'500 Days Of Summer' Costars Friendship

The film 500 Days of Summer costars Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The two have a special chemistry that comes from knowing each other for ten years.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

In the new movie "500 Days of Summer," a young greeting card writer named Tom, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, falls desperately in love with one of his co-workers, named Summer. Summer is played by Zooey Deschanel. She likes him but the two have decidedly different views about relationships.

(Soundbite of movie, "500 Days of Summer")

Mr. JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT (Actor): (as Tom) So you have a boyfriend?

Ms. ZOOEY DESCHANEL (Actor): (as Summer) No. Who needs it? We're young, might as well have fun while we can.

Mr. GORDON-LEVITT: (as Tom) Wait. Wait. What happens if you fall in love?

Ms. DESCHANEL: (as Summer) You don't believe that, do you?

Mr. GORDON-LEVITT: (as Tom) Well, it's love. It's not Santa Claus.

SIMON: That scene and several others in the film take place at the Redwood Bar in downtown, Los Angeles. That's where Alex Cohen of member station KPCC recently spent some time with the two actors.

ALEX COHEN: The Redwood is a pirate scene, hipster hangout with pictures of sailboats and fishing net hanging on the walls. In a back room, Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt sit closely next to each other. And though they're not dating, they have the rapport of a couple who have been together for years.

Ms. DESCHANEL: There are no seasons in L.A.

Mr. GORDON-LEVITT: Yes, there are.

Ms. DESCHANEL: I'm kidding.

(Soundbite of laughter)

COHEN: In "500 Days of Summer," their characters come to this bar to sing karaoke.

Ms. DESCHANEL: I've sung karaoke with Joe...

Mr. GORDON-LEVITT: That's true.

Ms. DESCHANEL: ...on several occasions, I feel like. I remember one time Joe came and sang "Too Hot to Handle" and got kicked off the stage...

(Soundbite of laughter)

COHEN: Twenty-nine-year-old Deschanel and 28-year-old Gordon-Levitt first met nearly a decade ago. That's when they worked together on a film called "Manic," about an adolescent psychiatric hospital.

Mr. GORDON-LEVITT: Rehearsals consisted of screaming and yelling at the director. And all of a sudden I was sitting in room with this incarnation of loveliness before you...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GORDON-LEVITT: ...and it was such a relief, so sweet. And I felt disarmed.

Ms. DESCHANEL: I remember Joe was so smart and intense. And so just frighteningly good. And I was like, oh, man, this is going to be a good movie.

(Soundbite of laughter)

COHEN: By then Joseph Gordon-Levitt already had years of experience. He'd been acting professionally since he was six. In his teens, he landed a major role in the sitcom "Third Rock from the Sun."

Mr. GORDON-LEVITT: I just loved doing it. That was the only reason I did it back then, just 'cause it was fun. And I didn't really care what anybody thought of my work and in fact really would have preferred them to just burn the film after we shot it.

COHEN: Meanwhile, Zooey Deschanel's parents, a cinematographer and an actress, wouldn't let her go to auditions until she was old enough to drive herself.

Ms. DESCHANEL: My parents didn't want me to act until I was fully aware of what I was doing. (Unintelligible) I begged my parents but they would not let me.

COHEN: But finally she hit adolescence and soon after landed her first film role. About that same time, Joseph Gordon-Levitt decided to take a break from acting and L.A., so he went to Columbia University. He says it was one of the smartest career moves he ever made.

Mr. GORDON-LEVITT: I think I grew a certain empathy for the world at large that I didn't have when I was younger and then said, okay, so then how can I meaningfully be a part of all of this? And that's when I came back to acting.

COHEN: When he returned, Joseph Gordon-Levitt took on some challenging roles, like a young sexually abused teenager turned prostitute in "Mysterious Skin," a guy suffering from a serious brain injury in "The Lookout," and a vet haunted by the Iraq War in "Stop-Loss."

Mr. GORDON-LEVITT: Hollywood can tend to take a young guy like myself and make a sort of simpleton out of him and think like, Oh, well, the kids don't know the difference, they'll eat that crap up. But I didn't ever eat that up and my friends didn't either, and so it doesn't interest me.

COHEN: And while he was drawn to the dark and brooding roles, Zooey Deschanel found a niche for herself too. In "Elf" she played the quirky singing department store clerk opposite Will Farrell. Jim Carrey falls for her as a scooter-riding bohemian in "Yes Man."

(Soundbite of movie, "Yes Man")

Mr. JIM CARREY (Actor): (as Carl Allen) Well, thanks again for the ride.

Ms. DESCHANEL: (as Allison) No problem. Hopefully the color will return to your face sometime soon.

Mr. CARREY: (as Carl Allen) I'm more of a four-wheel kind of guy.

Ms. DESCHANEL: (as Allison) Really? I never would have guessed that. You seem so at ease on two.

COHEN: Deschanel says she never intentionally set out to make a career playing free-spirited indie ingénues.

Ms. DESCHANEL: I don't tend to stick to like sad moments. I tend to stick to happy moments. I think I'm 75 percent happy to 25 percent sad. I think that's how I swing my yin-yang.

COHEN: That equation adds up just right for the on-again, off-again love interest in "500 Days of Summer."

(Soundbite of movie, "500 Days of Summer")

Ms. DESCHANEL: (as Summer) We've been like Sid and Nancy for months now.

Mr. GORDON-LEVITT: (as Tom) We have some disagreements but I hardly think I'm Sid Vicious.

Ms. DESCHANEL: (as Summer) No. I'm Sid.

Mr. GORDON-LEVITT: (as Tom) Oh, so I'm Nancy.

COHEN: Joseph Gordon-Levitt says he wanted to play Tom because he experiences heartbreak in a brutally honest way.

Mr. GORDON-LEVITT: He definitely revels in the romance of melancholy, and I've done my share of strolling around the streets, feeling alone and desperate.

(Soundbite of laughter)

COHEN: Recently though, there's been little reason for him to feel desperate. In addition to "500 Days of Summer," he has a role in the upcoming G.I. Joe movie and was cast in a major film along with Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen Paige. But he's also hoping for another chance to work with Zooey Deschanel.

Ms. DESCHANEL: I always thought it will be fun to do like a kind of 1930s screwball comedy, sort of like a "Philadelphia Story" type.

Mr. GORDON-LEVITT: Something snappy.

Ms. DESCHANEL: Something snappy would be really fun.

COHEN: For now, you can see Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in "500 Days of Summer." It opens July 17.

For NPR News, I'm Alex Cohen in Los Angeles.

Mr. COHEN-LEVITT: We're a couple of lucky ones, eh?

Ms. DESCHANEL: We are really lucky.

Mr. COHEN-LEVITT: Yeah.

Ms. DESCHANEL: You sounded Canadian just now. You said eh.

Mr. COHEN-LEVITT: Eh, I like eh.

Ms. DESCHANEL: It's good, eh.

Ms. DESCHANEL: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

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