Ever have those days when you plan to meet up with your long lost girlfriend, and she’s running a tad late? But once she arrives, she is apologetic and you are both just really happy to see once another? And then all you can do is chat about kids, hair, and gorgeous men just like old times? That’s the feeling I got when Bryce Dallas Howard of PETE’S DRAGON walked into the room. Of course she is tall gorgeous and was totally rocking the cutest outfit. But the one thing that stuck out with me when we were chatting with her was how RELATE-ABLE she is. Just one of the moms, wanting to chit chat with girlfriends…
So first I should mention, with much excitement that Disney’s PETE’S DRAGON opens today! Make sure you check out my experience at the premiere and my review of the film. To celebrate the film’s opening, I’m posting a series of interviews with the cast. As you can tell by the intro and title of this post… today I’m sharing with you an exclusive interview with Bryce Dallas Howard who portrays Grace in the film. Grace is the local forest rangers who overlooks and cares for the deep woods in which Pete and Elliot reside. In our conversation with her, we chatted about everything from parenting, to the original Pete’s Dragon, to what it’s like to ride on top of Elliot.
So my first impression of Bryce aside from what I talked about above? What a sweetheart! As she scurried into the Academy Room of the Hotel Roosevelt, she immediately began to apologize for her tardiness. As she plays a forest ranger in the film, she mentioned she was shooting a tidbit for the National Parks since it is their Centennial. She then turned the attention to us, quipping that “mommy bloggers” are responsible for all her parenting choices! She thanks us while mentioning what a difference parenting is from when she had her first child (who is almost 10) to her second child (who is almost 5.)
Bryce Dallas Howard Interview
Did they (her children) hang out with you in New Zealand?
Bryce: Yeah, I came to New Zealand. They went to school there. It was cool because, 30 years previously, my dad shot Willow, partly in New Zealand and I went there. I have very vivid memories from that time. I went back 30 years later with my own kids around the same age so it was really awesome.
Can you tell us about how you took on this role and why you wanted to do this role?
Bryce: So the 1977 version of PETE’S DRAGON was just one of those… you know how how as kids there is a collection of movies… and there’s a sweet spot like an age where you just watch those movies again and again and again? PETE’S DRAGON is one of just a few movies that was that for myself and my siblings.
Photo credit: Jana Seitzer / MerlotMommy.com
Bryce mentioned that when she brought up the film to her kids, their reaction was excitement. “Dinosaurs and now dragons???” She said this was definitely a motivating factor for doing the film.
If you are wondering if her kids have seen the original yet, the answer is NOPE! She’s been slowly getting them hooked on the tale with a little board book that is based on the 1977 film.
Bryce: I didn’t want to show them that film and then have them say to me “well why weren’t you singing?” or something like that. But yes, they will, of course, see both the movies for sure.
What is it about your character that you are you most like?
Bryce: It’s really interesting with the Disney movies because watching them when I was a kid I always identified with the child. Then reading the script (for PETE’S DRAGON) I just instantly was thinking about it from the perspective of being a parent.
Bryce mentioned that it as her husband who suggested she use kind of the relationship and dynamic she has with their own kids. “Just be with Pete in the way that you are with Theo and Beatrice.“
Photo credit: Jana Seitzer / MerlotMommy.com
You had a great rapport with Oakes. Did you meet with him before the movie? Did you have any interaction with him prior?
Bryce: We all came to New Zealand a couple of weeks, leading into shooting and rehearsals.Once we were there, we were like a traveling circus! All of us and we went to a lot of different places in New Zealand. Wes brought his family. So there was a lot of kids. It actually reminded me a lot of when I was a kid and my dad was making Parenthood. I was seven years old. It was so fun. I was on set every day just surrounded by kids my own age. It was pretty much exactly like that for my kids as well.
What was it like working with Robert Redford?
Bryce: Oh my gosh, okay so upstairs, I stayed in the hotel last night and there’s a picture of him as a young man in like the hallway. I like opened the elevator doors and I’m like “HELLO!” Seriously. It was phenomenal. When you are around him, you feel so much peace. Just being in this really serene environment and having these long awesome conversations with him… well, less a conversation and more just me peppering him with questions. It was incredible. He’s a family man, raising kids also, in this industry. He has a lot of perspective on that and it was wonderful getting to learn from him and to be around him and admire him… and see that he has the most incredible head of hair! He’s never dyed his hair!
Did you have a favorite moment or scene while you were filming out there? (My question!)
Bryce: It was definitely, for me, getting to ride on the back of Elliott. I was just in hysterics that whole day. I was sitting behind Wes last night at the premiere and I just like grabbed his shoulders when we were watching it.
Me: He told us that that was his favorite scene too.
