Sundance’s Second Generation: Lily-Rose Depp and Harley Quinn Smith


Lily-Rose Depp and Harley Quinn Smith have been friends since they were five-years-old. “I was pretty shy, but she was one of the first people I talked to at school,” says Depp. “She was one of my first friends.” Although the two L.A.-based high schoolers are no longer classmates, they’ve remained close, and when Harley was filming a part in her father Kevin’s film Tusk (2014) opposite Lily-Rose’s dad Johnny, Lily-Rose decided to stop by set. Soon, both girls were standing behind a Clerks-resembling Canadian convenience store counter in matching smocks, stealing the film in a single scene.

In Yoga Hosers, which is currently screening at the Sundance Film Festival, Harley and Lily-Rose return as their cameo characters from Tusk: bffs Colleen M. and Colleen C. Together, the Colleens work at the Eh to Zed, play in a riot grrl-influenced band called Glamthrax, and practice alternative yoga. Many of the actors and a few of the characters from Tusk have returned with them: Johnny Depp is back as the French writer/sleuth Guy Lapointe, Justin Long plays the Colleen’s yoga instructor, and Haley Joel Osment makes an appearance as well.

While the plot of the Yoga Hosers is bizarre and convoluted (it involves long-dormant Canadian Nazis made out of bratwurst called “Brazis”), the two 16-year-old actresses are charming as the smartphone-addicted Colleens. Lily-Rose, who had never acted before, has already filmed two subsequent features: a French film called The Dancer, in which she plays Isadora Duncan, and Planetarium with Natalie Portman.

EMMA BROWN: I know initially Lily-Rose, you were not supposed to be in Tusk. How did you both feel when the possibility of acting together in Tusk came up?

HARLEY QUINN SMITH: I was so stoked. It was going to be this other girl that I also like very much, but to do it with one of my best friends was like, “Wow, we get to do this cool thing with our families.” I suggested it to my dad but I never thought it was going to happen because it was so last minute. I thought it would never come through and I’m so happy it did.

LILY-ROSE DEPP: I felt the same way. I remember I was sitting at a table at lunch at school, and I was just going to go on set and hang out with Harley and she [texted me], “Oh, Dad wants to know if you want to be in it?” and I was like “What?” First, I didn’t think my parents were going to let me because they’ve always kept me out of the spotlight, which I am so grateful for, but I’m so glad that they did. When I first heard about it I was like, “That sounds so cool, I wish I could do it.” It was super last minute but that’s what made it so much fun. It was super spontaneous and spur of the moment. It gave everybody a boost of energy.

BROWN: When you decided you were interested in acting after Tusk and Yoga Hosers came up, were your parents like, “What have we done?”

SMITH: No, they were happy for us. They thought that we were good in the scene in Tusk so they were really happy for us and excited.

DEPP: My parents trust Kevin a lot—they’ve known him since we were five because they were parents at the same school. My parents would have been more nervous if I had done my first movie with a random person, but I think knowing that it was Kevin and Harley and their whole family and team, they felt really comfortable. They knew they would never put me in any uncomfortable positions and that I was going to be in good hands.

BROWN: The Colleens have a band in the film. Did you ever have a band or play music together?

SMITH: When we were six…

DEPP: I don’t think we even sang one song.

SMITH: No, but we wrote one. I have a notebook.

DEPP: Pink Elephant was the name of the band and then “Elephant Love” was the name of the song.

SMITH: I actually still remember that.

DEPP: But we never sang one song. I remember I was in France for six months, because I used to always travel there, and I remember calling you: “I don’t know if I can be in the band because I’m stuck here in France for, like, six months.” I was six-years-old and like, “I think we need to have a serious conversation about this.”

SMITH: Yes, she was like: “This is really important.” 

BROWN: Were you always going to sing in the film?

SMITH: My dad was really into the idea of the rap at the beginning. He wanted us to be in a band for sure. The Glamthrax Band. The “O Canada” at the end was not written into the script. We filmed for a month and a half and then three months later filmed a week with Johnny. In that time period my dad was like, “What if they sung this song at the end?” So we didn’t even know that was going to happen. He also really liked the Styx song “Babe.”

BROWN: Did he sing that to you as a child like Tony Hale’s character does in the film?

SMITH: My dad has actually really influenced me musically. I have a weird love for ’80s and ’90s music. A lot of people are like, “Are you serious? It’s so lame.” But my dad always plays that in the car whenever we’re together. So I know all these songs now and everybody is like, “How do you know this song? It’s so old.” And I’m like “I don’t know…it’s my dad.” [laughs] We’ve been singing old songs for a while but not that song.

