I invade the lobby with my drink. There, curled up like a child waiting for a school bus, is Bryce Dallas Howard. When she looks up it’s like a door blowing open onto sudden, clear countryside, and if you were as old as fuck, you’d suffer a hemorrhage of assurance that the future’s going to be fine.
Claridge’s Hotel, London. The famous afternoon tea is underway, attended by violin and piano. Silver tinkles brightly on bone china. Palms and marble shimmer in whispered linen-light. We’re in a deco travel poster. We find the least romantic chaise to sit on, and conversation swirls at the whim of the violin.
Or perhaps it’s the bloody champagne.
Whim 1: Prelude & Allegro by Fritz Kreisler
Bryce Dallas Howard: A Moveable Feast by Hemingway, it’s amazing — one of the first things he says is when he’s in Paris he writes about Michigan, and when he’s in Michigan he writes about Paris. That’s just always stuck with me. And it’s really true, because whenever I leave a place I start creating romantic notions about it. I’ve been having dreams about Los Angeles, which you’d think were boring, but they’re not. It’s really strange. DBC Pierre: Airplanes are complicit, because somewhere in the middle of flight, the place you’ve come from slips back into romance, and the place you’re going becomes real. We can’t achieve that romance then; it’s a question of not being there. BDH: It’s the nature of humans — it’s rare that someone is there when they’re there, that people are actually present. It’s kind of a rule that I’ve come up with, that I have to go out and explore where I am. Otherwise, I’m not being present, I’m just thinking about where I’ve come from.
Whim 2: “I Got Rhythm” by Ira & George Gershwin
DBC: Thank God for drink. BDH: I’ve actually never had a sip of alcohol in my life. DBC: How did that happen? BDH: By just consistently saying no. Isn’t that weird, though? DBC: Yeah, did you not like the taste, or — BDH: — I haven’t even had a sip. Isn’t that totally strange? It’s actually funny because it’s become a defining part of me, and I had no intention of that being important. DBC: Nice that it’s naturally generated. I presume you didn’t grow up in an Amish community or something. BDH: No, I didn’t. I did a lot of traveling when I was a kid, because of my dad’s job. DBC: Salesman? BDH: Exactly. Door-to-door. But I grew up primarily in Greenwich, Connecticut, and then in Westchester, New York. Westchester is more home for me. DBC: Is it romantic? BDH: It is, actually, and I’ll tell you why: because there are fantastic woods, and from a young age I could just go off, get completely lost. I love being in nature. I did this job in Sweden last year, and it was in the middle of nowhere, in winter, and I’d just go off, cross-country skiing — it’s so luxurious, so romantic, to be by yourself in nature.
Whim 3: Salut D’Amour Op. 12 by Sir Edward Elgar
DBC: I saw a horrifying statistic: Since the beginning of the 20th century, biodiversity has decreased by an estimated 90 percent. BDH: It’s terrifying. We’re doing the epic love scene of this movie on a beautiful rock that’s covered with moss, and there’s this guy who follows us around because 80 percent of England’s population of that kind of moss is on that rock. I’m just terrified with every footstep. DBC: Nature’s a delicate lover. BDH: And so alive! You know, there’s this lake I was watching yesterday, and there were all these ducks that were pairing off, and it was just like–they’re in love! They’re in love, and it just made me feel happy. DBC: They just want to get laid though, let’s face it. BDH: They do, they just want a shag. DBC: Ducks will do anything to get laid.
Whim 4: Slavonic Dance No. 2 in E Op. 46 by Antonin Dvorak
BDH: I went to Russia when I was 14 years old. It’s so vivid in my mind. DBC: Fourteen’s a pretty vivid time to do anything. Troublesome adolescence? BDH: Internally, but not externally. I was very cautious about never doing anything wrong, so it seemed like I was getting through it but–when I go back and read my journal– DBC: Journal? Fatal move. BDH: I know, it’s in my bag right now. I read it and I ask: Has anyone every been more depressed? I mean, I’m sure they have, it’s just funny because my parents and siblings are like, “Wow, you got through that time very smoothly.” There’s just a moment when you begin adolescence–at least there was for me–when you realize you don’t belong anymore. You spend your time recovering from that moment. How was your adolescence? DBC: Mine lasted 14 years, I was 28 before I recovered. It was a dangerous party. But then–do we grow up at all, actually? BDH: No. I mean, you make a couple of decisions around seven years old, and that’s basically who you are. So I’m just operating from the internal voice that is seven, and makes my decisions, and puts on my behaviors.
