Zooey Deschanel Says ‘Almost Famous’ Was ‘a Career-Making Part’ for Her

Before Zooey Deschanel played Jess in the Fox television comedy series New Girlshe was part of the all-star cast in the 2000 movie, Almost Famous. The semi-autobiographical film by Cameron Crowe also features Billy Crudup, Frances McDormand, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and a then-unknown Kate Hudson. The critically-acclaimed movie tells the story of a young journalist in the 1970s who travels with a fictitious rock band and their groupies, hoping to get published in Rolling Stone magazine. Deschanel, then a newcomer, played the rebellious sister of the lead character William (Patrick Fugit). And she called the experience “career-making.”

Zooey Deschanel appeared in ‘Almost Famous’

Hudson was originally slated to play the role of William’s older sister, Anita Miller. After Sarah Polley backed out of the project, Crowe gave the part of Penny Lane to Hudson. Talking with The Hollywood Interview, Deschanel revealed she and Hudson knew one another before the movie went into production — they performed in a high school play togetherThe actor remembered reading for the director for Almost Famous but didn’t hear back for months. 

Deschanel explained, “They were frantically trying to find someone to play Anita. And Cameron went back through his tapes. They saw my tape and called me back in.” she remembered, “I went back in and read, and then I heard that I got it. Cameron didn’t even know that Kate Hudson and I went to high school together.”

Deschanel embraced the role of Anita, making it her own. She played the older sister that gave all her record albums to William before leaving San Diego to become a stewardess. The secret stash of albums inspired her younger brother to become a rock and roll journalist. She is extremely believable in the role, and the film helped her build a name for herself in Hollywood. 

Why the role made sense

Ahead of the Almost Famous‘ 20th anniversary in 2020, Zooey Deschanel spoke to Rolling Stone about landing the role of Anita. “It really ended up making so much sense because Kate was so brilliant in the Penny role – she was so perfect for the part,” she said of her co-star.

Deschanel was also a better choice for Anita on an aesthetic level. “I look like Frances McDormand. I look like Patrick. We look like such a family that it really ended up being exactly the thing that was supposed to happen for Kate and for me, too.” Deschanel said. She noted of the role, “that just ended up being a total career-making part.”

Zooey Deschanel certainly made a career for herself

zooey deschanel almost famous
Zooey Deschanel attends the 2018 Baby2Baby Gala Presented by Paul Mitchell at 3LABS on November 10, 2018 in Culver City, California. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)

After Almost Famous, Deschanel quickly began scooping up notable roles. She starred in popular films like Elf, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, an500 Days of Summer. And she also made a name for herself on TV, appearing in recurring roles in Weeds before landing her breakout role in New Girl.

These days, Deschanel has slowed down a bit on the acting front. She co-hosts a New Girl rewatch podcastWelcome to Our Show. And she often makes headlines for her relationship with Property Brothers star Jonathan Scott. According to her IMDb page, Deschanel has a couple of projects in post-production. She also performs as part of the musical duo She & Him alongside M. Ward.  

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