Bryce Dallas Howard had great memories of the original “Pete’s Dragon” Walt Disney movie. When it was released in 1977, the actress (Ron Howard’s daughter) was just 4 years old. When the opportunity arose for the “Jurassic World” star to be in the remake, out Friday, she jumped at the chance to play Grace, a park ranger who finds and rescues Pete, an orphan who is raised in the forest by a (gentle) fire-breathing, green giant. We spoke to the married mother of two — her husband is actor Seth Gabel — while she was at the Faena Miami Beach Hotel.
How did you get involved with this project?
I really, really liked ‘Pete’s Dragon’ when I was a kid. When I heard they were going to be remaking it, at first I was really curious. Then I read the script and it was really emotional — actually more emotional than I had remembered. It kind of surprised me a little. This version is similar in some respects. A child has lost his family and his best friend is a dragon. There are the same central characters. It’s the same powerful, coming of age story. I knew I wanted to be a part of it if possible. Then I got asked to do it, which was very cool.
How would you describe Grace?
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She’s on her own kind of journey, stepping into the role of being a parent and guardian and protector of this child. She’s also someone who’s heard stories of dragons existing in these woods by her father played by Robert Redford. When she finds Pete in the forest there is no explanation for how he has survived for so many years on his own. The mystery resolves itself and she sees that magic really does exist. As an adult sometimes you need to be reminded of that.
How was the on-set experience?
We got to shoot in New Zealand and I want to get back there as soon as possible! It’s one of the most beautiful places on the planet. It was meant to double for the Pacific Northwest and I think did that very well. Even better, there are no predators out there so you felt at peace. I wasn’t going to turn a corner and encounter a wolf or bear or snake. I kept saying. ‘This is utopia.’ It was just one of those amazing film-making experiences.
Anything else you want to share?
The only thing I would say as a parent is that I’m so proud of this film and am extremely excited to show it to my children. It’s meant a lot for me personally.