To say actress Zoey Deutch is a regular at Art’s Deli is an understatement. Sporting an oversized sweatshirt, she breezes into the restaurant, a Studio City institution since 1957, and is immediately greeted with familiar hugs from the waitstaff. One chimes in that he’s known her since she was a baby.
“I do all my interviews here, I do all my meetings here, I do all my dates here,” Deutch laughs. “There’s a lot of ground covered at this deli.”
Deutch grew up not too far away from the spot with her movie business parents. Her dad is “Pretty in Pink” director Howie Deutch and her mom, actress and ’80s dream girl Lea Thompson. They fell for each other on the set of the high school rom-com “Some Kind of Wonderful” and have stayed together since.
At 22, Deutch, is looking to make a name for herself in the business separate from her insider parents. She’s been acting professionally since age 15, transitioning from Disney shows to young adult genre fare, some of which are better regarded (“Beautiful Creatures”) than others (“Vampire Academy”), and now more adult roles. Earlier this year, she was paired opposite James Franco, 16 years her senior, in the studio comedy “Why Him,” and last year played the wise female lead in the otherwise testosterone fueled Richard Linklater indie “Everybody Wants Some!!”
Her latest, “Before I Fall,” out Friday, is a dark Groundhog Day-like portrait of a popular teenager forced to relive the last day of her life over and over again. The film explores subjects like bullying, peer pressure and how to be a decent person in the world within conventions of a psychological thriller.
“She’s the real thing,” said “Before I Fall” director Ry Russo-Young. “The girl has serious chops.”
Deutch is someone who admittedly likes to take control of things, even outside of the duties of “actor.” “Before I Fall,” for instance, was a $3 million movie that didn’t have much of a wardrobe budget, so she found herself calling in favors to make sure they had all the necessary duplicates to work for the time loop construct. Recently, too, she put on a public relations hat to tell the folks at a morning talk show where she was a guest that there’d be no running a clip from her new film of a car crash first thing in the morning, “right before people get in the car!”
She even ordered a cup of matzah ball soup for this reporter at Art’s.
“It’s the best!” she says as she transitions between myriad topics from what books she’s excited about lately (she just finished “The Feminist Porn Book” and is about to start Rupi Kaur’s “Milk and Honey”) to the magic of Christian Marclay’s experimental video art installation “The Clock.”
In her next film, “Rebel in the Rye,” she plays the popular socialite Oona O’Neill, who dated J.D. Salinger and eventually married Charlie Chaplin and got to affect a mid-Atlantic accent a la Katharine Hepburn (Deutch’s “queen idol of the universe”).
Deutch is interested in everything and everyone. She skipped out on college to focus on acting, but packs her free time with extracurricular pursuits. She reads voraciously, studies with a political science tutor (the current focus is on constitutional law) and even takes art classes at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
She has taken a vested interest in politics and feminist causes, like reproductive rights, excitedly lifting up her sweatshirt to reveal a T-shirt underneath with an image of female anatomy and a gun with the words that the former is “more controlled” than the latter. Deutch found the shirt at a local bookstore and bought some for all of her friends.
“They’re like, ‘what’s that?’ ” Deutch said. “I’m like, ‘that’s your uterus.’ ”
Speaking out on causes is something she feels a responsibility to do.
“There are privileges in my life, inherently, because of my job and that I’m white. I have these things that are completely out of my control and if I don’t use these things to raise awareness for people who don’t, then that’s lame,” she said.
But of course the primary focus is acting, and she’s in it for the long haul. Deutch resents the moniker “it girl” for the temporality it implies.
“It’s OK, call me whatever you want, but I’m here forever whether you like it or not. I love what I do and in whatever capacity I can. I have no facade. No delusions of grandeur of how one’s path goes. I know this is an up and down crazy journey and I’m prepared and willing to go on,” she said.
“I want to do a Western! I want to do a musical, I want to do a remake of ‘Venus in Fur.’ I want to do everything. And I will.”
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