What You Didn't Know About The Deschanel Sisters' Famous Parents

If you didn't know that Zooey Deschanel from "New Girl" and Emily Deschanel from "Bones" were sisters, you're probably going to be surprised to learn that they also have famous parents. Yes, really — according to The Hollywood Reporter, their father is an Oscar-nominated cinematographer named Caleb Deschanel and their mother is a "Twin Peaks" actor named Mary Jo Deschanel. In other words, they were pretty much destined for success.

In fact, Zooey attributes much of her success to her father. Sharing a now-deleted photo on Instagram of the family on the red carpet at the premiere of the remake of The Lion King (for which her father was the cinematographer), the sitcom star wrote, "My dad is the director of photography on the new Lion King. So proud and excited to see it!" She continued, "He's the best and taught me so much about filmmaking" (via The Daily Mail). 

Zooey and Emily Deschanel have loved the spotlight since they were kids

Their parents' success didn't mean they didn't have to work to get where they are today. "She's wonderful and sympathetic, but she's not just going to listen to you complain," Emily said of her mother to Women's Health. "Whenever I was considering giving up acting entirely, she'd remind me that life is hard and that the world doesn't owe you anything. You have to work your butt off to get your dreams," she continued, adding, "She'll make you take action — which I think is a good thing."

But according to their famous dad, the Deschanel sisters were born to act or at least be on the stage. "They went to a high school that did a fundraiser every year, a cabaret show, where they would do skits and sing and do funny little bits," the "Apocalypse Now" cinematographer revealed to The Hollywood Reporter. "And both kids, since they were 12 or 13, would get up in front of 2,000 people and not feel nervous," he continued, adding, "If I got up in front of so many people, I'd just melt." 

Their father's career meant they traveled a lot

Caleb Deschanel has had a long and successful career. According to Premium Beat, the Director of Photography (DP) got his big break working on the 1979 film "The Black Stallion," followed by his work on "Being There," a feature film starring Peter Sellers and Shirley MacLaine. From there, his work as a DP only got better–but at a cost to his family.

Working on films often means a lot of traveling, but for Caleb Deschanel, his family always came first. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Caleb put his career on the back burner for eight years while his girls were young, choosing to work on television commercials that would keep him closer to home. When he did have to travel, he would try to take the girls along with them if they weren't in school. Still, though, traveling had a negative effect on the girls. "[I] hated all the traveling," Zooey told Allure in an interview. "I'm really happy now that I had the experience, but at the time I was just so miserable to have to leave my friends in Los Angeles and go to places where they didn't have any food I liked or things I was used to" (via ScreenRant).

Their dad has been nominated for an Oscar six times

Both Deschanel sisters have had their fair share of awards and nominations. Zooey has been nominated for both an Emmy for her work on "New Girl" and a Grammy for her original song "So Long" in "Winnie the Pooh" (per IMDb). Emily has also received accolades and, according to IMDb, was nominated for Favorite Crime Drama TV Actress at the People's Choice Awards five different times.

But while both sisters have found success in the industry, it's their father, Caleb, who holds the most awards. According to Showbiz Cheat Sheet, he has six Oscar nominations. The first was back in 1984 for his work in "The Right Stuff." At the time of this nomination, the girls were just around four and eight years old. He was then nominated for "The Natural," "Fly Away Home," "The Patriot," and a final time in 2019 for "Never Look Away."

He has also won a Lifetime Achievement Award at the American Society of Cinematographers in 2010 and Cinematographer of the Year at the Hollywood Film Awards in 2004 (via IMDb).

Mom Mary Jo Deschanel has over two dozen acting credits

While their father has made a name for himself behind the screen, it's the Deschanel sisters' mother who found success in front of it. Their mom, Mary Jo Deschanel started her film career in the late 1960s with a variety of television show appearances. But her career really took off when she played Annie Glenn in "The Right Stuff" (via IMDb). A few more TV movies and TV shows followed, but it wasn't until 1989 when she got her big break in "Twin Peaks."

Mary Jo played Eileen Hayward, a woman whose reason for being in a wheelchair was unknown (via The Famous People). She played this role for the entirety of the series, which lasted for two seasons. Once "Twin Peaks" came to an end, Mary Jo went on to play Mrs. Howard in the movie "The Patriot" along with a variety of smaller roles in movies like "Ruby Sparks" and shows like "Law and Order: Trial by Jury." In 2017, she reprised her role as Eileen in a third season called "Twin Peaks: The Missing Pieces."

Emily and Zooey Deschanel appear close to their parents

While growing up with famous parents isn't always easy, and despite Zooey mentioning that it made her school-age years quite difficult, the Deschanel family has remained super close. During an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Caleb Deschanel spoke about the years the girls were growing up, mentioning that they were aware of how hard it was to be away from the girls for long periods of time. "We were always aware of that and always made an effort to keep our family close," he told the outlet. "And we're still very close, which is nice."

That closeness is apparent still today. Zooey has been known to post tributes to her parents along with old family photos. She has even shown an appreciation for her father's career, posting about the academy's lack of airing all the awards at The Oscars, saying "Can't believe @theacademy isn't airing the categories for the most important jobs in film. Try making a film without a cinematographer or editor!" The caption was posted alongside an old photo of Zooey and her dad, which she explained was "at 4 [years old] with my cinematographer dad. He's the best and taught me so much about filmmaking." More recently, the actress has posted photos of her family to wish her parents a happy mother's and father's day.