Interview: Bryce Dallas Howard on directing M83's 'Claudia Lewis' video

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Electronic music fans and science-fiction kids often overlap, as they do in M83’s new video for “Claudia Lewis,” which features actors Lily Collins (The Blind Side, The Mortal Instruments) as a blue-haired teen alien and Isreal Broussard (The Bling Ring) as an earthling high schooler.

The clip was directed by Bryce Dallas Howard as part of the MTV’s collaborative Supervideo series — which, you may recall, had previously united Drew Barrymore and Best Coast for a video that featured Chloë Grace Moretz, Alix Shawkat, and Donald Glover. We spoke to Howard — acclaimed for her acting in films like The Help, Twilight, and 50/50 but also as a budding director (it runs in the family) — about her role in the project, from casting Collins for the project to getting the video’s ’80s-movie look just right.

EW: So how did you decide on this song?

Bryce Dallas Howard: The coolest thing that happened: they [at MTV] said, “What kind of music do you listen? Who are your favorite bands? Do you have a particular song that you’d like to bring to life?” There was no list — it was like, of all the songs you could do, which would it be? And that’s the best question you could ever ask a young filmmaker. And M83 is hands down my favorite band. I’d specifically homed in on this song ‘Claudia Lewis’ very early on. It was an amazing day to get to actually meet Anthony [Gonzalez] of M83 and say, “Could we do this?’”And he said “Yes!”

So how’d you decide on casting Lily Collins?

I had known her but not well, but I had been really impressed with her work. Have you met her? She’s so lovely and full of grace and integrity, and really unbelievably talented. So when we came up with the idea for the project and knew that we, essentially, wanted the character to be an extraterrestrial, we just thought, OK, who’s young enough to look like they could be in high school but also have some quality about them that, while you can accept they’re human, is more than human? And Lily is certainly more beautiful than most other humans! She has this kind of very, like, supernatural appearance and beauty.

And the blue wig?

Early on, The Man Who Fell to Earth was one of our references. David Bowie had this kind of wild, bright orange hair in that, so we knew that we wanted to do something a little striking with her hair. And while pulling colors, I thought blue would be the most otherworldly but also the most flattering and the softest.

The video has a real John Hughes-y, ’80s teen-movie vibe. I’m guessing that was deliberate?

Yes! At times, we took it a bit too far. We did a pass, though ultimately didn’t go for it, where we looked at the trailer for Weird Science. I was like, OK, I want to make it look like this. And that John Hughes reference was really important for all of us. And it’s really inherent in the music itself. When you hear M83, and when you hear the music in those old films, you can tell that that’s an influence. And he’s an influence for me, so I wanted to authentically go in the direction and explore how far we could take that. Ultimately at the end of the day, it was a balance, because I didn’t want to get too campy or anything. But it was definitely an influence.

Obviously, your dad Ron Howard has a bit of experience with filmmaking. Since you’re a bit more green, is your dad always trying to give you advice during these projects?

He’s always very supportive, but unless I come to him with a question, he doesn’t give a lot of unsolicited advice. Which is cool — he’s a very, very humble individual. And if he does give me some advice, he’ll constantly be following it with something that’s unbelievably self-deprecating. But he’s just very supportive — he’s a generic supportive dad. [laughs] Like, I like for people to be really tough and very honest, and he is — but he’s also my dad! So he definitely has good things to say, but I don’t think he can ever get over the fact that he’s just proud of his kid.


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