Bryce: Yes, we were just losing it the whole time because you know,we’re adults and we have kids and just like we’re on a dragon! And the way they set it up it was kind of like this rig where we had harnesses on and you had to climb up pretty high up on a ladder. It would move around like a ride. It was nice that they kind of replicated the Disneyland experience in New Zealand while we were shooting. It was really fun.
Bryce: So I haven’t thought really critically about that question but just my first thought is The Little Mermaid. It came out at a time when I was in second or third grade. Ariel has red hair. I had red hair. I still have red hair. It just was one of those movies where I memorized all the songs. I used to do really dangerous things such as I would put on a leotard and then I would tie my legs together and I would throw myself in the pool. Interestingly enough, David Lowery, the director of PETE’S DRAGON… we’re the same age and he said the exact same thing.
Did he use to tie his legs together?
Bryce: No, no, no! he didn’t. He didn’t practice any bondage or anything on himself!
What message do you want people to walk away with from PETE’S DRAGON?
Bryce: What has always occurred to me is that so many Disney movies deal with loss. I mean actually, like it’s like a mother can’t survive right? Like every movie… it’s so crazy. And what’s really powerful about that, there’s this great Walt Disney quote that I’m just going to completely paraphrase here where he essentially was saying that “There can’t be light without shadows.” The Walt Disney films don’t shy away from that.
Photo credit: Jana Seitzer / MerlotMommy.com
I think that’s a really powerful message because we all experience loss. And we will eventually experience the extreme loss of losing parents. Another thing that’s occurred to me over time is that Disney films seem to be, for me, like 50% entertainment and 50% therapeutic. You sort of practice those emotions as a child and you go through that experience and in a way this is sort of what I think stories are meant to do. They are to prepare you for what is ahead. They prepare you for the commonalities within the human experience. I think that seeing that journey of finding your family and in the midst of that having bonds that are completely impossible or unconventional. His (Pete) best friend is a dragon. I think that is definitely a powerful message.
I think just telling stories that intertwine or integrate the imaginary world with the real world… I think for kids and adults it allows us to sort of like transcend the daily grind of reality and reminds us to look for magic. It can make you believe that the supernatural exists or just that there is something beyond. It’s not in a religious sense at all, or even a spiritual sense. I think we all have that kind of sense of wonder within us and awe within us.
And having a movie that’s a live-action film with a character who is magic and mythological. I think that does something for kids. My favorite question to be asked after a screening is from a kid saying like “What was it like working with Elliott?” and “Where is Elliott right now?” Just to keep that alive is really… I definitely treasure that.
Was there a defining moment while shooting the film?
Bryce: Other than the riding on the Dragon… there was one day in particular where we were walking into the woods. Two of the bet things about New Zealand, in my opinion, is that there are no predators…
Except for a dragon.
Bryce: Except for a Dragon, yeah! But there are no predators, no snakes, nothing. And the other thing is that most places it is very difficult to get an Internet connection. So those two things work together beautifully. There was a day where we were shooting in the forest. Bob was there and Oakes was there and Oona. I just remember looking up and it was just kind of perfect and idyllic. No one was on their phones. It felt like that kind of innocent perfect moment. I’m realizing the older I get how much of a privilege that is. We live in like the suburbs. Our backyard is half the size of this table, which I’m like so grateful for. But I asked my daughter recently “Do you want to grow up in nature?” And she “I am growing up in nature!” I was like “Girlfriend, that’s Astroturf in the back!” New Zealand is consistently ranked as one of the best places to raise families in the world. And I realized why. It definitely kind of shifted something for me as a parent in terms of my priorities. I think having those experiences, being surrounded by nature, and being in a serene state where there is no fear… I really want that for my kids.
Unfortunately she had other press commitments that day otherwise I think we could have all kept chatting! As we dispersed from taking our group photo, she asked us what age group we thought was appropriate for the film. It was almost kind of a “Did that just really happen?” moment when I was face to face with Bryce Dallas Howard responding to her question of that I planned to take my 5 year old.
I don’t even remember what she then said to me, but my response was how excited he is for the film after watching the trailer. She thought that was so sweet and was excited for him to see the film. Of course I’ll wait till he is older to tell him how personally excited Bryce was for him to see the film LOL.
Bryce Dallas How-To?
Throughout the interview, it was apparent that Bryce Dallas Howard was not only a sweetheart, but she is hilarious! She has a great sense of humor. Have you seen her “Bryce Dallas How-To” videos??? Check them out below!
Pete’s Dragon Trailer
PETE’S DRAGON arrives in theaters TODAY, August 12!
Want to learn more on my most recent adventure in LA? We can connect on head on over to Twitter (@AshBG) and on Instagram (@ashb4211). As you browse my social media feed, simply look for the hashtags #PetesDragonEvent, #JungleBookBluray, #QueenOfKatwe, and #Moana.
While I’attended an expense paid trip by Disney to Los Angeles, all opinions are 100% my own. PETE’S DRAGON film images provided by Walt Disney Publications.