Lily-Rose Depp: “I never thought about getting into acting”
Amid the crush of journalists and photographers following Lily-Rose Depp around Cannes, one is immediately struck by her sense of cool elegance. She not only dresses like an experienced fashionista, but is also extremely media-savvy and able to switch back and forth between French and English with effortless ease and without a trace of an accent on either language.
Her bilingual gifts have also given her nascent film career a cross-cultural boost. Her new film, The Dancer (aka La Danseuse), about the relationship between unheralded Belle Époque dancer Loie Fuller and the legendary Isadore Duncan, was shot in French, while her other two upcoming movies, Yoga Hosers, directed by Kevin Smith, and Planetarium, starring Natalie Portman, are in English.
Still, it's not easy dealing with the attention and expectations that come with being the daughter of French pop star/actress, Vanessa Paradis, and one of the world's biggest (and wealthiest) movie stars (Johnny Depp). But Lily-Rose, who has also just become the new face of Chanel No. 5 perfume, is confident enough to take on the world in her own right - even if that means throwing herself into the media snake pit.
"It's hard, but I've decided not to let it bother me or - you'll ruin your life if you close yourself off to the world," Depp, who just turned 17, says. "I've grown up living with all the media circus around my family and it's not a big deal for me. If you choose to be an actress you have to accept the attention that comes with it. It's a small price to pay for the opportunity to do this job, to be able to travel around the world and get to work with very creative people."
This is just the beginning of Lily-Rose Depp's celebrity baptism under fire. Just as she was beginning to relax after non-stop interview sessions in Cannes for The Dancer, the lithe actress rushed to the defence of her father Johnny Depp in the wake of Amber Heard's allegations of spousal abuse. Soon afterward, she joined him on their private island in the Bahamas where they enjoyed what has always been a warm father-daughter relationship. Says Johnny of his daughter's budding career: "I'm incredibly proud. She's handling it beautifully; she understands well enough that it's only whatever it is."
Here, we chat to actress about her upcoming film projects:
Lily-Rose, playing the role of Isadore Duncan is quite a leap for any actress, let alone someone like you who's just beginning her career.
I know, but as soon as I read the script I knew it was the chance of a lifetime. I knew I had to have this role. Isadore Duncan is an iconic figure who revolutionised dance and was also a very charismatic and independent woman who could also be very manipulative. She knew exactly what she wanted in life. For me it was very exciting to be able to play a very ambitious and also perverse kind of character like that.
How did you come across the project?
Soko (Depp's co-star in The Dancer) is a friend of mine and she introduced me to Stephanie Di Giusto who was looking for a young American actress to play the part. Stephanie had been researching and developing the project for five years and I was really honoured that she was willing to take a chance in giving me this kind of very complex role. Soko and I are both very proud of Stephanie and the work she put into this film.
What was the toughest aspect of the character for you?
The dancing was the most difficult. I had a choreographer who worked very intensively with me but I also learnt that the most important aspect was not the technique but being able to let myself go completely into the movement and [have a] total sense of abandonment.
That was what Duncan was like. She had this tremendous interior sense of determination that didn't leave any place for insecurity. But she also had this carefree side. I had to find that same sense of ambition and lightness in order to be able to capture her spirit.
Both your parents are actors. Have they tried to guide you in your career?
My parents are very supportive but they have always tried to encourage me to decide for myself and be very independent. If I need advice, I know I can always count on them. But I'm trying to avoid involving them in my work because it's important for me to find my own way as an actress and they respect that. They consider me mature enough to be able to use my own judgement and I'm very grateful that they have that kind of faith in me. It's important that I try to do this on my own.
Was it inevitable that you would follow your parents' footsteps into acting?
No, not at all. Even though I would often go on film sets when I was growing up, I was more curious about things like how they did the make-up and the way a film crew works. I never thought about getting into acting until I was 14 and I did a small, five-minute scene in the Kevin Smith film Tusk, mainly because his daughter Harley was a friend of mine and we got to know each other because Kevin and my dad are friends.
How did that first acting role make you feel? Was that what made you curious about your parent's profession?
That was what led to me to start thinking that acting was what I wanted to do because of how free and happy playing a character made me feel inside. I wasn't expecting that. I was also so happy to have been able to get to work with Kevin again on Yoga Hosers which was my first real movie. Harley is also in the film which was again so much fun for me.
I've been friends with her since we were in Kindergarten together and getting to be in the same movie as her was incredible. I still remember the first time I met her. I was so shy and scared and Harley was the first kid in the school that I began talking to and she's always been such a good friend to me.
Did working with Kevin Smith make it much easier for you to feel comfortable in your first serious movie role?
Kevin is so cool and encouraging that you don't even feel like he's directing you. He's very open to letting you improvise and discover your character and add things that you come up with while you're on the set. He also has a lot of passion and enthusiasm for filmmaking that it inspires you. He makes you feel just as excited and passionate about your work as he does.
You'd already done some modelling work before working as an actress. Did that help prepare you in any way?
Acting is very different. You have to be able to draw on all your emotions and be able to use that while you're working with another actor or actors in a scene. I feel very comfortable when I'm playing a character.
You've also made a decision to quit high school?
Acting is all I want to do with my life now and I want to work as much as possible. I realised after working on La Danseuse and Planetarium in Paris that it was impossible for me to pursue acting as a career and still attend classes and be able to do my homework.
I think as you grow older and start becoming an adult, sooner or later you're going to have to make those kinds of hard decisions. If I'm serious about my decision to become an actress, I don't want to waste my time writing school papers and sitting in a classroom. I want devote all my energy to acting and also be able to read, travel, and look at as many films as I can.
What are your favourite films?
I love The Wizard of Oz - I've watched that many, many times. But I also like very dramatic films like Casino with Sharon Stone. My mother has prepared me a list of movie classics that she said I absolutely have to see so I hope to learn a lot from that.
You've also worked with Natalie Portman on Planetarium. What can you tell us about that film?
It's a film about two American sisters who are mediums who go to perform in Paris in the 1930s. I play Natalie's younger sister, and my character is very inhibited and kind of locked inside her own world. She reminds me a little bit of my own adolescence.
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