Bryce Dallas Howard starred in 2015’s Jurassic World, which racked up millions of dollars at the box office. But it wasn’t quite as popular with critics as it was with audiences. Some people raised eyebrows over Howard’s character and —more specifically — her fashion sense. Years on and Howard is still defending it.
Jurassic World was always going to be successful at the box office. It was after all a sequel to Jurassic Park, the smash-hit Spielberg movie about dinosaurs running amok in a theme park. However, could it possibly live up to the original film? Unfortunately, critics seemed to think not.
And Howard’s character Claire came in for quite a kicking. She was romanced by Chris Pratt’s character, but reviewers weren’t impressed with this subplot. In fact, they weren’t really impressed with how the film portrayed Claire at all. Howard’s character was a cliché, was the general consensus — a career-minded ice queen whose only purpose was to be won over by the male lead.
And a big part of Claire’s character, it seemed, was her costume — so that came in for a pasting too. Writing for entertainment site Vulture, Jada Yuan noted, “Instead of character development, Claire is saddled with character broadcasting via wardrobe. Was it really necessary for Jurassic World to resurrect gender stereotypes along with the dinosaurs?”
Yuan went on, “Claire’s outfit isn’t a sign of fierceness; it’s a crime of lazy filmmaking — a patronizing shorthand for her cluelessness and stubborn need for control. See how out-of-touch she is with her environment? Silly girl!” And indeed, the question of whether Howard’s costume was outright sexist was hotly debated.
But Howard herself has some thoughts on the controversy. It’s fair to say that she has more positive feelings about Claire and her costume than a lot of reviewers did. And when the Jurassic World sequel rolled around, she was able to turn those feelings into a fight.
A lot was at stake with Jurassic World, since it was essentially a reboot of a beloved franchise. If it flopped, it could well spell the end of the entire Jurassic franchise. But Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt were good shouts for the lead characters.
Chris Pratt was already a star thanks to Guardians of the Galaxy in 2014. And Howard was the daughter of famous film director and actor Ron Howard. She’d grown up in the movie business and had already been in several big movies, including 2009’s Terminator: Salvation and Spider-Man 3 (2007).
Howard’s actual performance in Jurassic World wasn’t slammed, the ire was focused at the writers and producers who, it was thought, didn’t know how to write women. Director Joss Whedon criticized one clip of the film as “’70s-era sexist” — though, ironically, mere weeks later he found himself in a sexism scandal of his own.
What exactly was the problem? A very big part of it was… the shoes. Claire starts off the movie in a white power suit and high heels, but although the suit gets ripped beyond repair while fighting off dinosaurs the shoes stay on. Even when Claire runs away from rampaging carnivores she does so in implausible footwear.
Reviewers definitely dwelled on that aspect of the film. In a June 2015 op-ed for website The Dissolve Genevieve Koski wrote, “Claire’s refusal to rid herself of impractical footwear that could easily get her killed in this horrifying scenario doesn’t make sense from a realistic standpoint or a storytelling standpoint.”
Even so, Howard herself was thought to have done a good job with the material. Jada Yuan wrote in her critical Vulture article that her intent was “not to take anything away from Howard, who fully committed to Claire’s intractable heels devotion: During the shoot Howard eschewed wedged sneakers and learned to run on her tippy toes, all in the interest of staying true to her character. The failures of the script go much deeper.”
Howard did indeed really devote herself to learning how to function in heels. She even trained with UFC champion Pete Williams! At the Jurassic World Los Angeles press day in 2015 she said, “He was so helpful, because as someone who is a professional athlete, he really knew how to take care of your body.”
The actress had really put the work in. Howard said, “I felt like I was in The Karate Kid. He had these boards that he made like a platform where I would do all this stuff. I would put my foot on it, and then [balance and lean on one foot] and he would throw balls at me and I would catch it.” But would Howard be willing to do the same thing for the sequel?
And — furthermore — would she be willing to put up with the same jokes? Even Chris Pratt joined in making fun of Claire’s footwear. He donned a pair himself for an appearance on James Corden’s The Late Late Show and did a pretty good — and also pretty funny — job of it.
On the show Pratt said of his co-star, “She did a phenomenal job. And not just on hard surfaces, this is through the jungle in Hawaii and mud and she was a total trooper. She never once rolled an ankle or popped a knee.” And he wasn’t the only one who came to the defense of Howard’s heels.
Howard’s dad also stepped onto Twitter with a simple link to an article. In June 2015 Ron posted a link to an article titled “Here’s How to Safely Run in Heels Like Bryce Dallas Howard in ‘Jurassic World.’” Even so, despite this he revealed in a later interview that he did have some qualms with the high heels too.
Flash forward to May 2019 and Ron Howard did a question-and-answer interview session with the New York Times. When asked if he “[was] scared watching dinosaurs chase Bryce in Jurassic World,” the famous Hollywood mainstay answered, “The only thing that scares me is the high heels.”
But in the same interview Ron also praised his daughter’s acting. When told, “The episode of Black Mirror that your daughter Bryce Dallas Howard starred in was better than the episode of Twilight Zone you were in,” he answered, “That Black Mirror episode is remarkable. I’m so proud of her.”
Howard knew from the beginning her father might be a little unnerved by her character never ditching the shoes. At the premiere party for Jurassic World in June 2015 she told reporters, “I think my dad is going to be more scared that I ran around the entire film in high heels than any dinosaur chasing after me.”
