As a Star Wars Director, Bryce Dallas Howard Is a Force to Be Reckoned With

Although she knew she wanted to follow in his footsteps, Howard also took to heart her father’s advice: that if she wanted to make it in the theater and film industry, she couldn’t just be good at just one thing. As a result, she says, Howard started “spinning plates,” infiltrating various aspects of film production—including, of course, acting.

To her surprise, Howard started landing roles. “I remember thinking, Oh, my gosh, this is kind of a coup,” she says. Her big break came in 2003 when she performed as Rosalind in Shakespeare’s As You Like It at New York’s Public Theater, catching the attention of director M. Night Shyamalan. Without an audition, Shyamalan cast Howard as the lead in his 2004 film The Village.

But as she continued to appear in films by Lars von Trier, Kenneth Branagh, Sam Raimi, Clint Eastwood, and Colin Trevorrow, Howard never lost sight of her desire to direct—often choosing acting gigs as a means of gleaning techniques and the application of new technology. Howard was also putting her lessons to practical use, writing and directing a number of short films.

Despite all that, Howard’s goal wouldn’t become a reality until 2017, during the troubled production of Solo: A Star Wars Story. The standalone Star Wars film was being helmed by directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller—until the two left the project, citing “creative differences” about halfway through principal photography. Ron Howard, who had acted for George Lucas in American Graffiti, directed Willow, and has said he was asked by Lucas to direct Episode I—The Phantom Menace, took over the job.

His daughter, naturally, saw a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. “I had just finished Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. We were shooting in Pinewood [Studios], which is the same location where my dad was. And I went to him and said, ‘Please, can I shadow you on Solo? I feel unbelievably lucky and privileged for all the access that I have had in my life, but I’m asking right now for more. Please, please, please can I shadow you on Solo?’” After getting approval from the powers that be, Howard was granted access.

There, Howard was introduced to producer John Swartz, who was quickly making a name for himself working under Lucasfilm’s newly-minted president Kathleen Kennedy. Swartz would eventually invite Howard to take part in a workshop for young filmmakers where they could write, develop ideas, and be given exposure to some of the breakthrough technology at Lucas’s visual effects company, Industrial Light & Magic.

This is the part where things get a little fuzzy for Howard. “I’ll never really know,” she says. “I think my name got put on a list.” For whatever reason, in 2018, an email from Jon Favreau arrived in Howard’s inbox asking if he could talk to her about a project. “We got on the phone, and he talked through Star Wars and George, and what was incredibly meaningful about Star Wars and storytelling and sharing these really beautiful, inspiring sentiments,” recalls Howard. “And then he said, ‘I’ve written a series, and I’d love for you to take a look at it. You can come in and I’ll show you all the artwork and stuff, and we can talk about it and you can see if you’d be interested. And so then I read the pilot, and when it got to Baby Yoda, I was just like, What am I reading?!”

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