The daughter of Academy Award winning director, Ron Howard, Bryce Dallas Howard, has had featured roles in Spider-man 3, Terminator Salvation and the upcoming The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, taking over the role of Victoria, but her most challenging part to date is Fisher Willow, in The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond, a new drama based on a recently rediscovered original screenplay by the legendary Tennessee Williams.
Set in the Roaring Twenties in Williams’ hometown of Memphis, the film tells the story of Fisher Willow, a headstrong young heiress who rebels under the constraints of proper Southern society, by asking the impoverished but handsome son of her fathers’ caretaker, Jimmy Dobyne (Chris Evans), to escort her to the major social events of the season.
What was it like to do this long lost Tennessee Williams story?
I just feel really lucky to get to work on a role like this, to originate a Tennessee Williams’ heroine, you don’t think those kinds of roles will ever be available. It was extraordinary and so exciting for me.
You describe her as a Tennessee Williams’ heroine, is that a genre unto itself? Do you try to keep all the characterizations of his other characters out of your mind?
No, I really valued going through his canon of work and studying the great performances that had already been captured on film, and reading about the great theatrical performances, because he was a very singular writer, and he had particular themes that it seems he was consistently fascinated by.
There is an iconic Williams’ character that you see elements over and over again, which is a woman ahead of her time, a woman who is being suffocated by the world, a woman who is too bright, too clever, too sensitive to really survive and feel grounded. And to watch Blanche DuBois (Streetcar Named Desire) and Maggie the Cat (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof), these iconic characters that he created, was helpful.
In the fifty-two years since this was written, there has been some changes in terms of the way films are put together and what audiences expect. There are really long speeches in this; did you have to adapt your approach to it because it is so dialogue rich?
I come from a little bit of a theatrical background, and I went to drama school, so to get to do a piece where the characters get to talk a lot, where it isn’t simply visual, was really wonderful, juicy and exciting.
So I didn’t feel like there needed to be an adaptation to a different kind of style,.
It’s just that the characters are actually saying what’s on their mind and that’s something that Tennessee Williams is really famous for.
What was the best advice your father ever gave you as an actor? And what’s the best advice he gave you from a directorial standpoint?
The best advice he gave me was if there was anything else that I could do, to do that. (she laughs) From a directorial standpoint, I think it’s really Freudian the kind of trust I have in filmmakers, because I have such a trusting relationship with my dad. He’s such a mentor to me; he’s never let me down as a person.
That has translated to me as filmmakers, and I think the best piece of advice he’s given me has just been in his nature that I have an association that director means total authority, director means they will never let you down, director means just trust them and fill their vision and the story will be told in its best incarnation.
Can you talk about working with Chris Evans?
Chris comes from a theatre background as well and he really values rehearsal. It was such a relief to work with him because usually I feel like I’m the one harassing people to [rehearse a scene] again, and he was right there. We rehearsed pretty consistently until four in the mornings, because it’s a very nuanced relationship and there are shifts in the dominant/submissive that happen throughout the film, and it’s Tennessee Williams and we wanted to do our best. I can remember looking at the monitor one day and it was like watching Paul Newman; there’s something classic about Chris.
For Twilight fans, what are they doing to make your playing Victoria a smooth transition?
I’m wearing a wig for that film, so that there’s a very grounded visual continuity for the character, which is critical.
She has a bigger part in the third one, doesn’t she?
Yes, as written in the book Victoria becomes the primary predator of Bella.
You’re going to do Hereafter also, can you tell us what type of character you play in it?
That’s actually the first question I’ve been asked about that. I want to be careful as I haven’t spoken to anyone on the film as far as what I can share. It’s a Clint Eastwood film written by Peter Morgan and starring Matt Damon and I play opposite him. It’s an incredible story. I’m really going to be totally vague with you because I don’t want to speak out-of-turn because I just got hired.
It sounds like it’s scary, which might be new territory for Clint?
Possibly (she laughs)
Anything on another Spiderman sequel?
All of us are still very much in contact, and I’m really supportive of whatever happens. I’m just really glad that it’s going to be Sam (Raimi), Tobey (Maguire) and Kirsten (Dunst), because they’re the epicenter of that franchise and they’re responsible for its success.