BROWN: Your dad mentioned that he would bring you behind the monitor to watch takes when you were shooting your scenes. Did you find that helpful?

SMITH: It’s the best. I can’t imagine not doing it that way. I know that nobody else does it that way, so I don’t really know what I would do without it. But actors are self-correcting; you watch yourself and you’re like, “Oh, I did a great job” or “Oh my god, I need to change something.” To be able to watch yourself, not in a narcissistic way, but to see what you need to change is the most helpful. Especially because we’ve never seen ourselves act before except in Tusk, so watching what it actually looks like was the most helpful way to learn how to act.

DEPP: Obviously it depends what you’re acting. If you’re shooting a really serious, dramatic scene, personally I wouldn’t want to look at the camera. But movie was so light hearted and funny—it’s a comedy and it was not hard to shoot because we were having such a good time—so it was really helpful to go to the monitor to see what worked. I just shot my first dramatic movie in France, and for those dramatic scenes that I shot, I would not want to look at those. There’s a certain mindset you have to put yourself into for those scenes and looking at the monitor would just take you out of it. For comedies I think it’s so helpful and so fun because you don’t have to be as emotional about it. 

SMITH: Comedy is such a vulnerable thing. With drama, you’re not trying to make someone cry. If you do, great, but that’s not your goal. With comedy you’re trying to make someone laugh, so to me, it’s harder because you are in such a vulnerable position. You’re like, “I hope people like this. I hope I do the joke justice.” It’s just different watching yourself in comedy I think. 

BROWN: Were you ever in school plays? 

SMITH: I started doing it this year, which was really fun. I never did it because there was this teacher in my school who was…[laughs] Shout out to him.

DEPP: Hope he doesn’t read this…

SMITH: I kind of hope he does. But there is this other teacher at my school who is awesome and so supportive of me, and she’s taught me so much. I just started taking acting as my art elective this year. I’m doing Much Ado About Nothing as my school play right now.

BROWN: Who are you?

SMITH: I’m Borachio. But we’re doing it with like a 1920s twist, so I’m a gangster. I smuggle alcohol to Hollywood and sing songs about sex. [laughs] It’s weird.

DEPP: That sounds good! Can I come see it?

SMITH: Totally.

BROWN: Yoga Hosers references a lot of other films—Clerks and then some of the 1980s horror films and teen films. Did your dad give you movies to watch before hand?

DEPP: We’ve both seen Clueless and Gremlins, for sure.

SMITH: I didn’t think of it, honestly, until three days ago when my dad was trying to explain the film. He was like, “It’s Clueless and Gremlins mixed.” And I’ve seen both of those movies thousands of times and they’re both wonderful, beautiful movies, but I never really thought of it that way. Then when he said that I was like, “It makes so much sense.” If people love Gremlins so much and Clueless, Yoga Hosers is not that weird. It is very weird, but compared to that stuff it’s not that different.

BROWN: Have you had to explain the plot to any of your friends?

SMITH: Yes and I can’t.

DEPP: Yeah my friends are like, “What is it about?” And I’m like “It’s about these two girls and these little sausage men…” [laughs]

SMITH: I never say that part ever. They’d be like, “What the fuck?”

DEPP: Oh, I say the sausage part—”sausage Nazis.”

SMITH: But when you say that out of context, it’s like “What?”

DEPP: My friends are down with it. It’s cool.

SMITH: It’s just so difficult to explain. “It’s about Nazis that have been living underground and killing people.”

DEPP: And then Kevin calls it a kid’s movie.

SMITH: It doesn’t sound like a kid’s movie, but it is. It can be for adults and kids.

BROWN: You mentioned you shot during the summer, did you still have to have a tutor on set?

SMITH: I did. She didn’t.

DEPP: When we were shooting, my school hadn’t started back up yet, we were still on summer break. So when they would give me my school time, they would literally send me to my trailer for three hours and say, “Sorry.” I got to read my summer reading book.

SMITH: It was not the same for me. I had a teacher. It is what it is. She was super nice, but you’re doing this awesome thing— you’re working and filming and it’s so exciting to be acting—and then it’s like, but wait, you’ve got to go learn some algebra. [laughs] It’s definitely worth it. A small price to pay.

BROWN: At the end of the Yoga Hosers, it says the Colleens will return in Moose Jaws. Is that something that you’re definitely doing or just something you’re thinking about?

DEPP: That’s the first I’d heard of it.

SMITH: It’s a definite for my dad. He wants it to come full circle, so since we started in Tusk, he wants us to end in Moose Jaws. Not a big part—as small as it was in Tusk.

DEPP: I’m down.  

SMITH: I don’t know if he wrote it yet. I don’t know what goes on in his mind, but it’s definitely happening.