Jurassic World's Bryce Dallas Howard's family protected her from Hollywood predators
Ron Howard’s daughter split her childhood between the Connecticut family farm, New York State home and Hollywood. She guffaws when I suggest it wasn’t the typical La La Land upbringing of Fabergé eggs and tea parties. Not only was she warned she had little chance of making a living as an actor, she was also protected and prepared for the predatory industry dinosaurs long before the MeToo movement sent seismic shockwaves through the film world.
Her Oscar-winning director father also nurtured and nourished her own creative talents from a very young age, taking her on set as a small child and then putting her to use taping the auditions for his movies. Her actor grandparents Rance and Jean Howard also shared their stories – inspiring, sobering and horrifying – of the industry.
We meet on a sun-blasted Medieval terrace overlooking Valletta’s spectacular harbour in Malta. Much of the blockbuster was filmed there, including some pulse-pounding chase scenes, and we’re there to promote the release of the Extended Edition home entertainment packages which include another 14 minutes of footage and a new Jurassic World short film.
As I wait my turn at the very end of the day, Bryce’s booming laugh echoes across the entire expanse. Despite sitting in roasting heat for eight hours, she is refreshingly engaged and engaging, delightfully unstarry, simultaneously deeply thoughtful and riotously funny. Exactly what you’d expect, in fact, from the daughter of ‘Ritchie Cunningham.’
Hilariously, she happily admits she’s never sat down to watch her dad’s iconic show properly: “I haven’t seen it fully,” she cackles, “he probably thinks it’s rude! He would feel very awkward making me sit down to watch Happy Days!”
Instead, an intensely physical childhood was filled with excelling at karate classes and sports, “mucking out the goat barn” and, of course, endless hours shadowing her father as her became one of Hollywood’s most respected directors.
Bryce says: “My dad is very strange because he always included me in his directing journey. We have home movies of me aged five with him stressing and me being, ‘Listen it’s going to be OK.’ He was a child actor and got to be collaborative and so he just I assumed I would have something to say of value, which is awesome.”
By 11 she was taping auditions for his films and quickly understood there might be many great actors suitable for a role, but only one could get it, usually based on some indefinable criteria or chemistry. Her grandparents drilled into her that even a regularly working actor was only successful one in every 64 auditions.
“My parents wanted me to know that I wouldn’t be able to make a living most likely,” she says, “and would need a way to support myself. I was nannying full time on Broadway, and still doing it while I was filming The Village. I never thought I would make a living at acting.”
Before focussing on stage and film, Bryce also had serious sporting ambitions: “I love action films, I love being physical. As a kid and teenager, I was teaching karate and I thought I wanted to go to college for basketball and had to decide between that and theatre. It was one of the most difficult decisions of my life.”
She has happily brandished the full-body bruises on social media, showing off the punishing hard work that went into a franchise that is filled with high-octane stunts and chases, including the terrifying Jurassic World Dominion across the streets and rooftops of Malta.
“Being in your body, it’s so rewarding,” she beams. “It’s wonderful to express yourself that way. There’s bumps and bruises but you’re safe. I’m not a risk-taker in my life but I love being on movie sets doing crazy stuff. Because it’s fun!”
She also admits she was spared the horrendous dangers that faced many young actresses in Hollywood, thanks to her family.
“My grandmother was an actor who started back to work in her sixties,” Bryce says. “She would take me to her scene study class and I would hear all these stories (about the past), so yes, for sure I was warned. I knew the person never to have a meeting with. That was very lucky and privileged. Not every actor has access to the information, who to steer clear of, who is safe. It changed forever in 2017 and I have felt that difference.”
Jurassic World Dominion is rightly proud of featuring two dynamic, kick-ass leading ladies in Bryce and Dewanda Wise, who plays feisty piloy Kayla. Their on-screen agency and presence will inspire new generation of young girls and boys, while Bryce feels reassured things will also finally be better behind the scenes in the industry for young actors. Including, for her own children – Theodore, 15, and 10-year-old Beatrice – with her actor husband Seth Gabel.
“My daughter is very interested in being an actor and I am creating every hurdle,” she says. “But I also know it is safer now. It’s a safer place.”
The dinosaurs on screen ultimately find their own safe haven, but the ones in Hollywood are facing extinction, at last.
Jurassic World: Dominion Extended Edition is available to download and on 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray from tomorrow
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