Playing a princess is second nature for Lily-Rose Depp, herself Hollywood royalty as the only daughter of Vanessa Paradis and Johnny Depp. “I think I was a princess for the first 10 Halloweens of my life,” the actress tells Vogue on the eve of the release of her latest film: David Michôd’s Shakespearean epic The King. She stars as the 15th-century French princess Catherine of Valois, opposite Robert Pattinson, Joel Edgerton and her rumoured boyfriend Timothée Chalamet, who plays King Henry V.
Despite standout performances in several French and English-language productions (including 2018’s A Faithful Man, for which she was nominated for a César Award), The King marks Depp’s first foray into the mainstream. “This is definitely the biggest project I’ve ever been a part of,” she says. “Working at that scale can be nerve-racking, but with that comes a lot of excitement and drive to do the best job I can.” If anyone is up to the challenge, it’s her.
Lily-Rose Depp speaks to Vogue about working with Timothée Chalamet, her treasured memories of the late Karl Lagerfeld, and her plans for 2020.
In The King, you play Catherine of Valois, a princess forced to marry King Henry V after he has conquered her country. What was the appeal of taking on the role?
“She was fascinating! I didn’t know much about Catherine before starting, but I had fun diving into the research. We even had historians on set who could answer questions. Catherine really has a voice and she came from a family of strong women. Her father, Charles VI, had bouts of madness and so her mother ruled for him sometimes, behind closed doors.”
“Catherine also had sisters, including Isabella who was married to King Richard II. They were powerful, especially for that time period, and I think it was evident from the writing how much respect Joel [Edgerton] and David [Michôd] had for Catherine. The women in The King are the voices of reason, the only ones untouched by the greed and thirst for power that consumes the men.”
What was the atmosphere like on set?
“I always think the director and lead actor set the tone for the set, and David and Timothée [Chalamet] were wonderful. David is also super collaborative. He knows exactly what he wants, but he’ll ask what you want to do with it.”
Was there anything you wanted to change about your character?
“From the audition to the shoot, there was an evolution in Catherine’s curiosity and interest in Henry. In my audition, I was more stern. I don’t think she’s excited about meeting him, but she’s smart and able to see past what everyone’s saying about him. She’s not flirtatious, but she’s not hateful either. By the end of that scene, there’s a mutual understanding between them and for me, that developed over time. Henry is destabilised by her in a way that he hasn’t been by anyone else. It’s said that for the rest of Catherine and Henry’s relationship, after our story ends and history continues, they were very fond of each other.”
That shift comes across in Chalamet’s performance, too.
“His performance is incredible. Timothée brings an emotional vulnerability to everything he does, almost without even trying. That’s his gift. He’s so immensely talented and I feel like nobody could have taken on the role like he did.”
Robert Pattinson’s accent has attracted a lot of press attention. He plays the Dauphin of France. Did you give him any notes?
“I wish! I didn’t get to work with Robert and I wasn’t on set at the same time as him, but obviously we do play brother and sister in the film. I asked him at one point when I saw him, I said: ‘Let’s hear the accent Rob! We need to make sure these two are on the same family page.’ And he didn’t show me the accent! [laughs]. But, honestly, I thought he was great. He’s the perfect foil for the king, and pushes all of his buttons. You need that kind of comedic relief by that point in the film.”
In contrast, Catherine is quite serious – and that is reflected in her clothes. How did the costume help you get into character?
“Jane Petrie, our costume designer, did a beautiful job. My costumes in the film are regal, but not luxurious. They reflect the state the country was in at the time. The French couldn’t be seen draping their princesses in diamonds when there was a war to be fought.”
It’s been a few months since filming wrapped and now you’re on the press trail. Has playing Catherine influenced your press-tour wardrobe?
“It depends, because there are times when you want to draw from your character, and other moments when you want a total departure from it. I definitely allow myself my own modern-day princess moments.”
At the London premiere, you were the first to wear Chanel’s SS20 collection off the catwalk. How has your relationship with the house developed since becoming an ambassador in 2015?
“Chanel feels like a family in a way that no other working relationship ever has. I’ve known the whole team since I was little and to be able to work with them now is a huge point of pride for me. The work is great, but the people behind it make it really special — like Karl [Lagerfeld].”
Do you remember when you first met Karl?
“I was eight years old and with my mother. She was doing a fitting and brought me up to the atelier. I remember him being surrounded by fabrics and drawings. When we lost Karl this year, I was very sad. When I was little, I dreamed of doing what I do now and he made my dreams come true. The time I was able to spend with him, on and off set, are memories I’ll always hold dearly.”
Have you been working closely with Virginie Viard, his successor at Chanel?
“I love Virginie. I’ve known her since I started at Chanel. She’s so talented and I don’t think anyone is better suited to keeping his memory alive. In every Chanel show, I feel like there are pieces of Karl. We still see his influence, his genius at work.”
And what do you have coming up next?
“My first sci-fi movie! I just finished shooting Voyagers in Romania. It’s directed by Neil Burger and stars Colin Farrell, Tye Sheridan and Fionn Whitehead. There’s also Dreamland, with Armie Hammer, which is about the opioid crisis. They’re two very different roles, both from each other and from anything I’ve ever done before, so look out for them in 2020.”
The King is in select cinemas now and on Netflix from November 1
Originally published on British Vogue