When Bryce Dallas Howard became a mother, it triggered memories of traumatic kidnapping threats from her childhood, she tells PEOPLE
When Bryce Dallas Howard welcomed her first child, one thing she didn’t expect was paralyzing fear.
But bringing her eldest son, now 17, home from the hospital triggered traumatic kidnapping threats from her childhood, she tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue.
In 2007, “it was a weird time for young women in the business. The relationship with paparazzi and all of that was incredibly fraught for so many people,” says the Jurassic World trilogy alum, who also has a 12-year-old daughter with her husband, actor Seth Gabel.
"From a protective place after I had my son I withdrew a lot,” continues the Argylle star, who was also coping with “severe'' postpartum depression at the time. “I was actually scared. I didn't want to risk potentially triggering something that would mean a different life for my kids. I also grew up in a situation where there were some real security (concerns) and that's scary as a parent.”
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In 1992, Bryce, 42, tells PEOPLE she was targeted as the daughter of actor-director Ron Howard and her novelist mother, Cheryl. After discovering their phones were tapped and suspicious vehicles were monitoring their home in 1992, the family “had to move multiple times,” she says, and ultimately left Los Angeles, with her parents choosing to raise Bryce and her three younger siblings on a farm in Greenwich, Conn.
“We picked up the family and left,” Ron told Graham Bensinger last year, calling the experience “traumatic." Ron said it ultimately led him to direct the 1996 movie Ransom starring Mel Gibson. “I had been looking for a project about kidnapping because we’d been through this horrible experience where our home had been targeted," he said. "It’s the only time I’ve really wanted to do a crime story.”
That time period “was definitely very defining for me and it's one of the reasons why I think I'm risk averse as a person,” Bryce says today. “I don't really take risks unless I'm working. That's where I personally am the most kind of daring and bold.”
And as a mom of a teen and tween, “I'm not very strict as a parent, but I'll ask my kids, ‘Do you think I'm strict?’ And they're like, "No, you're not. Except when it comes to safety."
Teaching her son to drive, she adds, was not for the faint of heart. "The poor boy, what I put him through,” says Bryce with a laugh. “He basically can be a race car driver at this point because I'm like, "You're not allowed to get your license until you know how to do every defensive driving move imaginable."
Today Bryce calls her Argylle role playing an introverted spy novelist who dreams up a glamorous world of intrigue (and is suddenly thrust into it), “probably the closest to me as a person that I’ve played before.”
The character's anxieties — and quest for bravery — fit like a glove. “This movie is so much about her connecting to her power and feeling courageous and overcoming her anxiety and getting out there," says Bryce. "I think that for me doing this movie felt very empowering.”
Argylle is now playing in theaters.
For more about Bryce Dallas Howard, pick up this week's issue of PEOPLE.
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