The natural redhead goes blonde and reads comics to ensure an accurate performance in the new superhero film.
In the world of SPIDER-MAN comic books, Peter Parker’s first love was Gwen Stacy. Gwen met an untimely death at the hands of the Green Goblin, and at some point after that Mary Jane Watson became the love of Peter’s life. In the movies, director Sam Raimi chose not to introduce Gwen in the first film, so as not to confuse younger fans who only know that in the comics Spider-Man is married to Mary Jane. Two movies later, Raimi finally introduces Gwen Stacy played by Bryce Dallas Howard in SPIDER-MAN 3. iF MAGAZINE talked to the natural redhead about joining such a tight ensemble cast, having fun as a blonde, and dangling from a harness for weeks at a time.
iF MAGAZINE: How excited were you to join this project?
BRYCE DALLAS HOWARD: I was so excited. I’m a huge fan of this franchise. I loved the first film and I saw the second film and was completely blown away because I felt like it was better than the first, which I didn’t know was possible. I became one of those people who was going online to see what rumors about the third one were, and when I saw that they were talking about having another female character, I was all over that.
iF: When you researched Gwen in the comics, she is most famous for her death. Were you expecting to die?
HOWARD: I wasn’t sure what was going to happen, and the script did change a lot, but there was never an incarnation where that actually occurred. I have to say when I did start doing research and I found a picture of her on the Internet, I thought, ‘Are they sure they want to cast me as this character?’ because she had such a specific look and it wasn’t anything I ever saw myself doing or being able to do. There was a lot of hair meetings and make-up meetings.
iF: Do blondes really have more fun?
HOWARD: It was a lot of fun. It really was. Obviously, I feel more comfortable as a redhead because that’s what I am naturally. I got a lot of attention is grocery stores as a blonde, though. People would come up and offer help all the time. [Laughs.]
iF: So that was your real hair and not a wig?
HOWARD: They dyed it. I was blonde for about six months.
iF: How long did you have to dangle to be saved by Spider-Man?
HOWARD: Weeks. [Laughs.] Yeah, weeks. That was so much fun to shoot because they built this three or four-story structure on a soundstage, and they would collapse it over and over again. All of these desks and copy machines would slide down and smash and they’d scoop it up and set it up again. They put a harness on me so I was safe the entire time, but they’d really let me fall. There was no acting involved in that scene at all. [Laughs.]
iF: Did they give you a completed script before you signed on?
HOWARD: I joined the project really late, just a few days before shooting started in January. The script was already set, but there were of course during the process a lot of rewrites and changes. I was involved in the process as late as possible.
iF: What were your biggest surprises working on a movie of this size?
HOWARD: What was really surprising to me was the amount of time that was devoted to complexity of the characters and the rehearsals. How much effort did the producers and Sam [Raimi] put in to make sure that this was a film with a lot of gravity to it, and that the performances were what they wanted and the characters were what they wanted. I thought all of the focus would be on CGI and action and I was really delighted that it wasn’t. The set felt so intimate, it felt like we were really making some kind of independent film and everyone knew each other and they had done two films previously obviously so it was almost like a family. It was a very warm set and a very easygoing set. When I saw the film a couple of days ago I thought, ‘Oh my God this is what we were doing?’ It felt so small.
iF: Did you have a lot of friends that wanted to visit you while you were shooting this?
HOWARD: [Laughs.] Yes! One of my best friends would all of a sudden show up in my trailer every day and want to know where Venom was. I would ask Topher to humor us and walk into my trailer in costume, and my friend who is a really overly confident person would just be shaking because he was so excited.
iF: Were you happy with the way that Gwen’s confrontation with Peter and MJ played out?
HOWARD: Yeah, I was. I’m sure you know that the character of Gwen Stacy in the comic books is Peter’s first love and she’s around in the 1960s and ’70s and therefore I really wanted to be true to this character. I didn’t want to come into the third film as some kind of man-stealing, home-wrecking tart. [Laughs.] This is Gwen Stacy and so I was glad that the way the relationship was a friendship with Peter Parker and there was a closeness there and unintentionally she created some tension in their romance. I was very pleased with that.
iF: Sam Raimi has talked about developing Gwen in future films. Is that something that would interest you and what would it take for you to come back?
HOWARD: What would it take? Just asking! [Laughs.] I’ve been very vocal about the fact that if there is a fourth film I want to be a part of it. I loved the experience. This was one of the best experiences of my life and it almost didn’t feel like I was making a movie. It was great because we shot in Los Angeles and that’s where I live with my husband and I made a lot of lasting friendships and it was a blast. I love these films. I love what they represent. Sure, these are huge, huge films and it’s always great to be a part of something you know is going to be seen, but from a moral standpoint I think these films have something to say and I think that’s important.
iF: What kind of interaction and response have you had with the fans?
HOWARD: Not much interaction, other than scouring the Internet and reading every blog possible and seeing what they have to say, because that is a tremendous resource. These are people that have devoted a lot of time and emotional effort to write in a sense a thesis about what the significance of this character is and what impact she made on [Peter Parker’s] life. I have a lot of reverence for how dedicated they are. I hope I did a good enough job for them; I get how important it is.
iF: How was having James Cromwell as a father?
HOWARD: He is such a stellar actor and he was great to work with. Plus, he’s really tall, which made me fell better because I’m kind of tall and I’m always afraid that they’ll cast someone as my father and I’ll be taller than him. He’s fantastic; he’s the perfect Captain Stacy.
iF: How did you feel about having your picture splashed across the tabloids for the zip line stunt you did with Spider-Man on location in New York?
HOWARD: That was kind of crazy. Underneath my clothes were 40 pounds of harnesses, so that wasn’t the representation of Gwen Stacy that you want out there. You want to preserve the magic of the film. You don’t want them to see that you have harnesses on and that there is a big wire there, but it was also a bit exciting to see those pictures. Also because where I was shooting, a block away a few years previously one of my bosses lived and I would go and walk her dog. So I literally could see her house and her office, and I was with Spider-Man now!
iF: What other film projects do you have coming up?
HOWARD: Well, I just had a baby, so I’m still in mother mode. Technically I’m supposed to be on maternity leave right now, but this is my version of it. [Laughs.] In August I have a film called LOSS OF A TEARDROP DIAMOND, and it’s a Tennessee Williams screenplay and it’s never been made before. So hopefully I’ll get to do that.
iF: Any chance of working with M. Night Shyamalan again?
HOWARD: There’s been no discussion on that, but I would love to. I absolutely adore working with him. I think he’s a great storyteller. He has a new script called THE HAPPENING. I am such a dork, we’re friends and I could call him and read the script, but instead I’m going out on the Internet and looking for spoilers. [Laughs.]