtrack to (500) Days was at the film's center. Featuring contemporary indie darlings (Regina Spektor, Feist, Doves), pop classics (notably Hall & Oates' "You Make My Dreams") and, naturally, the great lament of Morrissey, Tom and Summer's infinite playlist has all the makings of a grand indie rock love story. Perhaps, even, this summer's Juno.

Deschanel acknowledges that, for her, the tunes were a big draw to the film. "If they were bonding over some shitty band, that would actually make me close the script," she says, without naming names. "But the fact that they liked music that was approved by me, because they're bonding over the Smiths, I was, like, 'Well, obviously!' "

But nothing about (500) Days is obvious. Not Tom's choreographed — and cartoon-assisted — eruption of joy, nor his karaoke turn at the Pixies' "Here Comes Your Man" or the fact that the story is told entirely from a guy's point of view. "It was presented to me as a little movie that nobody wanted," Webb recalls. "My agent said it was a romantic comedy, which immediately turned me off, but eventually I sat down with the script and I remember thinking it felt like somebody was reading my mind."

Casting Deschanel in the lead role, he adds, was a no-brainer. "As soon as I mentioned her name to Joe, he had this look in his eyes," says Webb. "He was so smitten and I thought, 'I can hang my movie on that look.' It was very real, vulnerable and earnest." But Deschanel, it turns out, had triple the responsibilities. Not only does she act, she sings in character (to Nancy Sinatra's "Sugar Town") and on the soundtrack, where Deschanel's own She & Him cover the Smiths' "Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want." Does the Morrissey element kick up the pressure? "I guess so," she says. "It's a more complex song than it seems timing-wise, but he's such a great songwriter and old fashioned in the tradition of the classics — the Gershwins and the Cole Porters — yet writing pop music. It's classic melody and chord progression."

She would know. Deschanel, who says "a lot of recording" for the next She & Him record is completed, grew up on a steady diet of musicals — stage and screen. Among them: the soundtracks to classics like Mary Poppins, Meet Me in St. Louis and The Sound of Music along with the more fringe-tastic Harold and Maude, Willy Wonka and The Harder They Come. And she's the kind of girl who doesn't hesitate in describing her own iPod as "awesome." Deschanel cracks: "I'm not gonna lie."

So what covers does Deschanel have on regular rotation? Here are five of her all-time favorites.
Nina Simone - "Here Comes The Sun"
Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris - "Love Hurts"
Linda Ronstadt - "Blue Bayou"
The Ramones - "Baby, I Love You"
Jacky Deshannon - "The Weight"

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