Thursday July 20, 2006
Bryce Dallas Howard becomes a mystical 'Lady'
By DANIEL FIENBERG
Two years after launching her leading-lady career in M. Night Shyamalan's The Village, Bryce Dallas Howard reunites with the eccentric director for Lady in the Water.
"It was so superb working with him for a second time, because doing The Village, it was almost like our introduction, like we were getting to know each other," Howard recalls. "And just the tail end of shooting that film, we were really able to speak on a different level with each other, all the polite small-talk eventually had dissipated; and then when we started Lady in the Water, fortunately, we started right at that place and so we were able to get deeper and deeper into the text for that reason and into the storytelling."
In the case of Lady, the text focuses on Story (Howard), a mysterious narf who turns up in the swimming pool of the apartment complex managed by Paul Giamatti's Cleveland Heep. She's there with a very specific and other-worldly purpose. But wait ... What the blazes is a narf?
A narf, it seems, is a sea nymph-like being, a traveller between realms, a scared innocent on a mission. Howard, who played a blind innocent in The Village, relishes the chance to play these odd characters.
"It was actually almost a relief, because sarcasm and irony, all of that ends up, I find in life, in language, creating a barrier between those that you're actually trying to communicate with," she says. "So the fact that she was just so genuine was really lovely and so bare and so open and vulnerable, something I definitely would like to take into my own personal life, and the fact that she really didn't have much dialogue, that she was just there to listen, that's very very unusual."
It wasn't just irony that Howard had to strip away to play Story. Narfs, like mermaids, aren't much for clothing, which meant that Howard's wardrobe was as minimal as a PG movie can allow.
"That was kind of a battle for me, like is it that I need to feel comfortable so that I can have no inhibitions or do I just go there and have no inhibitions and that was something I was constantly gauging for myself," Howard reflects. "I'm a fairly physically modest person. I don't walk around in revealing clothing. I own one one-piece bathing suit and I haven't worn it for years."
The solution to Howard's insecurities was to put her faith in Shyamalan, refusing to feel any pressure to carry the movie herself.
"I'd say none, because the entire movie is resting on Night's story," she says. "That's really and truly how I felt. When I read the script, it wasn't like I controlled the action of this film or this character controlled the action of the film - she's there to really just be present and then all of the other characters react off of her. I was just truly guided by Night and it relieved all of that pressure."
And what message does she hope viewers take away from this fairy tale of a movie?
"In my opinion, I would say it's very simple - it's that if you have faith, all that is meant to be will happen."
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