It’s hard to believe Bryce Dallas Howard’s soft-quoted claim that when she was a kid growing up in Greenwich, Conn., she didn’t know her dad was famous. Her dad is, of course, the beloved and very famous Opie-grown-into-acclaimed-director Ron Howard. Plus, her mother is the accomplished actress and writer, Cheryl Howard, and her godfather is none other than the one-and-only Fonz, Henry Winkler.
With that lineage and its inherent insider connections – and the fact that she’s been on Dad’s movie sets observing and acting since she was 7-years-old – comes exposure to celebrity and opportunity few young actresses can imagine. Or, if they can, it’s probably with extreme envy. But Howard says she was sheltered from Hollywood – the fame and fortune of it all – by parents who wanted her and her three younger siblings to grow up with decent values and their own self-defined life goals.
“I didn’t really connect with the industry until I was in my teens,” says Howard. If that’s true, she reacted like most kids who are told not to do something: once she had a chance, she did exactly the opposite. At age 15 she attended Stage door Manor, a fairly celeb-conscious summer-theater camp whose alumni include Bryce, Natalie Portman, Robert Downey, Jr., Zach Braff and others. You can’t become more of an immediate insider than that. But despite these orchestrated steps, Bryce continues to claim her role as reluctant actress.
“When I was growing up, everyone seemed to assume I would become an actress or choose some other career that exercised my creativity and imagination – not so much because the entertainment industry was accessible to me, but because my imagination has so dominated my life,” she says. “But I was so frustrated by everyone’s assumptions about me and what I’d do, I rebelled against them and wanted to be a lawyer or forensic anthropologist.”
Of course, that never happened. Instead,Howard enrolled in NYU’s prestigious Tisch School of the Arts undergrad acting program, which assigned her to study at the legendary Stella Adler Conservatory.
The acting BA never happened, either. After finishing the third year of the four-year program, Howard left Tisch to pursue the career everyone had always assumed she’d follow.