Kevin Smith has had to ask Johnny Depp and his ex-wife for parental consent sign-offs a couple times now. It happened first during the 2014 production of the director’s first foray into horror filmmaking, the certifiably weird shockfest Tusk, about a lunatic who turns a podcaster into his own pet walrus. And it happened again when Smith decided to make the even weirder follow-up, Yoga Hosers, which premiered Sunday at the Sundance Film Festival.
Smith’s daughter, Harley Quinn, and Depp’s daughter, Lily-Rose, have been best friends since they met in kindergarten at 5. The director and actor subsequently became dad buddies (“We don’t go out and drink… but we’ve seen each other at every school function or family function for 10 years,” Smith explained), and after Depp took the girls to Coachella one year, Smith got his digits. He initially wrote the Tusk role of Guy LaPointe, a detective on the madman’s trail, for Quentin Tarantino. But the Pulp Fiction filmmaker passed, so Smith offered it to Depp, who, to his shock and delight, gamely accepted.
When the filmmaker found out that Lily-Rose was going to come on the North Carolina set for a day to watch her dad film a scene with Harley Quinn, whom Kevin had cast in a bit part as a store clerk, he figured why not make it a true Depp-Smith family collaboration. So he asked Lily-Rose’s mother, French singer Vanessa Paradis, who deferred to Johnny. “So I wrote Johnny an email,” Kevin Smith told Yahoo Movies. “I’d written, I think this would be the only chance for us to see what our daughters would look like if they ever got a real job. That was my pitch. And I didn’t hear from him. I thought maybe he was like, ‘F–k this.’
"The next morning when I came in he was like, 'Kevin, I got your email.’ I was like, 'Hey, don’t worry about that email. I wrote that when I was blazed… And he was like, 'No man, I never thought in million years I would act with my kid. It feels like a missed opportunity if I didn’t do it. So can we still do it?”
So Kevin paired up Harley Quinn with BFF Lily-Rose, both now 16, as “Store Clerk No. 1” and “Store Clerk No. 2,” respectively. “And it was my favorite day of shooting in the history of my life,” said the director said. It was a week later, as Smith edited the scene, that he decided Harley Quinn and Lily-Rose should be the lead characters in his next film. “I was like, 'I think I can spin a whole movie out of this scene,” he recalled. “If these girls just give this level-performance. They don’t have to be any better than f–king how they were in Tusk.”
Thus Yoga Hosers was born. In the film, the sardonic Canadian store clerks now have names — Harley Quinn is Colleen McKenzie and Lily Rose is Colleen Collette — and their yoga skills come in serious handy when their corner of Winnipeg comes under attack from tiny Nazi sentients made out of sausage (told you it was even weirder than Tusk).
Watch a clip from ‘Yoga Hosers’:
They don’t spend all that much time in the convenience store in the film, the Colleens are clearly the writer-director’s cinematic cousins to Dante (Brian O'Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson), the foul-mouthed minimum-wage slaves from Clerks, the black-and-white indie sensation that put Kevin Smith on the map when it premiered at Sundance 22 years ago. “It’s Girl Clerks, but with some evil nature thrown in,” Harley Smith said. “Some new accessories,” Lily-Rose added.
Though they’ve grown up surrounded by the film industry, Harley Quinn and Lily-Rose say they never considered acting as a career until they ended up in Tusk. Instead, they had musical aspirations: Harley Quinn wanted to be a bassist (despite the fact that Dad cast her as an extra in films like Silent Bob and Jay Strike Back and Clerks II), and Lily-Rose thought about following in her mother’s footsteps and trying to become a singer. “It was a really special way to figure that out,” said Harley Quinn, describing the atmosphere of working with their fathers. “I think, if anything, my parents would’ve tried to steer me away from try to steer me away from this business because it can be so tough,” said Lily-Rose. “But once they saw me acting they could tell how happy I was.”
Now their fates may be changing. Harley Quinn talks about her fantasy of someday playing the DC Comics supervillain she was named after, a character who will be played by Margot Robbie in this summer’s highly anticipated Suicide Squad. And Lily-Rose mentions she just returned from Paris where she filmed two movies: the fantasy-drama Planetarium opposite Natalie Portman, and the Loïe Fuller biopic The Dancer. The pair will also reprise their Tusk/Yoga Hosers roles in Moose Jaws, the planned third film in Smith’s “True North” Canadian-set horror trilogy.
And as actresses, they’ve gotten raves from their Yoga Hosers director. “The good news is they’re so much better than they were even in Tusk,” Smith said, who explained how the generation they’ve grown up part of gives them a natural entry into performing. “Because nobody wants to look better or sound better than a f–king 15-year-old girl. It’s the selfie generation.”