Bryce Dallas Howard, daughter of director Ron Howard, is no newbie to supernatural films, nor is she a stranger to the notion of a jilted, half-crazy female - she starred in M Night Shyamalan’s The Village, and more recently appeared in The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond, a film adaptation of Tennessee Williams’s play. But the classically trained actor is demure and self-restrained when speaking about the Twilight phenomenon - a contrast with the fervour that surrounds the books and films.
In fact, Howard caused quite a blogosphere uproar herself when it was announced that she would replace Rachelle LeFevre as Victoria in the third Twilight installment, Eclipse. Summit Entertainment said the change-up was due to scheduling conflicts, although Twi-hards questioned that from the start. What is clear is that in this film, Victoria finally has her own mission: vegetarian vampire Edward Cullen killed her one true love, so she’ll attempt to break his heart by devouring his human paramour, Bella Swan. Howard called us from LA just before the Eclipse buildup reached its inevitable fever pitch.
You’re a newcomer to the Twilight machine. What do you think of it?
There’s this notion of a ‘Twilight machine’, but what I was so struck by is how grounded, grateful and normal all the people are. They are all cognizant of the fact that the genesis of this attention comes from what Stephenie Meyer created. There’s a lot of humility there.
Oh, come on. There wasn’t any bickering over who was a sexier vampire? Or a taller werewolf?
The cast feels a lot of responsibility to live up to expectations. There was no nonsense.
Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart wouldn’t even admit to Oprah that they were dating, but they do seem… close.
It’s not just them. Everyone is really close with one another. As an outsider, what struck me is that it almost seemed like they were a company of actors, like a theatre troupe putting on their hit show.
Some people say Twilight is the biggest pop-culture phenomenon since the Beatles. Would you say Victoria is the Yoko of the group?
That’s hilarious. But whereas Yoko is a real person, Victoria is just a character.
Yeah, but she drives Bella and Edward’s relationship to its climax.
I think for all readers, Victoria is meaningful, because she’s really intrinsic to the narrative of this story.
There was quite a bit of controversy when you took over the role from Rachelle Lefevre, who played her in Twlight and New Moon.
I found out about it days before I was on set. I’d read the books and had a lot of respect for David Slade as a filmmaker.
What did you hope to add to Rachelle’s portrayal?
I thought Rachelle’s performance was pitch-perfect. I didn’t hope or intend to add anything. My objective was to maintain continuity.
The big concern initially was that Taylor Lautner would be axed as Jacob because he wasn’t steroidal-looking in the first film. Did you talk with him about it?
Oh, no. No, no, no. Not at all. I remember hearing about that between Twilight and New Moon. I don’t know how true that is.
It seemed to have a solid basis in truth - there were blogs dedicated to the progression of his six-pack.
But it literally never came up after I got involved. Afterwards I was like, I wonder if that was actually true or just a rumour. I never asked, because I didn’t want to be like, ‘Heeey, is it true?’ if it did happen to have occurred.
Victoria is portrayed as evil, but it is possible to empathise with her: the Cullens killed her lover, she wants them dead, and Bella smells delicious. It makes sense.
This is vengeance. The dynamic that I got to play out in my head is that for a vampire, a human being is simply food. The fact that I lost the love of my life because he was - in Victoria’s mind - just eating, makes it worse!
All pretenses aside, is there anything you’re dreading about promoting Eclipse?
I’m really looking forward to catching up with everyone again. In terms of what I’m dreading… of course, it’s very sensitive and it’s very complex, and I understand everyone’s feelings around what happened. I actually share those feelings. So I get it, you know?
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse is out on July 8