‘Elf’: Zooey Deschanel’s Singing Talent Made Jon Favreau Change the Script

Zooey Deschanel was an actor on the rise when she starred in Elf opposite Will Ferrell. And when director Jon Favreau learned about her singing talent, he changed the movie’s script. 

Zooey Deschanel attends the premiere of Universal Pictures' Good Boys 2019
Zooey Deschanel | Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic

Zooey Deschanel plays Jovie in ‘Elf’

Elf was released in 2003. But since then, the film has become a beloved holiday classic. It follows the story of Buddy (Will Ferrell), an orphan who winds up at the North Pole and is raised by an elf he calls Papa (Bob Newhart). 

When Buddy travels to New York City to find his biological father, Walter (James Caan), he meets Jovie (Zooey Deschanel), a department store elf. 

Buddy and Jovie eventually fall in love. And after saving Christmas by spreading holiday cheer, they get married and have a baby. 

RELATED: Will Ferrell Was Not the Original Casting Choice for ‘ELF’ 

When Jon Favreau discovered Zooey Deschanel’s singing talent, he changed the script 

In a 2013 interview with Rolling Stone, Elf director Jon Favreau shared rare details about the film. He said that when he found out how well Deschanel could sing, he changed the story to highlight her talent. 

“I didn’t know she could sing,” Favreau revealed. “When I found out, that’s when I wrote that part in. That was not in the original script. I wrote it in because she has that great Doris Day voice.”

RELATED: ‘Elf’: Will Ferrell Turned Down $29 Million Dollars To Become Buddy the Elf Again in a Sequel

The scenes in which Buddy and Jovie save Christmas by singing and spreading holiday cheer were also written later. “That wasn’t in the original script,” he said. “It gave it that magical feeling, that spirit-redeeming. Buddy changing a lot of people in small ways and overall changing the personality of the city, that’s something I think gives the movie heart.” 

Zooey Deschanel reveals details about her shower duet in ‘Elf’ 

Soon after Buddy meets Jovie, he hears her singing in the department store’s locker room shower. He innocently walks in and joins her in singing “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” In a recent interview with EW, Deschanel revealed how and why the scene was written in. 

“I remember Jon Favreau telling me that they were catering it to whoever played the part,” the New Girl star recalled. “One actress they were looking at was good at skateboarding. But I had a cabaret act at the time and I was performing a lot. They knew that I was a singer, so they put that in to be my special thing that he could discover I was good at.”

“[Will Ferrell] said he wasn’t a singer, so I wasn’t expecting much,” Deschanel said of her co-star. “But his dad [Roy Lee Ferrell Jr.] is a great musician. I should’ve known he’d be secretly good!”

The actor also noted that the shower scene was a little awkward. But she said it ultimately added to Buddy’s innocence. 

“It’s funny because obviously everyone knows it’s not appropriate to walk in the girls’ bathroom when someone’s showering, but he’s so believable as this guileless elf,” Deschanel added. “It’s weird he’s in there, but you totally buy that his intentions are pure and innocent.”