Interview: Deschanel and Gordon-Levitt of '(500) Days of Summer'

BY KAVI PANDEY
Daily Arts Writer
Published August 2, 2009

One of the smash hits of the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, “(500) Days of Summer,” has finally made its long-awaited release into cinemas nationwide. The film follows greeting-card company employee Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, “Brick”) and his relationship with the girl of his dreams, Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel, “Yes Man”), to understand why it failed. As a decidedly unconventional romantic comedy, it may seem unusual for the film to be released among the season’s typical popcorn movies. But in an interview with The Daily, the stars of the film affirmed that this was the perfect time to release the film.

“This is at heart a very entertaining film … if you’re looking for something a little bit more lighthearted,” Deschanel said.

Gordon-Levitt added, “It’s a really good summer movie … a few less timpani drums and blood, and more Joy Division and kissing. What summer blockbuster has Joy Division and kissing?”

Gordon-Levitt explained how easy it was to work with fellow independent-film mainstay Zooey Deschanel.

“I was really just playing a guy whose modus operandi was 'I’m madly in love with this girl,’ and she’s easy to play madly in love with,” said Gordon-Levitt.

“I kind of just focused on her, listened to She & Him in the morning … it was easy,” he added.

Brief segments of the trailer hint at some “larger-than-life” elements, like a cartoon bird and a dance sequence. But, as the actors explained, they were all incorporated for a specific purpose.

“It all comes from a sincere point of view,” Gordon-Levitt said. “Even the most surreal parts, like the dance number. It’s because … I know how it feels when you got to finally be with the girl you’ve had a crush on for so long, and it feels like that.”

While many of today’s romantic comedies brazenly try to be “quirky” and “different,” “(500) Days of Summer” isn’t afraid to accept some conventions of the genre.

“I think (the film) doesn’t so much avoid clichés — it walks right up to them and has a conversation with them,” said Gordon-Levitt. “It follows some and deviates from other ones and that’s what I like about it. With avoiding clichés, then you just start becoming obscure.”

“Also, if your goal is to not be something, that’s not a goal that’s too amorphous," Deschanel added. "My only goal is to not be this … well you’re already not that. If you aim for something — something actual — then you’re not thinking about what you are not.”

Both Deschanel and Gordon-Levitt shied away from giving their own interpretations of the film.

“I don’t really like to tell people what they should take away because I like to go see a movie and be allowed to feel,” Deschanel said. “It’s a sacred relationship the audience has with the artist.”

“It’s best to do my part and then hand it over to those that are going to experience it because it’s a very personal experience,” she added.

“I think it’s a more 20th-century attitude that watching a movie is ‘I am an audience member’ and it’s a passive thing,” Gordon-Levitt added. “I think that watching a movie can be and ought to be a creative act. You come up with what it means.”