A Dog’s Journey Home’s Bryce Dallas Howard found the voice of her canine character Bella by drawing upon the experiences she had with her children when their beloved cat’s time was near. The film’s powerful and meaningful themes was an opportunity for her to show her kids have a better understanding of the concept of death. So when the opportunity to do a voice of Bella, the lead dog, she immediately jumped at it. Additionally, Charles Martin Smith, the film’s director, worked with her dad, Ron Howard, on American Graffiti.
Howard realized that she wanted to be a part of filmmaking because of her love for being on sets. However, she did not equate that with acting. “It was always something that was going to happen but then also something that sort of happened gradually,” Howard said. So she never expected it to fall into place. She adds that she never want to have that kind of pressure to make a career out of it because she knew how the industry wasn’t sustainable.
“When you get to be a part of something that may mean something for children and families, and speak to people who have such an important and meaningful relationship with their pets, it’s all great,” Howard said.
The film had already completed the production process by the time Howard had started recording. So she essentially saw the whole movie before she got the script. Upon her first viewing, she says that the film reminded her of The Adventures of Milo and Otis because of its innocence and inspirational messages.
As much as A Dog’s Way Home reminds us about how powerful the relationship between man and dog is, the film really gets to the heart of how humans crave connection. When talking about Edward James Olmos’ Axel, who is a homeless war vet, she says that the film is able to address those connective themes with a lightness and heartwarming touch, but still pack an emotional punch. “We are living in a world that is becoming more and more challenging,” Howard said. “We are becoming more and more disconnected from one another. This is a character who is completely isolated and completely alone who has experienced the worst of humanity. All he needs is that friendship and that unconditional love.”
One of the things that the actress wants audiences to walk away from this movie is to increase awareness of Denver’s inhumane law that allows police officers to put a dog down if they believe the dog as some pit bull in it. “When laws like this happen or people create rules to try to protect individuals you cannot hate that intention, you’re like ‘okay, people are talking about this because of something,’ Howard said. “But, ultimately, they aren’t seeing the full picture, and that’s why storytelling is so critical, because how do you have empathy, you need to understand why that connection is so important.”
She also hopes audiences walk away from the film with a better understanding of the power of unconditional love.
As to finding her voice, Howard said she just imitated her younger sister, Paige. “She is also a very intense dog lover,” Howard said. That love for her dog is so intense that Paige never goes anywhere without her dog and her boyfriend needed her dog’s approval. In fact, during the screening, Howard’s husband was able to identify that she was drawing her voice inspiration from Paige.
A Dog’s Journey Home is in theaters now.