Despite the tepid reception of M
Night’s last film, ‘The Village,’ Bryce Dallas Howard is taking a second turn as
his leading lady with tomorrow’s “Lady in the Water.’
As with all actors, it’s possible she
was in an especially good mood just for us, but I’d like to believe the bubbly,
bright personality she displayed is all her own. Her voice has a smiley quality
to it, and there’s a grounded, wholesome vibe about her. She spoke openly about
re-teaming with M Night, the endless talent of Paul Giamatti and why her father
is the reason she loves show business.
Disclaimer: Don’t blame me for some of
the ‘fluffier’ questions… it’s what you get when you’re forced into a room with
8 other reporters.
Q: So what was your favorite bedtime story?
Bryce Dallas Howard: I know you are going to think I am just
saying this because it pertains to this [movie] but ‘The Little Mermaid’ was
one. When I was a kid I used to collect little glass mermaid
figurines. I was a little sick too, I loved the Grimm’s Fairytales, all
of them. And then I got into Christopher Pike books at a very young age,
those are not fairy tales.
Q: Were you ever frustrated by the sparseness of your dialogue?
Howard: No, actually it was really nice. It is something that I
actually realized when we were first starting to rehearse. In my personal life,
I use so many words to create a boundary, to create a wall so that I am not
actually communicating with people. The thing that is wonderful about the
story is that she is able to communicate so much without saying hardly anything,
so I tried to steal that a little bit, into my own personal life. I think
it is a much more powerful thing to listen than it is to talk.
Q: How was it different working with M. Night [Shyamalan] this
Howard: It was so wonderful. I am a part
of a theatre company in
and I can kind of equate it with that because the wonderful thing about working
with people over and over again is that [in] the beginning, during ‘The Village’
was like our introduction to each other. There was the small talk and it was
really nice and then at the end of shooting we were really getting to know each
other and really getting to know each other’s processes. With ‘Lady in the
Water’ we were able to start at that place and that is a much more empowering
place to start from. Where there is no B.S. between us and he knows my
instrument. He knows when I am in that place and he knows when I am not and honestly
I really prefer that.
Q: Was this the most comfortable shoot ever because you are just
wearing Paul’s [Giamatti] shirt the whole time? Did you put on a shirt
everyday and you were just ready to go?
Howard: Yeah, although it took about 3 hours in make-up chair each
morning just to get rid of my freckles. It was nice having a nice breezy
costume and thank God it was in the summertime so it wasn’t cold. At first
honestly, I dress very modestly so I was like ‘Oh my God, my legs have not seen
the light of day since I was 6 years old!’ so that was a little something to
get used to.
Q: How much time did you spend in the water?
Howard: Just mostly in the shower, I
think the irony is that this film is called ‘Lady in the Water’ and Paul is in
the water almost the entire time. Pretty much just in the shower and there is
like one scene in the pool. I am damp, not drenched.
Q: Did you talk to Night about the whole mythology? Did you work
on a more elaborate theory of the mythology to help with the grounding in your
Howard: Yes and no. It is described
very efficiently in the film. The whole mythology is there and that was
obviously in the text, in the script. As far as where she came from and
who she was and what kind of interaction she would have had with human beings
and that kind of specificity, then yes, those were dialogues with him and
created on my own. It was really fun to get to have something that we
could go in completely different directions [with] and it would all be
alright. There was no real research we could do to make decisions after
reading all of this. We needed to totally and entirely use our
imaginations. I say ‘our’ but it was really Night’s imagination, it was
really just me asking him a series of questions and being like ‘Ok, how can I
be the instrument that you play?’ and that was very freeing as well.
Q: Making a film with encompassing directors like
Shyamalan or Lars Von Trier, does the experience stay with you? Or can you just go on to the next thing?