The actress let slip another detail at that party. She told journalists, “At the beginning I was kind of against the idea of wearing them, but then one day while looking at the terrain prior to a shoot, I just looked at Colin [Trevorrow, the film’s director] and said, ‘I think I’ll keep the shoes on.’”
And Howard has defended the high heels ever since. In October 2015 she told Yahoo! that, “From a logical standpoint I don’t think she would take off her heels. I don’t think she would choose to be barefoot. I don’t think she would run faster barefoot in the jungle with vines and stones.”
That same month — promoting Jurassic World release on home video — Howard spoke to Cosmopolitan magazine about the issue. She said that she liked the shoes because they were a good representation of Claire’s character, and what a real woman in her position was likely to wear.
Howard said, “Specifically with the heels, this character needed to seem ill-equipped to be in the jungle. She was somebody who looks like she belongs in a corporate environment for a reason, because she was someone who was disconnected from the animals and disconnected from that reality and disconnected from herself.”
Claire, Howard explained, “doesn’t at all expect that she’s going to be tromping through the jungle, and I’m really glad that we didn’t make the choice for me to be barefoot, because that would have also been kind of dangerous.” Considering the situation and all the dinosaurs on the loose, that’s fair enough.
Howard may have been surprised at the backlash to her character’s wardrobe, but she appreciated it. She told the magazine, “I have to say, I feel really relieved at the amount of sensitivity that people have to women and women’s roles in films, particularly large films… That’s something that is a really important conversation to continue.”
But the actress defended her character as well. She said, “…the character of Claire in particular, who seems so ill-equipped to be able to thrive in the jungle, gets to the point at the end [where] she is the hero. It’s Chris Pratt cowering with two children surrounded by stuffed animals, and my character who ends up saving the day.”
Howard hadn’t seen a lot of the backlash, presumably. She told Cosmopolitan that she never even went on the internet, and was “pretty cautious about reviews in general.” But a sequel to Jurassic World had been greenlit and she was pretty sure the infamous heels would factor in there somewhere.
The actress told the magazine, “…when I found out there was going to be a sequel and that I was going to be in it, the way that I found out was that Colin texted me ‘#NoHeels2018.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah!’” But in the time between that interview and actually filming the movie, something changed.
Claire was very much back in heels again for the 2018 sequel Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, and reviewers weren’t impressed. Kate Erbland wrote for website IndieWire, “Three years later, Fallen Kingdom displays a strange interest in playing up the controversy…by choosing to reintroduce one of the film’s two leads via her maligned footwear, reducing her to just the shoes on her feet.”
Erbland went on, “This Claire is very different than the one audiences met in the first film, a crusader for dinosaur rights who has abandoned the corporate world that once defined her and who is eager to right the kind of wrongs she helped create in the first place (like designing a genetically modified dinosaur with seriously killer instincts). Yet the most important thing we know about Claire is her preferred heel height.”
But this was all down to Howard herself. She had wanted Claire in heels, especially at the beginning of the movie. She told Radio Times magazine in May 2018 that she’d even gone so far as to amend her script, she was that passionate about the film and her character.
Howard said, “[The script] was written like ‘Claire’s wearing sneakers’… “And I just circled that when I was reading it and I was like ‘No…no it’s an office, Claire would wear heels.’ And then it was like another scene where I’m like ‘hmm, well Claire’s kind of like…she’s going to wear heels in this scene also.’”
The actress went on, “It’s important, I think, to be truthful to the character in that way. In that she can do both! She can wear flats, and she can wear heels! It’s a part of the character and kind of a metaphor for her journey. And that’s how it was intended in the first [movie], and intended in the second.”
You would have thought that by June 2018 Howard would have been utterly sick of talking about the Jurassic World heels, but she wasn’t. That month she told Bustle website, “I mean it’s fascinating to me that it’s become such a talking point… it was certainly unexpected, but it’s not something at all that bores me at this point.”
However Howard did add, along with what was described as a “sarcastic laugh,” “These movies are meant to be really grounded and the only leap is meant to be the scientific leap of what if human beings and the dinosaurs coexisted… I think that maybe the heels seemed a little bit of a leap.”
But Howard accepted that all this talk of her shoes was a “bi-product” of being in such a massive franchise. And she added, “I was raised by an individual who is in his mid-60s now and he continues to be referred to as ‘Opie,’ so if he’s not tired of that then I’m not tired of talking about heels.”
As for her role in Fallen Kingdom, she said, “…I fought to wear heels in this movie and ensure that we were tracking my footwear as kind of religiously as we were tracking the science. And I think that it’s become an element, a metaphor for my character and her journey, so I’m super down.”
After hearing that you might ask the question… What will become of the heels in the upcoming threequel Jurassic World: Dominion? It’s set to be a massive movie with lots of elements fighting for your attention. Howard and Chris Pratt will be back, but so will Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neil and Laura Dern from the original movies. Dern, you’ll remember, never wore high heels.
Fans have had one little sneak peek at Claire’s look for Dominion. In February 2020 Howard posted a behind-the-scenes photo thanking her hairstylist for his work. But nothing about the shoes yet… and back in 2018 Howard even joked to the news.com.au website, “I think in the third movie there will be not one shot of my feet.” Fair enough.