Kevin Smith on Directing His Daughter in New Film: "I Couldn't Say 'Cocksucker' as Much"
Smith's horror-comedy 'Yoga Hosers,' which will premiere at Sundance Jan. 24, stars his daughter, 16-year-old Harley Quinn, alongside Johnny Depp's daughter, Lily-Rose: "I'm stoned enough at all times to be like, 'Yeah, let's make a movie with the kids!'"
A version of this story first appeared in the Jan. 29 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
"There was a boy..." begins Harley Quinn Smith, 16, recounting a story from the set of horror-comedy Yoga Hosers, which will premiere in Sundance's Midnight section. "My character sees him in a romantic light. And my dad would say things like, 'You need to get closer to him. Closer. Nope, closer.' So that was weird."
Given that her dad is Kevin Smith, the nerd icon and cult writer-director responsible for such films as Dogma, Chasing Amy and the Clerks movies, weird makes sense. Yoga Hosers, his latest directorial effort — the second installment in his True North trilogy (which started with 2014's Tusk and will end with the eventual Moose Jaws) — stars Harley and Lily-Rose Depp, daughter of Johnny Depp (who appeared uncredited in Tusk), as teenage Canadian convenience store workers forced to battle an army of monsters who threaten their attendance at a high school party.
"I am stoned enough at all time to be like, 'Yeah, let's do a movie with the kids!'" says Smith of the comedy-thriller, which features supporting turns from Tyler Posey, Tony Hale and Justin Long. When asked whether he had to change his directing style because his daughter was on the set, Smith replies, "I couldn't say 'cocksucker' as much."
The 45-year-old filmmaker says Harley and Lily-Rose, who were 15 during the shoot, had a natural presence in front of the camera. "After we shot a scene, I would bring them over to watch their takes, and they would immediately see what they needed to do differently," says Smith of guiding the childhood friends, who met in kindergarten. "Nobody wants to make sure that they look better and sound better more than 15-year-old girls."
A teenager playing a teenager in movie is a novel concept in Hollywood, where actors pushing 30 often are seen stalking high school hallways, wearing backpacks that look unrealistically cool slung across their post-post-pubescent shoulders. "I got the chance to put two teen girls together on a poster," says Smith, citing this as his proudest victory from Yoga Hosers. "That's not the way they sell shit now."
Growing up in the Hollywood Hills, Harley had planned on becoming a professional bassist. "When she wanted to do music, I could only take her to gigs and buy her shit, but that's about it," says Smith. "Then I was like, 'You like acting? I know a thing or two about that!' " Now her ultimate goal is to play the DC Comics villain that is her literal namesake, the Joker's screw-loose companion (who will be played by Margot Robbie in this summer's Suicide Squad). "I will not leave this Earth until I play Harley Quinn," she says with the assuredness that only a 16-year-old can pull off.
That Yoga Hosers will have its premiere at Sundance (Jan. 24) holds special significance for the Smiths. As Harley explains, "My dad brought Clerks to Sundance 22 years ago, and that's when his career started. So it's cool to think that this is where I can start mine."
Photographed by Emily Shur