Howard: No it stays with me, which is
nice, I prefer that. I still have not gotten to the place, nor do I ever wish
I get to this place, where I am able to really separate my work and my personal
life. My work is my hobby, it is the thing that I really honestly love to do
most, so when I am working with such brilliant people, with such visionaries, I
hope to take these lessons from them. I hope to use that in my own life
and in my own work in the future. The experience with ‘Lady in the Water’
was very powerful and it absolutely did stay with me.
Q: I heard that you actually cried when you heard about this
film. What was it in particular about this film that called to you?
Howard: I think that the moment you are
referring to was the moment that Night offered me the part and I hadn’t read
the script at that point. It wasn’t like a breakdown, I was just kind of misty
eyed, because I had just seen ‘The Village’ for the first time and my parents
were there and Night’s family was there, and as he had been editing ‘The
Village’ he had been telling me about this movie called ‘Lady in the Water’
that he was getting ready to write. So we were there at his office and I had
just seen the film moments before. I thought my God, I can’t believe I am
in a movie and what a great experience that was and we were walking back and he
just turned to me and said ‘Bryce, I want you to be the lady in ‘The Lady in
the Water” and I was like ‘What!?’ and then he told his little girls and
that’s what really got me because they knew the story, it was created for
them. He said ‘Bryce is going to play the Narf’ and they said, ‘Oh you are
going to be really good!’ It was just a special moment for me.
Q: Seeing the movie made me think of a lot of other natural realist
writers like Paulo Coelho. Did you read some of his writing or did you guys talk
about any of that kind of material?
Howard: Yeah, did you see his ballet he
did of Veronica? He didn’t do it a
company did. It was beautiful. I would say, of his writing, The Alchemist is
clearly reflected in this. And that
journey where you are in a place, and are lost, and you have to go to this
crazy journey to realize that you had it all along. I think that’s a very old
theme. It’s in Siddhartha, Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha, I think it’s an important
fable in life.
Q: Did you go back and read anything as a result or have you even seen
Howard: I have a library at my home and I
am always picking up books and randomly looking through them. I am very drawn
toward material like this, so yeah, I will sometimes look through things. Mostly
the stuff that I wanted to read, to be honest, for this film was just
stereotypical. Fairy tales, what are the lessons that one teaches their
children through these elaborate fairy tales and what are those lessons really
about? This is like an adult fairy tale.
Q: How did you prepare for doing ‘The Village?’ How does that compare,
to prepare for leading roles? Have you wanted to play smaller roles in
movies and is it hard, having to get those?
Howard: Oh yeah, it’s a rough life.
[Laughs] No, I understand what you mean. No it’s not hard. I would say
right now my main goal is to work with great filmmakers. That is the thing that
I really want to be a part of, [those] who are telling stories I find fascinating
and exciting and fun. I want really fun experiences, I know that is superficial
but I do. So for instance I am doing ‘Spiderman 3’ and that is a smaller
role absolutely, but it was such a great experience. It’s easy for me to say
because I have had mostly pretty meaty roles, but it’s not quite about
that. It’s more about the experience and what I can get from it and what
can I learn.
Q: How different was it being in
Howard: It was awesome. There was a
moment during ‘Spiderman’ in New York where I had to fly down from 5 stories
with Spiderman and right down the street was where I got my first theatre job
in New York. I actually walked over there and talked to all the ushers and
I was like ‘Guys I am doing ‘Spiderman!’
Q: Were you wearing a wig or did you dye your hair?
Howard: I dyed it. I actually I just got
my hair back red, a version of red. It was very nice to be back home.
Q: Your father’s a great filmmaker,
you’ve worked with great filmmakers, is there a trait they all share?
Howard: I would say two things. Above all else, a great
filmmaker has humility. They are willing to listen, they are willing to
learn, and they are constantly pushing themselves. I would say that a great
filmmaker is a very humble person. Also the 2nd thing that I think is equally
as important is integrity. They speak the truth, they don’t manipulate. What
they promise to deliver to the person they do. I think my Dad has those
things and all of the directors that I have worked with, no question.
