Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt were in Jurassic World together.
Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt were in Jurassic World together. Supplied

The question Chris Pratt is never asked

Dads is a comedy. Sort of.

The documentary, which streams on AppleTV+ from 19 June, was conceived as a celebration of parenthood by its director, actor Bryce Dallas Howard (Jurassic World, The Village).

As the daughter of Oscar-winning filmmaker Ron Howard and a parent-of-two herself, Howard was fascinated by the idea of what it means to be a father today.

Dads is a comedy, so she wanted to interview famous comedians: Will Smith, Neil Patrick Harris, Hasan Minhaj, Judd Apatow, Kenan Thompson and Howard's own dad Ron. But a funny thing happened when Howard got them on set and in front of her camera.

They started crying.

"Someone joked near the end of production that we should call the film Dads Cry," Howard says, laughing. We're speaking on a video call in the middle of coronavirus-mandated isolation: she from her home in Los Angeles, me in Sydney.

Junkets, where celebrities discuss their most recent projects with the press, can be strange things at the best of times. But Howard is a warm and friendly conversationalist, despite the elaborate technological setup. ("It's, you know, kinda wild," she says, cackling, when I ask her how the day has been so far.) And she's immensely proud of her documentary, which premiered at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival before being bought by Apple.

 

Bryce Dallas Howard is also a filmmaker who directed an episode of The Mandalorian
Bryce Dallas Howard is also a filmmaker who directed an episode of The Mandalorian

RELATED: This Perry Mason is not your grandparents' Perry Mason

RELATED: The first movies to play in reopened cinemas

Howard has a theory about why there are so many tears from her A-list documentary subjects, by the way. As a mother and an actor, she has sat through countless interviews in which she is asked about "balancing" parenting with show business, or how she makes it work as a mother and as a celebrity, as if the two things cannot co-exist.

These questions irked her. "I've always felt like this [conversation] was expected of me and not expected of dads," she says. "I don't want to say [I felt] resentment, that's a very strong emotion, but feeling like, ugh, a roll of the eyes."

While interviewing celebrity fathers for her documentary, what Howard discovered was that, in fact, many of them were never, or only rarely, asked about their children by journalists. It's why she thinks that so many of them - like Will Smith, whom Howard says was the easiest person to confirm and schedule during filming - leapt at the opportunity to take part in her project.

"The enthusiasm I was met with… they wanted to talk about their kids," she says. "I talk about my kids a lot, people ask about my kids a lot," Howard says. "It would bum me out if I was doing everything that I do and it was being ignored."

It's not that Howard thinks that celebrity dads need to get a medal for the work that they are doing, far from it. And there's definitely a line between interest and intrusiveness when it comes to talking about a celebrity's private life. But in Dads, Howard realised that "no space is being made for the role" of a famous father in the media narrative. "That's awful," she says. "That's crazy."

 

 

RELATED: Everything new to streaming in June

RELATED: What to stream this week

She uses Chris Pratt as an example. Her co-star in the Jurassic World reboots is "an awesome dad, incredibly committed, incredibly involved" to his seven-year-old son Jack, whose mother is Pratt's ex-wife Anna Faris.

"We are similar parents," Howard says. "And I see what it takes for him to show up in the way that he does, again and again and again. He's always, always thinking of Jack above everyone and everything else."

Howard says that on press tours for the Jurassic World franchise, Howard would field questions about parenting and Chris would be overlooked.

"For him to be skipped over," she muses. "It's like wow, you don't even care? Do you just assume that he doesn't do it? That would piss me off. Especially if you're like, 'hello! I haven't slept in 13 years!' It's something that fathers are involved in, so let's start depicting that and acknowledging that in the media."

In Dads, clips of famous fathers sharing stories from their own experiences are spliced together with footage of a group of "hero fathers", as Howard calls them. These men are from the community and each of their stories is drawn from their own, unique circumstances. There's a stay-at-home father, caring for his three young children. There's a dad who works multiple jobs so that he can co-parent his ill son. There's a gay couple who fostered siblings from a traumatic background. And then there's Reed, a man in his early 30s eagerly, albeit anxiously, awaiting the birth of his first child.

 

Reed Howard with his newborn
Reed Howard with his newborn

 

Reed also happens to be Howard's brother. He was never meant to appear in the documentary, but when casting around for young dads to feature, Howard knew that she wanted to tell the story of a man becoming a father for the first time.

"I was like wait, hang on, this is very fortuitous," Howard jokes. Reed's segments, which take place just before and just after he and wife Ashley welcome baby Aspen to the family, were the last things she filmed for the documentary.

So she was surprised and moved to discover, after interviewing both her father and brother, that their concerns about parenthood echoed one another.

"I had heard my dad say many times that his biggest fear is that he would never be as good a father as his own father," Howard says. "I always thought that was beautiful and remarkable, like, 'oh, your biggest fear is that you won't meet the incredibly high bar you set for yourself as parents?' Way to dream!"

"But seeing my brother hear that and be like, he really said that? That's my fear, that's what I'm scared of, was a perfect demonstration of the legacy of steadfast, committed parenting [in my family] and what can come of that," she says.

 

Bryce’s father Ron Howard is in the documentary
Bryce’s father Ron Howard is in the documentary

 

Dads is a comedy, yes. Some parts of it even feel like a Funniest Home Videos montage, with more excrement-related mishaps than you ever thought possible. (I have no children. I would hazard a guess that, if you have kids, your imagination when it comes to potential bodily excretions is unbounded.)

But the essence of the project is a celebration of fatherhood in all of its forms. No wonder the dads in the documentary all cry, then. It's an emotional thing, being asked about the most important job you'll ever do.

"When I started out I said: 'This is a comedy'," Howard explains. "I think I was influenced in part by Parenthood, which is a movie my dad did when I was seven years old.

"That was a comedy, but it was also really emotional - like parenting itself, which is an emotional rollercoaster, and you can swing from being absolutely in stitches laughing at some absurd fact of your reality and then you can two minutes later be sobbing or be afraid or enraged or whatever."

"It is crazy to be a parent," she adds. "Like, what is required of you as a human being to raise another human being is beyond your wildest imagination."

 

Dads streams on AppleTV+ from 19 June

Originally published as The question Chris Pratt is never asked



School could lose its sports field to proposed new facility

Premium Content School could lose its sports field to proposed new facility

THERE has been a revelation of plans to build a new facility on Byron Bay High...

Man allegedly used ‘bribes’ to have sex with step sons

Premium Content Man allegedly used ‘bribes’ to have sex with step sons

He is accused of having a sexual relationship with three brothers

Practice makes perfect when it comes to stormy weather

Premium Content Practice makes perfect when it comes to stormy weather

Ahead of predicted La Nina, Lismore SES held specialist training.