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July 2006
LADY IN THE WATER: An Interview with Bryce Dallas Howard

LADY IN THE WATER: An Interview with Bryce Dallas Howard
By Melissa Walters
July 17, 2006

The last time we saw Bryce Dallas Howard, she abolished slavery and was an instrument of democracy in Lars Von Trier’s 2005 The Manderlay. She recently completed work on Kenneth Branagh’s yet to be released As You Like It and is currently filming the highly anticipated Superman 3. In Lady in The Water, Howard reunites with M Night Shyamalan who cast her as Ivy Walker in his 2004 film The Village, a role Howard was offered without audition after impressing Shyamalan with her talent on Broadway. In Lady in The Water, an older, more mature, and recently married Howard plays a narf or water nymph in a story inspired by an original bedtime story conceived and written by Shyamalan. In speaking to blackfilm.com, Howard discusses what it was like to work with Oscar nominated actor Paul Giamatti for the first time, filming an entire movie in a perpetual state of undress, and being classified by Shyamalan as weird other worldly, and a kindred spirit.

What’s it like working with M. Night on a second film after ‘The Village”? You weren’t blind in this film?

Bryce Dallas Howard: I wasn’t blind but I was partially naked. It was great, it was wonderful I’ll just start there it’s um, I’m a part of a theatre company in New York and I feel and it was exactly what I hoped it would be because like with a company you you’re able to work with people over and over again so you get past all of the small talk and you can actually get to the essence of what we’re trying to do and that’s exactly what this experience was like because with The Village, which was wonderful, it was still like an introduction, we were introducing each other to each other and near the end of shooting we were just like oh like this is how you tick and this is how I tick and um we were able to start from that place when we did Lady in the Water and um get even deeper so.

Now Night said you weren’t normal; that you fit into his world and were kindred spirits. Do you feel that way?

Bryce Dallas Howard: That I’m not normal?

Yeah he said it as a compliment.

Bryce Dallas Howard: (Laughing) oh that’s really nice. (Laughing). No I know what he is talking about.

How could you not know what he’s talking about?

Bryce Dallas Howard: Yeah we’re both a little weird but I mean who is normal though honestly? Like everyone always thinks that like they’re, they’re bizarre, no one else understands them and I don’t think he’s saying that from that place but I think that um, we definitely look at the world similarly and um and it’s nice to work with someone that way.

He said that from The Village to this that he noticed complete maturity and growth as an actress. Did you feel that you developed yourself that you’ve become a better actress as you’ve gone along?

Bryce Dallas Howard: Oh I don’t know, um…

Do you study?

Bryce Dallas Howard: I don’t know, I do study but I hope, I hope I didn’t regress but um I think that each experience is totally unique and totally new and has totally new challenges and obstacles so I don’t think “oh like I’ve done five movies now like it’s all easy and I’m much, much better” that’s absolutely not the case.

Do you have a tee shirt that say I survived Lars von Trier?

Bryce Dallas Howard: (Laughs) no, no oh yeah he’s a wonderful man.

He wasn’t this sadistic horrible manipulator with you?

Bryce Dallas Howard: No, not at all. Not at all. When I’m going to be doing Prospetous in New York I’m gonna go to Denmark and visit him like he’s one of my very favorite-

What is it about The Lady in The Water I mean how did you see playing a narf?

Bryce Dallas Howard: (Laughs). Well I couldn’t do much research, um..

She’s not a mermaid.

Bryce Dallas Howard: No. The way I describe her is that she’s like a water nymph um that’s what she is. Uh, it was a very freeing experience because Night created all of this mythology he created this whole world and so at the beginning of the process I came in “I’m gonna be a good little actor and do all this research about fairytales and have all of these opinions and present it to him in a way that is diplomatic and wonderful and of course he was listening and collaborating and as I then started listening to him and not trying to be uh impressive I realized “oh I just kinda gotta show up and he’s gonna know what to tell me to do and that’s going to be the best way that we go through this process and um and I think that certainly was and I am glad because this was all from his crazy, brilliant, wonderful mind and um and that’s what I wanted to be for him, which was someone who was going to allow that to allow that vision to manifest.

Did your parents read you bedtime stories?

Bryce Dallas Howard: Oh yeah. Yeah.

Really is there one that sticks out in your mind as your favorite that you said “Dad, mom read me this uh”-

Bryce Dallas Howard: (Laughs) Well actually its funny my mom had got kinda angry at my dad cause he would pitch us his latest movie idea like around the time when he was doing Ransom when he was getting ready to like he’d be “and then the kid gets kidnapped and the parents are terrified” and I was like “oh my god!”, but I was older then no he’s not so sick.

Were you eleven or something?

Bryce Dallas Howard: No I was older than that I think I was fourteen or fifteen but uh, really, truly, he had so many, so many story ideas and one of the best time of my life actually was Willow because I remember him telling me this story, like creating the story of Willow and I was like five or six years old and going on the set and thinking oh this is amazing and it was, it was so beautiful to see Night’s two little girls come on set and for me to sit them down and be like okay so, and try to steal information from them like, “what is this how you imagined or are you disappointed?” and they were always just “no, its just how I imagined and its so wonderful”.

Could you tell that they were experiencing some of the same things you did before?

Bryce Dallas Howard: Yeah, and there was one day where his oldest girl she just turned ten, was sitting next to him by the monitor and she was watching the monitor and he was watching the monitor and I was like “Oh, now you’re in for it”. You’ve got it, you’ve got what your dad has.

Did you do that sort of stuff with your dad?

Bryce Dallas Howard: (Laughs). He used to put me on his shoulders and I would watch like that- that’s probably why he’s bald cause I was always going like that (gesturing).

Did you tell your Dad you were like twelve that “you know I’m going to be an actor or an actress”?

Bryce Dallas Howard: No. Not at all.

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