With a twist on the classic love story, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel star in (500) Days of Summer, where “Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love. Girl doesn’t.” Both stars took some time to sit down with Buzzine to talk about working with old friends and getting kicked out of karaoke bars.
Emmanuel Itier: Joe, can you relate to the guy in this movie? Because we don’t often see a guy going through all this…
Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Yeah!
Zooey Deschanel: We do in real life, but we just don’t in the movies.
JGL: Yeah, all of my friends and all of my neighbors, actually.
ZD: I know ten of these guys!
JGL: I think everybody, whether you’re a guy or a girl, can relate to this character. We’ve all been there.
EI: What music did you both listen to in the morning to prep for the day and to get you in the mood?
ZD: I would listen to a lot of music that would make me feel happy and make me feel easy-going, I guess, because it was a character [who] has a lot of stuff going on. She leads a charmed life, so that was my way of preparing.
JGL: We listened to “Stubborn Kind of Fellow.” That was our song.
ZD: And I listened to Marianne Faithfull a lot. I liked her version of “As Tears Go By.”
EI: This was a very different role for you, Joe. How did you feel about playing a character like this?
JGL: I was delighted to do it. I guess you are comparing it to some of the more dramatic stuff I’ve done recently. I think that is a big part of why this movie is so funny — it’s genuine, and it’s not shallow, surface-level gags, but the humor is emotional, and I wanted to bring the same emotional truth to this movie as I brought to some of the more “dramatic” movies that I’ve made recently.
EI: The director (Marc Webber) said you were just a natural when it came to the dancing.
JGL: [Laughs] I was really into it. Well, that’s kind of him to say so.
EI: How did you feel when they asked you to play someone who’s a bit of a troublemaker in this film?
ZD: Very flattered! To be honest, it’s not the way I would think of myself, but if they had picked one of those beauty girls…there are actresses who everyone thinks, “Oh my God, she’s just so amazingly beautiful,” and that’s their sort of thing. I don’t think that would have worked because this is partially romanticizing a little bit of quirkiness, I guess, which I feel is one of the interesting things about the movie. But yes, I was certainly flattered that Marc thought of me for this.
JGL: And you’re as beautiful as anyone.
EI: She was quirky, but do you think guys prefer a woman where there is something a bit “off” about her?
JGL: I don’t think you can generalize guys. Some guys are scared of an individually unique woman. I’m more attracted to someone I can talk to. I mean, if there’s nothing to talk about, it’s hard to get turned on.
EI: This is why this movie was so real, because it’s two real people having a real conversation.
ZD: Right. That was what we were trying to do.
EI: You two had great chemistry on set. Did you find that out when you started working together?
ZD: We’ve been friends for ten years. We did a movie together ten years ago.
JGL: It’s called Manic and it’s kind of opposite of the Leo and Kate thing. It was a really serious movie and so different to this breezy one. Manic is kind of like Titanic with that Revolutionary Road kind of feel, but this is our Titanic.
ZD: So it’s easy because we are friends, and I have great respect and admiration for Joe. He’s cool, so that helps.
JGL: It makes it so much easier to be doing scenes like this in a play relationship like this with someone who I am friends with and who I trust and admire.
EI: There was a lot of the color blue in the movie. Did you find that you were playing someone in a world she doesn’t really have any control over?
ZD: They wanted me to stand out in the movie — to have a color that was only used once. It was used in the dance sequence because everyone reminds him of Summer, but no one else was allowed to wear blue. If I wasn’t wearing a lot of blue, there would be a big blue thing, like I’d be right next to tons of blue wallpaper or a big blue poster. There would be something giant and blue somewhere in the shot. It was a cool cinematic thing. It was Marc’s idea.
JGL: I think it speaks to the strength of Marc. Not only is he super technically savvy to be doing something with color like that, but he also knows how to tell stories and how to work with actors. Most people who are as good at crafting a scene of dialogue as Marc is wouldn’t necessarily know how to do something so sophisticated like that with color.
EI: Did you both enjoy the karaoke scenes? They were hilarious.
ZD: I’ve done karaoke with you before. Joe got kicked out of somewhere.
JGL: Because I rocked too hard!
ZD: He wasn’t drunk or anything — he just got so into the song, he was pulling down the curtains.
EI: What were you singing?
JGL: A Black Crowes song.
ZD: So he was pulling down the curtain and the guy who put the karaoke night on every week was like, “What’s going on? I’m sorry, sir, you have to go!” He got kicked out of the place.
JGL: He forbade me to unleash any more of the rock.
ZD: The stage was just too small for you.
JGL: That’s what it was. I need to be able to run around.
ZD: He needs some props! You need a bird to bite the head off of!
JGL: I need some broken glass to shred my skin.
EI: You seem to be singing in every film you do now. Is that a requirement in your contract?
ZD: I try to avoid it. I’m very skeptical of it because it’s happened a lot of times. They always feel they need to figure out an opportunity for me to sing. You really don’t, unless it’s a musical, because it gets complicated as you have to sing in character, and somebody has something to say about how you sing. But for Summer, it was just karaoke.
EI: The same can be said for Joe who got punched in the face.
JGL: I know how to sell a good punch. What can I say?
ZD: That’s right — you do get a lot of punches in a movie.
JGL: It’s true. I always get punched in the face. I like it. The only time I’ve actually ever been punched in the face in my life was doing a scene. I don’t engage in fights in general. I avoid them.
EI: In the film, the girl is a realist, and we usually see movies where the girl is waiting for her knight in shining armor. This is a role reversal because the guy thinks it’s “the one.” Do you think that is more accurate, in a way?
ZD: I don’t think it has anything to do with gender. We’ve been talking about this a lot because people have said that, but I think, with our generation, those gender roles aren’t something that really can apply anymore. There are a lot of guys who get heartbroken and there are lots of girls who are cynical about it. I just find that people tend to go between one extreme or the other. There is no practicality about love, because love and marriage being lasting is not necessary. So “what is keeping people together?” is the question. Love is not necessary like it was done in generations prior where you got married because you had to start a family. Those were the rules, and society was very much a part in enforcing those rules. That doesn’t apply anymore to what keeps people together, and that is the question. I think one thing that this movie says about love is that just because something doesn’t last, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value. You will discover things about yourself if you’re being romantic, even if it doesn’t last.
EI: Do you believe in romance? Do you believe in love at first sight?
ZD: I believe everything is out there! It just depends on your point of view.
JGL: Anything you can think of is true.
ZD: In some way, it exists in thought form. If it has a name, then you are creating it.
EI: Are you a romantic person? Do you think it’s out there?
JGL: I do, but I think certain clichés like that –- love at first sight –- are dangerous because then you are letting someone else define it for you, and you have to make it for yourself. You have to figure it out for yourself and you have to know that love for you is definitive. If it’s real love, it’s going to be unlike anyone else has ever felt before, so their descriptions of it — you can take what you want and leave the rest, but it’s never going to be summed up in someone else’s line, like “love at first sight.”
Fox Searchlight's '(500) Days of Summer' is released in theaters on August 7, 2009.