Whim 5: Habanera by Pablo de Sarasate
BDH: And I’ve become a vegan. DBC: From scratch, or were you already a vegetarian? BDH: From scratch, like cheeseburger one day, vegan the next. DBC: Good for you. That’s not easy. Some people live on french fries and call themselves vegan. BDH: Yeah, look what I carry around for goodness’ sake [pulls of a vodka bottle full of diarrhea]. DBC: Yechh! BDH: This is the healthiest thing you can ever drink! DBC: What is it? BDH: Cacao and coconut butter and olive oil. And nuts–I mean, I try to eat a raw vegan diet, because when you cook food you cook out the enzymes and proteins. It’s really great, would you like some? You don’t have to– DBC: Yeah, I have a champagne glass. I won’t even tell you what they’re going to think I did in the glass. BDH: They’re going to think you took a little dump. Here– DBC: Cheers. It obviously works–you’re very clear-skinned and clear-eyed. BDH: Why, thank you. So what do you think? DBC: Very tasty. But see, I’m a sucker for chocolate milk–and this is quite close to chocolate milk. Will it help me work and play? BDH: You’re going to write an amazing article because you drank that. DBC: Shit, I forgot we’re doing that. Speaking of travel then, and hotel menus, do you have to be quite precious and demanding? BDH: No, because it puts everyone out. What I do–it’s the biggest luxury in the world, and the only thing I spend money on, I’m incredibly cheap except for this: I know this amazing woman, Sarah, who’s a raw food chef, and she’s writing a novel, and was going to travel around Europe, so I said to her, “Would you like to come and stay with me?” DBC: I tried that line on a prostitute once. But I just didn’t have your– BDH:–seductive qualities. No.
Whim No.6: Meditation from Thais by Jules Massenet
BDH: My mom just wrote a book that’s getting published. DBC: Is she nervous? BDH: God, she’s panicking, and I keep writing these e-mails trying to empower her. She’s working on it for nine years. DBC: What’s the name of the book? BDH: In the Face of Jinn. DBC: You have your head full, too. Would you write? BDH: I don’t know. Right now I’m in the process of writing something, but it’s really fucking hard, as you know. I mean, with acting, you do so much preparation by yourself, but then you show up and if you start going off in the wrong direction you can lean back and there are people to support you. Whereas writing–you’re on your own. I just get so into my head, and then–God, it’s just like, you know. I’ve been reading a lot about Hemingway and Dorothy Parker and how she almost died a bajillion times– DBC: Tell me about it. In a flash of bitter inspiration the other week i likened to painting a still life with live rats. I even wrote that on my study wall, and within days there was an infestation of rats in the house. What are the Gods like?
Whim No.7: Cantabile by Nicolo Paganini
DBC: Speaking of Hemingway, I met a muse of his, brilliant Italian lady in her 80’s, still bright and shiny. She was imprisoned three times by the Fascists for importing liberal American literature. BDH: What!? DBC: Yeah, and she said, “Pierre, I’ll tell you something: I can smell it coming again.” BDH: Yeah, it is. I tell you, the movie I did with Lars von Trier–he called me last night because we’re going to Cannes, and he’s very protective of me. And he said ,”Oh no, you’re the first American actress in one of my movies, and they’re just going to destroy you and–” because it’s a very controversial, blatantly political film. DBC: Good. We need it. BDH: That’s what I told him. I wouldn’t act if I couldn’t do that stuff. He’s so protective though. I’ve only done two movies. I’m filming my third right now, and I’ve worked with some really amazing filmmakers. It gives me a lot of hope. I have a lot of respect and excitement for where the business is going. I mean, I can see where it could go. DBC: You’re going to kick it that way, aren’t you? BDH: With all my might! DBC: Great stuff. I’m encouraged. The wider industry is so about the buck. If there are a hundred new titles every month I doubt there’d be as many as two I couldn’t predict just by looking at the cover. It’s encouraging to see you take a gamble on what I’d call cinema, film that is an agency of change. But you’re taking a gamble that could jeopardize your future. Except for your skin, of course. If you begged and kissed some ass they’d probably still use you for the skin. A skin double. BDH: That’s why I feel so much hope, because you do to the video store and feel disgruntled. The collective IQ of audiences is huge, those films aren’t going to work much longer. The industry is just going to have to hop on a different train in order to survive. And that’s really cool. DBC: It bloody is. So, as an auspicious souvenir, give me a toast that I can use tonight. I’ll raise a glass, and say– BDH: Um — everything’s permissible, until you ask permission!