Bryce Dallas Howard knows a thing or two about working with big, green reptiles. Following her role in last summer's blockbuster hit "Jurassic World," the actress and mom of two is hitting the big screen with a friendly dragon named Elliott in the Disney live-action re-imagining of "Pete's Dragon," which she is excited to share with her kids, Beatrice, 4, and Theodore, 9.
"Pete's Dragon," which opens in theaters August 12, is the story of Pete (Oakes Fegley), an orphaned boy who is befriended and cared for by a giant, friendly dragon who finds him lost in the woods. Forest park ranger Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard) finds Pete and tries to find out what happened to him and where he belongs.
We recently had the chance to speak with Howard during the film's press day and talked about the making of "Pete's Dragon," working with child actors and exploring darker emotions in film with kids.
When you’re making a movie, you can picture it in your head. But, then you see the finished product—which, in this case, involves lots of special effects. Can you tell us about that?
It’s so crazy because it plays tricks a little bit on your memory when you do a scene and then there’s nothing there, but you’re imagining something. They showed us versions of what Elliot was going to be like and there had been a little screening of Elliot being adorable. So I had a sense in my mind’s eye of what I was looking at, but then when I saw the movie, all of a sudden I saw what was really there. When I remember back on doing the scene, it’s like as if he was really there, doing it.
Your father, director/actor Ron Howard, was a child actor, and you’re working here with child actors. Are you protective of them?
Very much so, for sure. I really love working with kids because I find it to be—I shouldn’t say easier, because it’s not like in comparison to adults, but it’s a very natural experience working with kids and playing with kids and pretending with kids, because that’s their normal state. With my children, the moment I say, "Let’s pretend there’s hot lava," they’re there instantly and it’s real hot lava and it’s intense!
Director David Lowery mentioned that he feels this film also allows children to explore being a little bit uncomfortable, and a little bit scared. Can you speak to that as a mother?
Yes, absolutely. It’s so interesting because the emotions of particularly early Disney films are really deep and heavy. Parents are always dying. That’s the greatest fear of a child that that is going to happen—or that you’ll get lost. And yet Disney has this history of making movies where the central characters are young people who are faced with the worst possible situation and yet are able to move through it and not just survive, but find themselves because of that.
For years with my son, I would play "Bambi" but fast-forward past the "mother" part or the big fight or the fire. Then, there came a day where I said, "We’re going to watch all of 'Bambi' and we’re going to talk about this." Movies and novels, and even just spoken stories, are there to help us manage our feelings so that when we are faced with these situations in real life, we can hopefully tolerate our feelings a little better.