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Back with the dinosaurs: We chat to Bryce Dallas Howard leading lady of Jurassic World

Bryce Dallas Howard was just 12 when Jurassic Park was released - now, 22 years on, she's the leading lady in Jurassic World

By Keeley Bolger

Published 05/06/2015

Bryce Dallas Howard
Bryce Dallas Howard

Assuming she "would never get a chance" to audition for a role in the much-anticipated blockbuster Jurassic World, Bryce Dallas Howard had another reason for "begging" for a meeting with the director Colin Trevorrow.

"I was just looking at that meeting as a chance to get spoilers," says the 34-year-old, laughing.

"As a fan, I wanted to know what they were going to do with Jurassic World, and I think what they chose to do was absolutely inspired," adds the actress, best known for her performances in The Help, Spider-Man 3 and the Twilight movies.

The first two films were hits with audiences, but the critics weren't quite as impressed.

In Jurassic World, the action takes place in the dinosaur theme park originally envisioned by Dr John Hammond (played by the late Richard Attenborough). Howard plays operational manager Claire who, at first, is desperate to attract visitors. But, of course, things go terribly wrong, and she ends up having to call in ex-military animal expert Owen (Chris Pratt) to try and save the day.

Playing the "powerful" but "misguided" Claire was a hearty life lesson for the actress, who is the eldest daughter of Happy Days actor and acclaimed director Ron Howard.

Growing up, her parents (her mum is author Cheryl Howard) were against Howard and her three younger siblings becoming child actors, although they did relent and allow their eldest daughter to play a tiny un-credited role in her dad's 1989 comedy Parenthood.

But Howard, who visited her father's film sets in the school holidays, was determined to act, and as soon as she was old enough, she trained at New York's Tisch School Of The Arts where she met her future husband Seth Gabel, who starred in The Da Vinci Code and US TV series Fringe.

"Claire needed to let go of control," explains the actress, who has inherited her famous dad's thick auburn hair, green eyes and friendly manner.

"This was a really important journey for me in my own spirit, because I consider myself a bit of an organised person, perhaps a little too much at times, and it was beautiful to play this woman who really comes into her own. Hopefully I took some of that with me."

But just a glimpse at the actress' feet, which are nestled in a homely but bog-standard pair of white hotel slippers today, suggests that maybe she won't be keeping Claire's stilettos - which the character insists on wearing as she darts away from the dinosaurs.

"Claire goes out into the jungle and her white clothes get muddy and ripped up and she gets bruised and sweaty - but girlfriend does not take off her heels," says Howard with a loud laugh, joking that she's going to add "running in the jungle in heels" to her CV.

While the film is expected to make a whopping $100m in its opening weekend in the States, were there any doubts in Howard's mind about accepting the role?

She shakes her head indicating a firm "no".

"I don't think there's a bigger critic than me of anything that was going to step on the memory of what Jurassic Park was," says the actress. "When I eventually read the script, I felt so excited to be in a film that I so believe in, and as a fan. I'm very proud of this movie."

Not least because being in one of the summer's biggest blockbusters is winning her some young fans, including her eight-year-old son Theodore, who she says is "so excited" to see the film.

"Someone asked my three-and-a-half-year-old daughter Beatrice what her favourite thing in the whole world was, and she said, 'Dinosaurs'," says the actress, who married Gabel in 2006. "I was like, 'Atta girl!'

"It's very cool that I'm getting to be in this movie, and that Jurassic World hopefully is a film that really resonates with today's generation of young people in the way that Jurassic Park did 22 years ago. I hope that my children are a part of that."

While Theodore is at the prime age to watch his mum's dinosaur flick, Howard remembers her own parents, who were childhood sweethearts and have been married for over 40 years, having a different reaction when the original Steven Spielberg film came out in 1993, when she was 12.

"My parents were really strict and they would never let me watch a film as scary as Jurassic Park was at that age," recalls Howard, who was brought up on a farm in Connecticut, away from the circus of Hollywood.

"Yet they went on opening night. I distinctly remember this, because all my friends went to see the movie on that Friday and I wasn't allowed to go, I was devastated. My parents came home and they said, 'Bryce, this is cinema history, you must see this movie in the theatre'."

Many actors might try to distance themselves from a famous relative, to avoid accusations of nepotism, but Howard is happy with any connections with her family.

Along with her dad, there's also actor grandfather Rance Howard, late grandmother Jean Frances Speegle Howard, who was also an actress, uncle Clint Howard who starred in Apollo 13 and younger sister Paige, who works as a TV actress.

"I'm so proud to be a Howard," says the star. "I love being a Howard. I obviously love my dad and have immense respect for him.

"Any association with him is something I feel so grateful for, because he's such a great dad and a great human being.

"How long have I been working for now? Fifteen years? That's crazy. So now, what is ironic, is if someone doesn't bring him up, I probably inevitably will, because he's such a huge part of my life."

And like her dad, she is clearly in Hollywood for the long game.

"I feel so lucky," she says. "I'm getting to make a living doing what I love."

  • Jurassic World is released in cinemas on June 11

Belfast Telegraph

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