SHE was paid $3 million less than her Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom co-star Chris Pratt, but Bryce Dallas Howard says there’s a bigger pay gap problem in Hollywood.
“The one that we need to focus on the most is the pay discrepancy between individuals who are caucasian and people of colour,” she told news.com.au, when she sat down for an interview at the Four Seasons in New York. “It’s an insane discrepancy and one that we really, really, really, really need to solve instantly, because it’s wrong.”
In fact, her $11 million pay packet, compared with Pratt’s $14 million one, was seen as a relative victory by many in the industry. Howard is less well-known than her co-star, and this is her first leading role in a major franchise — although the pair have equal billing in the movie.
But the 37-year-old is happy with people discussing her earnings. “I think any conversation about discrepancy in pay is really important,” she says. “All of these conversations are critical and that’s how we move beyond a lot of ignorance, which there has been, or people feigning ignorance.”
Howard believes Hollywood has become “a public testing ground” for social transformation, and it’s now up to actors to set an example.
“Communication amongst co-workers is really important, going to our unions … making sure that you advocate for yourself and you advocate for others, that’s really critical,” she says. “I think we’re definitely seeing that, more and more.
“That’s where inclusion riders come in and really it does come down to ensuring every single person takes personal responsibility for everything that they can, pushing this issue forward and making sure there is a solution. Because to think that the power is not in our hands is totally wrong and that is ignorance, to think that you as an individual can’t make a difference and blame it on someone else.”
Howard is used to being at the centre of a feminist debate. Her Jurassic World character, Claire Dearing, is seen running from dinosaurs in high heels in the first movie — and the decision was heavily criticised.
But the daughter of Hollywood director Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind, Parenthood) believes the heels are crucial to her character, and insisted the script for the second film was altered to have her in heels for several scenes.
“In the first movie, certainly, the visual, the journey of the heels and her seeming like she’s not going to survive in a jungle to quite literally outrunning a T-Rex in heels — that represented who she was, her story, how unlikely her survival was, all of that,” she says.
“And then in this movie it’s — I mean, you see there’s also kind of a bit of a journey in the footwear, in that you see this is a woman who has kind of a foot in both worlds now, and when given the opportunity to be prepared, she will choose boots.”
Laughing, she adds: “I think in the third movie there will be not one shot of my feet.”
Claire goes through a “significant evolution” over the course of the two movies, says Howard, from viewers wondering if she is a villain who will be “eaten by a dinosaur in two seconds” to becoming a hero.
“That story really was about her getting back in touch with her values and seeing that there are consequences to corporate greed and that she, being in a position of leadership, she would take personal responsibility for those choices,” says the LA-born actress. “And so that’s really the person you meet in the second film, she’s become an activist, she believes that these animals, these dinosaurs, deserve the same rights as any other endangered species.”
Howard has also undergone an evolution, from supporting roles in the Twilight and Spider-Man 3 franchisesto the star of a global box office smash, with the Jurassic World films grossing more than $1 billion each worldwide.
“I definitely consider myself a feminist,” she says. “Do I consider Twilight a feminist movie? I mean, I think that I wouldn’t say that that’s feminist literature necessarily. If I was looking for Twilight in a library, I wouldn’t be like, ‘Where’s the feminist literature section, that’s where I’m going to find that book!’ But I definitely think it spawned a lot of conversations about the female voice, about adolescence, about sexual awakening and I think that any kind of opportunity for a woman to be an author of a female character, and for that character to be the centre, that is a step forward for sure.”
Howard has a special connection with this part of the world, acting a tourism ambassador for her “favourite place” — New Zealand.
“I spent time there when I was really, really young and just have so many vivid memories of that time, and kind of couldn’t place it really, because I was five and I was like, ‘I don’t really know where I was.’
“And then I went back to New Zealand to shoot Pete’s Dragon and I was like, ‘oh my gosh this is it, this is the paradise, this is the place that I’ve been kind of dreaming about my whole life.’
“Since then, I’ve been back many times and planning a holiday actually with my family this winter, which will be summer in New Zealand … It’s an incredible country.”