Bryce Dallas Howard set out to create a tribute film to her father, Ron Howard, and grandfathers, but through the process, she ended up with a movie to which we can all relate. Dads looks at the lives of Hollywood celebrity dads Judd Apatow, Jimmy Fallon, Neil Patrick Harris, Ken Jeong, Jimmy Kimmel, Hasan Minhaj, Conan O’Brien, Patton Oswalt, Will Smith, and Kenan Thompson.
The dads convey a wide spectrum of feelings and emotions with sure-fire delivery of funny and serious anecdotes about their kids. Their stories brighten your spirits while making you think about your own dad’s influence in your life.
As the film’s principal Dad, Ron Howard beams whenever he’s asked “How proud are you of your daughter’s directing debut?” His responses to that question and to “What does it mean to be a dad in today’s society?” are covered in Sarah Knight Adamson’s interview.
“This project is something that Bryce is really passionate about. This is really her film. I’ve been very impressed by her point of view and her vision and the way she’s followed through,” Ron Howard comments.
Sarah Knight Adamson” What has your daughter taught you in life?
Ron Howard: That tenacity is pretty interesting to witness. I also had no idea. I’m going back now, you know, 17, 18 years since she began professionally in the business. I honestly am embarrassed to admit it, I didn’t realize how much more difficult the business was for females than males. And to witness it through the eyes of a daughter who’s actually had a lot of good breaks and done incredibly well and still see the ways in which a woman artist is tested, challenged, as they make their way through the industry. Even without any nightmares or horror stories, but just the struggle. It is profoundly different than what I’ve observed among my counterparts or anything that I felt or really went through.
So that’s been sobering, but I’ve felt it for years, which is one of the reasons why I’m excited that those ratios are beginning to balance out. That there is a new etiquette and a new understanding of relationships, interactions, in the workplace that make the environment, that do level the playing field a little bit more and make the environment healthier and more productive and remove these aspects that only limit creativity and personal expression.
SKA: Yes, I write for the Alliance of Women Film Journalists out of New York.
RH: Oh, I said the right things and to the right person. I mean, and you know, I salute activists on the subject, and I feel good about Imagine and what we’ve always stood for in that regard. But we’re doing more too. And it’s becoming a front row, front of mind issue, and that’s a great fun thing.
SKA: Wonderful. What advice do you have or what procedures do you see we need to get female director, writers work greenlit?
RH:You know what? It’s underway. I mean, I’m on the board of the DGA, the Directors Guild of America. I know what those initiatives are. I think the most important thing is that, on the television side, which is the training ground for many of these filmmakers and producers, writers, directors, that it’s exponential the number of women who are coming in and proving themselves and of course proving themselves very brilliantly. But I also think of course that’s that signal to other women that, Well, that’s not an uphill battle necessarily, that that’s perhaps an open door.
And at this moment, maybe even more so. It’s almost like, Hey, we’re looking. You know, the industry society is really looking. What have you got? And that’s a question that’s never been asked.”
SKA: I know it’s exciting now, isn’t it?
RH:Yes, we are now looking at the female population. What do you have for us? And as a male baby boomer, there was a moment where that’s what everyone was asking myself and Brian Grazer. What do you got? What do you have for us? And now I’m seeing it happen for Bryce.
SKA: Oh, that is so good to hear.
RH:Companies just want to talk. They want to know. They want to understand what these filmmakers have to offer. And that’s a great thing. So I think it really will be exponential.
Dads releases on Apple+ on June 19 to celebrate Fathers’ Day.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This interview was conducted on September 7 2019 at the Toronto International Film Festival. It was first published on AWFJ.org on September 9, 2019.