Matt Drudge Gay? Zooey Deschanel Sane?

LaBute's stimulating latest; Jill Hennessy in the Lymelife.

No one plays a kook with the deadpan adorableness of Zooey Deschanel, who's already been the sister of a rock critic (Almost Famous), the love interest of arrested children (Elf, Yes Man), and the estranged wife of a science teacher (The Happening), all carried off in between esoteric singing engagements.

In the new, super Sundancey Gigantic, she's Harriet Lolly, a soul-searching young lady who falls asleep in a mattress store where Paul Dano is a salesman, guaranteeing lots of neurotic interplay when she wakes up.

Our perfectly sane phoner last week went like so:

MM: Hi, Zooey. You have such a knack for playing kooks. Does your Gigantic character have deep-seated neuroses? ZD: I think she does a little bit, but she's working it out. She's deep-down lovable. MM: How do you play these characters so well when you're so grounded? ZD: To be able to have some perspective on somebody that neurotic, it's good to be in a stable place. And I'm not worried about it because I'm not neurotic!

MM: I know! As proof of that, you easily travel between big and small pictures. Explain. ZD: There's not that much difference except for the money. Everything else is the same except the size of the trailer. MM: And whether or not there is one. ZD: Exactly. (Laughs.)

MM: Have you ever turned down big bucks? ZD: Sure. I try my best not to work just for a paycheck. Obviously, it's a job, so that's part of it, but you never want to do Vampire Sluts 3 just to make a buck. MM: Speak for yourself. Anyway, you did choose to do Yes Man, but you're way younger than Jim Carrey, no? ZD: But he seems really young. Not that he's immature, but he looks young, and he has a lot more energy than I do.

MM: Point taken. But why did the energy drop from the Janis Joplin biopic you were going to do? ZD: I have no idea. You can only stay invested in something for so long. It fell through a couple of times. I worked really hard to prepare for it. I guess it was meant to not happen. MM: They announced so many different Janis flicks that never came about. There was one with Pink and one with, I don't know, Alfre Woodard. ZD: Alfre would have been great! (Laughs.)

MM: Perhaps The Happening shouldn't have happened. No offense. ZD: It's your cup of tea or it's not. I think Night [M. Night Shyamalan] has his own vision, and you don't know exactly what it is when you're working with him. He's a unique voice in film. He wanted it to be like The Birds—like a stylized '60s horror film. It wasn't meant to be realistic. MM: Oh! But I just can't get that worked up about foliage. Anyway, when you appear with the Brechtian performance troupe the Citizens Band, do you give them big movie star attitude? ZD: No, I'm almost the opposite. Everybody in that group is so amazing. I go in and say, "What do you need? You guys want me to dance in the background?" I like being part of an ensemble. It's different than making movies. MM: You are totally stable. And super-cute. Congrats!

Stand Back! Stand Back!

Last week, there was a LIFEbeat listening party for the original kook, Stevie Nicks, but they were playing Boz Scaggs—unless Stevie had gone into the studio with a very bad head cold. After a while, the soundtrack switched to Stevie, and the legend arrived and did her famous witchy twirl, but without a fringed poncho!

I was crushed and ran all the way uptown, landing at the Hudson Terrace party for Neil LaBute's reasons to be pretty, which is easily the most stimulating play of the Broadway season. It's a riveting, thought-provoking ride about the power of words and responsibility. At the party, someone swore to me that Toni Collette will be in the movie of August: Osage County, but I didn't take those words seriously because they were completely blotto on booze. High only on her kudos, Marin Ireland—who's brilliant as reason's hurt girlfriend—told me that Laura Benanti (co-star Steven Pasquale's real-life wife) has given her some helpful vocal rest tips, and Pastilles have been useful too. "Actually, I shouldn't be talking now," she said, laughing.

Angsty confrontations also pop up in Lymelife, the suburban coming-of-age film in which the deep-seated neuroses stem from cheating, beatings, and a diseased deer. At the film's GenArt Film Festival event, Jill Hennessy, who's a revelation as Alec Baldwin's mistreated wife, told me that up in Toronto, where they filmed, she slipped co-star Emma Roberts some sake under the table, "but her mother knew. Arrest me now!" No way. I needed the handcuffs for a date later that night.

The party for Hair—which should really be on a double bill with Hairspray—attracted every imaginable kind of coif, all getting a little higher and harder as the raves poured in. The most done 'do of all belonged to RuPaul's Drag Race winner Bebe Zahara Benet, who told me how she will spend her cash prize: "I want to focus it on my charity to help children with AIDS," Benet told me, beaming. And some makeup? "Of course!" she exclaimed, sensibly.

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