Q: Can you discuss the ups and downs that come with having such an iconic
Howard: The up side is something that I don’t know if, you
guys wouldn’t personally be able to relate this probably because you don’t know
my Dad as a father, but it’s just having my Dad as a father. He is the greatest
thing in my life; I get emotional every time I talk about my Dad. I would say
the down side…there is no down side. It is just constantly or occasionally
actually, there are some misinterpretations about what our relationship is like,
or why I am where I am and how it pertains to him. That is okay, I am willing to
take that, that’s all good. I have the greatest Dad on planet earth.
Q: He must be a lot of fun. Does he ever play jokes on you?
Howard: [Laughs] Yeah, I have to tell
you one thing. I was just on a family trip and we were on a boat. It
was like 31 of my family members and there were these jet ski’s. I am kind of,
it kind of ties into the movie, I am actually a little bit afraid of the water,
especially open water. I am just convinced I’ll just be swallowed by a shark or
something. So they [my family] were like ‘Bryce, you have to conquer your
fears.’ So I said ‘Alright!’ I went out in the water and I swam for about two
minutes, looking down the whole time, then I got back in. They were like
‘Ok you have to go on a jet ski.’ So I went on a jet ski with my husband and I
was holding on to him and my Dad and his brother were on a jet ski. They
were whizzing by really, really fast and they kept threatening to come toward
me and I screamed ‘Stop! Stop!’ because I thought I was going to fall into the
water. They finally got really close and I yelled to my dad, ‘Dad, don’t betray
my fucking trust!’ and then the next day he made T-shirts and he made everyone
wear the T-shirts that said ‘Don’t betray my fucking trust.’ I try not to swear
that much but it just came out. He does have a very good sense of humor.
That was his sense of humor last week. [Laughs]
Q: Do you go to your father for advice?
Howard: I do go to him for advice if I feel
like I need to, but mostly the advice I want from him has to do with my
emotional state of being. If I am in a good emotional place then I
ultimately end up making decisions I am confident about or proud of. If I
am saying, ‘Oh, I don’t know what to do about this deal that I made,’ it always
ultimately goes back to why am I feeling insecure? That is something that
I will actually go to both of my parents about.
Q: Does he get excited about your movies and the directors you’re working
Howard: Yeah, he says, ‘Can I come by
the set?’ He really wanted to come by the set for ‘Spiderman’ especially.
Q: Can you talk a bit about working with Paul specifically? I believe
that he is one of the most underrated actors in
Howard: I agree with you, in fact I was
upstairs watching ‘Cinderella Man’ just now, it was on television, I don’t know
if you want to go turn it on. [Laughs] I was watching and I turned to
my best friend and I said ‘He, I swear to you, when he is 88 years old people
are going to say that is the greatest actor that ever lived.’ He is the most
unbelievably talented man. There is no neurosis that comes with his talent. He
is just available. He is not the kind of actor that has to go and
disappear and be all methody, not like that is a bad thing when that is
someone’s process, but it is very telling that he is always available, always
on point, and always self deprecating and humble and willing to totally change
his performance 180 degrees from one suggestion. He is someone I really
admire. Also one of the most well read men I have ever met.
Anything, just incredibly well read.
Q: Was there any talk about the fact that he had just worked with your
Howard: Totally. It was a slightly
inappropriate thing that he had just worked with my Dad and I come to set the
first day and am wearing this little shirt. It was probably the scene where I
take off the shirt and he was like ‘Ahh, I know your Dad.’ [Laughs]
Q: What is next?
Howard: I wrote a short film and am
directing it in August in
with Alfred Molina. It’s through an organization that supports this charity
called Film-aid. They’re all about using the power of films to educate. Glamour
Magazine and Cartier are financing it, it’s a wonderful opportunity and I am
being very well taken care of. It’s great.
Q: Do you see directing in your future someday?
Howard: I don’t know. I have a lot to
learn… a lot to learn.