Cat's mad | 

Lily-Rose Depp learned to 'crawl, meow and hiss' in 'cat school' for new film

Lily-Rose Depp reveals how ‘cat school’ not only helped her to embrace her feline character for new Irish-Polish film, Wolf, but also taught her how to live in the moment.

Lily-Rose as Wildcat in director Nathalie Biancheri’s Wolf

Deirdre Reynolds

IF Lily-Rose Depp is hoping to carve out her own identity in Hollywood, then transforming into a four-legged creature is certainly one way to start.

In the past simply known as the daughter of Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis, the 22 year-old is fast becoming a household name in her own right, first as a model and now as the pseudo-feline star of new Irish-Polish film, Wolf.

Last seen in Silent Night supporting Keira Knightley, the French-American starlet this time takes centre stage as Wildcat, a young woman in treatment for species identity disorder, in the psychological drama released here on March 18.

Need Magazine+ even ask, then, whether she’s a cat person or a dog person?

“Cats,” Lily-Rose laughs immediately. “It’s the animal I have done the most work on and gotten to know the most so I do relate to cats in a big way. I have one too. I am partial to cats.”

Lily-Rose modelling for Chanel

With Zoë Kravitz currently stalking Gotham as Catwoman in The Batman and horror sequel Pet Sematary 2 on the way, it’s a good time to be a feline in Tinseltown.

Although few have gone quite as far as the rising talent, who even went to ‘cat school’ to capture the essence of her character, who believes she has been born into the body of the wrong species.

“Initially, it was the emotion of the script,” she says of what drew her to writer and director Nathalie Biancheri’s project.

“I just loved the story and how it was so unique. It’s so rare to come find such multi-layered characters that are just begging to be fleshed out so interesting creatively. I really did just fall in love with it all.

“Then everything that I felt was so special about the project when I first encountered it, was a thousand times more once we actually shot it. It was a really special experience.”

Shot in Ireland during the pandemic, British actor George MacKay stars as the eponymous Wolf, who also believes himself to be an animal trapped in a human body – a real-life condition known as species dysphoria.

He encounters Wildcat after entering a cruel treatment facility for adolescents run by The Zookeeper, played by Paddy Considine.

Despite surely a charmed childhood, growing up as the genetically-blessed eldest child of Hollywood A-lister Depp and French music icon Paradis, who dated for 14 years from 1998 to 2012, Lily-Rose told how she could relate to the pair’s sense of estrangement as they battle their animal instincts.

“I think those are feelings that we have all had in our life,” she argues. “Connecting to that was really important as was the animalistic part. It’s really connecting to humanity and the the emotions we all have. It’s universal.

Lily-Rose on the red carpet with ex-boyfriend Timothée Chalamet

“I felt so lucky and grateful to have George as my partner on this. It’s rare to meet somebody who is as talented and passionate and committed, as they are kind and trustworthy. The trust and friendship we created off-camera really informed so much of what happened in front of the camera.”

Snapped up at just 16 by Chanel, just like her look-alike mum, who was 19 when she became the face of the brand in 1991, Lily-Rose is no stranger to the catwalk, but ironically, worked tirelessly with a movement coach to learn how to walk like a cat.

Johnny Depp and ex-partner Vanessa Paradis

“Getting the physicality of the characters and their respective animals was an integral part in getting to know them,” she explains. “Their animal projections have serve as a safe place and a comfort for these characters.

“It was a lot of the movement work and things like figuring out how to walk like a cat. But before we even got into any of the actual movement stuff, there was a lot of breathing work and connection work.

“George and I did a lot of eye contact exercises which I think I will carry with me forever, not only in other films and other roles but just in general.”

Off camera, the LA-based actor and model is currently believed to be making eyes at French rapper Yassine Stein, after splitting from Timothée Chalamet, whom she met on the set of The King, last year.

Famously tight-lipped about her personal life, with one notable exception when she came to her father’s defence on Instagram, after he was accused of domestic abuse by ex-wife Amber Heard, Lily-Rose recalled the liberation she felt at going off-leash as Wildcat.

“There’s something so inherently emotional when you are connecting to that primal side of yourself. The most surprising thing for me about cat school with Terry Notary, our incredible movement coach, was just how emotional it was.

“I was prepared to crawl and meow and hiss but I wasn’t expecting it to be such cathartic work, and it really was in the most beautiful way. It was really emotional to let your guard down and be really present.

“It taught me so much about presence, being present with yourself in every moment.”

Lily-Rose is the image of her mum

It’s a lesson in-demand Lily-Rose next takes with her to the set of The Idol, her first foray into television drama, co-starring and written by The Weeknd for HBO.

But it’s not the only positive of her time spent in Dublin being directed by Italian Biancheri, she adds: “I could go on all day long about how much I loved working with Nathalie and how incredible her directing style is.

“She created such a free and safe and collaborative experience. She really wanted us to delve into the exploration of our characters and really make them our own and make every scene what we wanted it to be. She’s incredible.”

  • Wolf is in cinemas from Friday, 18 March

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