Bryce Dallas Howard: Elton John's 'brutal' mom 'delicious' to portray

By Karen Butler
Actress Bryce Dallas Howard plays Elton John's late mother, Sheila, in the film "Rocketman," which is set to open in U.S. theaters on Friday. Photo by David Silpa/UPI
1 of 5 | Actress Bryce Dallas Howard plays Elton John's late mother, Sheila, in the film "Rocketman," which is set to open in U.S. theaters on Friday. Photo by David Silpa/UPI | License Photo

May 30 (UPI) -- Jurassic World and Black Mirror alum Bryce Dallas Howard says Elton John's late mother Sheila wasn't a warm, supportive person, but she was loads of fun to play in the film Rocketman, due in theaters Friday.

Howard, who is 38, is seen berating and belittling young Reggie Dwight before his transformation into Elton John, one of the world's most beloved pop stars.


"They had a really brutal relationship," Howard told UPI in a recent phone interview.

"She flat-out told him that the biggest mistake of her life was having children -- and she only had one child! So, it was fraught and toxic and damaging. Too bad. But delicious to play," she laughed.

Co-starring Jamie Bell and Richard Madden, the movie follows John (Taron Egerton) from his humble origins through his meteoric rise to fame and fortune.


"It's a proper musical using Elton John's music, so it's not just a biopic. You are really going inside his experience and getting to see through his eyes," Howard said.

The California native had no trouble sinking into the 1960s London milieu.

"Shortly after landing in the U.K., I was brought to Abbey Road to record with some other folks," she said, recalling how she taped her vocals for the song "I Want Love" at the iconic studio where the Beatles laid down most of their hits.

"You just say: 'Wow! What an adventure' and trust your collaborators."

Dexter Fletcher helmed Rocketman. He is the director who stepped in to finish the Freddie Mercury/Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody after Bryan Singer was fired.

Despite the obvious parallels of theme and setting, however, the R-rated Rocketman hasn't been criticized for sanitizing the protagonist's drug abuse and sexuality the way the PG13-rated Oscar contender Bohemian Rhapsody was.

Howard thinks this is because, unlike Mercury who died in 1991, John is still alive and performing and wants to see an accurate depiction of his life on screen, even if it isn't all flattering.


"He is so courageous," Howard said of John, who served as a producer on Rocketman. "We had permission to go further and be honest."

Howard also recently moved behind the camera to direct an episode of The Mandalorian, a new Star Wars show for Disney+.

"It's just been an absolutely mind-boggingly amazing experience," she said, adding she thinks the media spotlight on diversity and pay parity is opening doors for women.

Noting her interest in emerging technology and passion for innovation in cinema, she feels like she and other women are being taken more seriously and considered for more jobs in directing.

"That's a significant change," she said.

Howard is particularly excited that the third Jurassic World movie will be co-written by director Colin Trevorrow and Emily Carmichael.

"I'm thrilled," Howard said. "Emily is someone who has been a collaborator with Colin for a while. He has been incredibly enthusiastic and complimentary and said that [Jurassic creator] Steven Spielberg absolutely adores her and, so, he is raving about the process."

Howard's work in Black Mirror, as well as the Star Wars and Jurassic World franchises, makes perfect sense given that she grew up devouring the works of Margaret Atwood, Shirley Jackson, Isaac Asimov and other futuristic and dystopian tales.


"I love this stuff," she said. "I've always been around George Lucas and kind of everything that he was up to and, so, that was certainly an influence, as well."

Her father is Willow and Solo: A Star Wars Story director Ron Howard, and her mother, Cheryl Howard, is penning a sci-fi novel.

"Part of every day at the Howards. We are a sci-fi family," she said.

The married mother of two -- who has also appeared in The Help, The Village and Lady in the Water -- said she works hard to balance career and home life.

She believes strongly in therapy, exercise and family meetings. Her kids don't have smartphones and aren't on social media.

"I'm very aware of toxicities," Howard said. "If there is a person that's toxic or if I'm not sleeping or a circumstance that's truly not healthy, I try to identify and extinguish it."

Applying this philosophy to what impact her family has on the planet and how the products she uses in her home affect her children, she recently became the face for Tide's purclean brand of plant-based, sustainably made laundry detergent, which, she said, is one of the few detergents on the market that gets clothes clean in cold water.


"If you wash your clothes in cold water for the entire year, you will save enough energy to power your smartphone for the rest of your life," she said.

Rocketman is set to open in U.S. theaters Friday.

Taron Egerton, Bernie Taupin attend 'Rocketman' premiere

Taron Egerton, Bernie Taupin attend 'Rocketman' premiere
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