It's the stuff aspiring actors' dreams are made of: to star in a play as a relative unknown, oblivious to there being a major film director in the audience – who notices your talent and casts you in his latest, blockbuster movie. It might sound like fantasy, but this was very much a reality for Bryce Dallas Howard.
"It was definitely the biggest career moment for me so far," she tells Harper's Bazaar in the latest episode of our video series, What You Don't Know About Me. "I was doing As You Like It at the Public Theatre in New York. M. Night Shyamalan came to see it, waited for me afterwards, and then straight up offered me the lead in his movie, The Village, which was my first part in a film. I was like, 'Don't you want me to audition for this?' and he said, 'No, I saw what I needed in the play'."
Howard's performance in The Village (opposite Hollywood heavyweights like Joaquin Phoenix and Brendan Gleeson) was enough to earn her the starring role in another of Shyamalan's films, Lady in the Water. After that, she became a well-known talent, appearing in massive franchises including Spider-Man, Jurassic Park, Twilight and Terminator, scoring a clutch of awards in the process. Most recently, she took on the lead in Matthew Vaughn's latest and much-hyped film, Argylle, which she describes as "a spy action comedy with so many twists and turns – and the greatest cat ever".
"I've been given lots of great advice over the years," Howard says of her acting career. "People can smell if an actor is busy, so make sure you have more things going on in your life, because it makes you a fuller, more expansive human being." She certainly fulfils that brief, with one rather unusual interest in particular: the Dewey Decimal System. "From a very young age, I was interested in being a librarian," she says, smiling. "My mom is actually a novelist, so reading is a big part of our family life. I'm passionate about research. That's something I really love. To be honest, I kind of still fantasise about it to this day."
Happily for viewers, Howard pursued her other passion of acting, but she has found fascination in that world, too. "I definitely feel most beautiful when I'm working with professional hair and make-up artists," she says, enthusiastically. "I really pay attention because they are masters of their craft, and I love to learn." Are there any specific tips she keeps front of mind? "Dry skin for me is the enemy. And this is boring, but sunblock – I'm 42 years old though, so I can say that now."
After years of trying to mould herself to Hollywood norms, Howard has reached a place of happy self-acceptance. "The advice I would give to my younger self is very clear," she says, firmly. "Don't diet. Do not try to change the shape of your body for aesthetic reasons and, in turn, compromise your health. It's none of your business how your body ends up."
These days, self-care for Howard comes in the form of her three cats and two dogs, or "fur babies", which make her light up ("they're all so weird and wonderful") as well as "taking care of my sleep hygiene, and making sure that I'm engaging in things that calm the nervous system. I love to watercolour – it's so nourishing." The self-described "child of the Nineties" also loves a retro playlist. "I love any Britney Spears song," she says. "I just can't help but be thrown back into my high school experience, enjoying ... Baby One More Time. Oh, and any Beyoncé song," she adds, laughing. "I feel like I'm almost not worthy to talk about Beyoncé, though!"
Watch our full video interview with Bryce Dallas Howard, above.
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