What Bryce Dallas Howard Learned About Her Own Father, Ron Howard, While Making Directorial Debut, “Dads”

Bryce Dallas Howard
Howard with her director dad, Ron Howard

Photo Credit: Apple TV+

For her directorial debut, Bryce Dallas Howard took inspiration from one of her personal role models: her own, father, director Ron Howard. In her documentary, Dads, which premieres today on Apple TV+, the Jurassic World actress steps behind the lens to explore the role of the modern-day father. It’s a love letter to great dads out there everywhere, to show that they really are appreciated, noticed, and needed. In addition to advice from her own father, Howard turned to real-life dads as well as kings of comedy alike, including Will Smith, Judd Apatow, Jimmy Falllon, Neil Patrick Harris, Ken Jeong, Jimmy Kimmel, Conan O’Brien, Patton Oswalt, Kenan Thompson and Rob Scheer, among others to explore, well, dads. Here is what she learned.

Bryce Dallas Howard Photo Credit: DFree/Shutterstock.com

Why did you decide to do this now?

It was one of those things where I had a mission to make this movie and I made the movie and here we are. It was something where for years I had been pretty vocal with people who know me, like my friends and family and people I work with, about how I think it’s deplorable how men are depicted as fathers in media, literature and films and there’s such a huge discrepancy between what we see in terms of how fathers are depicted and what we actually see in the real world. All the fathers I’ve encountered in my life are totally committed to being great fathers. Are they all perfect? No, none of us are. So this opportunity came up with Unilever [which owns Dove] wanted to finance a modern documentary about modern fathers. So I went in to meet them and learn more about what they were interested in. it was so funny because I went into that meeting going, ‘This will be interesting’ and I left that meeting going, ‘We’re making a movie!’ Like completely and totally focused and convinced. What we had talked about in the room was this organization which did all of the research for Dove Men’s+ Care and they focused Dove’s initiatives around supporting modern fathers around the globe with a particular focus on paternity leave. What I learned in the room was that most of the fathers around the globe being offered paternity leave do not take it. why? Because the idea of fathers being caregivers is stigmatized. It’s assumed that they aren’t committed to their jobs because they’re choosing to take advantage of their paternity leave. This is a symptom of a larger global culture where we have been very dismissive of fathers forever. So much so that there’s no rite of passage for a father when he becomes a dad. There is for women but there’s no acknowledgement for men. I [decided] I wanted to interview comedians because they are our modern-day philosophers and stand-up comedians look at their lives through the lens of comedy, and then profiling dads across the globe.

How hard was it to get Will Smith to commit? Is he an old family friend?

No! I didn’t know him! He was my reach for sure where I was like I so badly want to interview Will Smith. Honestly, we were almost in trouble as a production because so many of our pie in the sky comedian dads said yes! It was amazing. He was so generous and involved and really super enthusiastic to be sharing about his kids and sharing about being dad, and very, very genuine. He’s such a wise person.

Did you seek the answers you were looking for when starting this? What did you conclude? What is the role of the modern father?

What happened ultimately was the end result of the movie was that I hope that when dads see it, they’d feel seen, less alone, that they’re part of a community. That they’d realize that we know, as women, how vital fathers are. I think that for me, when I became a parent, I really struggled with just feeling isolated and alone and having all those feelings. I know that that can be really, really detrimental. When I started out making this, I didn’t assume that’s how dads felt. I didn’t realize how significantly dads are kept in the background and groomed to be providers but not caregivers, how the fathers who work against that and find ways to be engaged, active parents, those are amazing individuals and they deserve to be celebrated, especially Father’s Day weekend.

Bryce Dallas HowardPhoto Credit: Apple TV+

Did this give you any insight into your dad as a parent?

Of course getting to interview my dad was wonderful and extremely memorable and in this movie also getting to incorporate the interview I had done with my grandfather in 2013. And then there was this serendipitous thing happened where I was looking for an expecting father, and then my brother and his wife shared that they were going to be having their first kid. In interviewing all of them, the thing that just really stood out to me was the cycle and legacy of really committed parenting and what that can do for a family over generations. What that impact is, and what that looks like. My dad worried that he could never be as a good a dad as his own father, and my brother has those same exact worries. It’s something that I was surprised to hear that my brother had that concern, because he’s going to be the greatest dad ever, and I was shocked to hear that my dad had that concern. It was something that I think the desire to be a great father and that goal is something that we support our men with as much as we do with women.

Have you ever spoken to your dad about this, what he thinks is the greatest lesson he’s taught you and [your siblings]?

He’s not a person to be like, ‘This is what I taught you’ kind of thing. He’s a very humble guy. I know that there are certain values and ethics that are essential in our family, and the golden rule is certainly one of them. To this day, and I’m 39 years old, if my dad sees behavior or hears something that he thinks is disrespectful for any reason, he’ll say it. and I’ll say it, and my brother will say it. There’s this holding one another accountable as a family based on our shared family values. I think that’s probably what’s most important for my dad in terms of what he’s taught us.

Let’s flip that: What would you say is the most important thing that he’s taught you?

It’s certainly how he is in the world. He’s a very kind, conscientious person who knows that he’s imperfect and is constantly striving to grow. I admire how he operates in the world. I admire his value system. I admire how he treats people. It’s the kind of person that he is, is just very decent and I aspire to be a decent human being at the very least.

Are you going to take on moms or brothers?

Because we’ve seen women be celebrated for being moms so much – and listen, as a much, keep celebrating us, please! It’s not easy. However, we’ve seen that and I think that celebrating something that is perhaps unexpected or something that you would never assume, I feel like that’s a little bit like every character that a woman played in a TV show if she was above the age of 30 was a mom for a certain period of time. That’s a huge generalization, but you know what I mean. How many stories have we seen from the father’s perspective where there is a mother but the story is really about being a dad? There’s just not a ton. A moms documentary [if I did it] would be very, very different.

What’s next for you?

There’s another documentary that I’m hoping to pitch next week actually and then there’s a few films that I’m developing and working on. I directed on season 2 of The Mandalorian. I don’t know exactly what the next thing is but I’ve got a few projects cooking. And I’ll be heading off to go resume filming for Jurassic World, so that’s going to be my focus for the next little while.

What to you is the greatest luxury in life?

I’ll just say the first thing that popped in my head, which is also the second and third thing, and that’s time to read.

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