Howard attended the prestigious Steppenwolf School and Stagedoor Manor Performing Arts Camp at Catskills together with her friend Natalie Portman. She applied to drama school as Bryce Dallas, dropping her last name to eschew special treatment because of association with her renowned father. From 1999-2003, she studied at the Stella Adler Conservatory and at the New York University Tisch School of Arts, and graduated with a BFA degree in Drama in 2003. At that time, she performed in Broadway productions of classical plays. Young Howard appeared in three of her father's films as an extra, including her appearance as a child together with her mother in Apollo 13 (1995).
She made her feature-film debut as Heather, a supporting role in Book of Love (2004). Director M. Night Shyamalan was impressed by her performance in a Broadway play and cast her without an audition as the female lead in his thrillers The Village (2004) and Lady in the Water (2006). Howard replaced Nicole Kidman in Manderlay (2005). She starred as Rosalind in As You Like It (2006), a reprise of her stage role that made such an impression on Shyamalan. She is also billed as Gwen Stacy in Spider-Man 3 (2007). The same year she wrote and directed a short film, Orchids, as part of Glamour magazine's "Reel Moments" series funded by Cartier and FilmAid International. Terminator Salvation, a high-budgeted 2009 science fiction movie, was her next project. Cast in June 2008, she superseded Charlotte Gainsbourg as Kate Connor. Howard was already a fan of the series. Howard replaced Lindsay Lohan as the lead character in The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond (2009). Based on a 1957 screenplay by Tennessee Williams, it did not play at many theaters.
A big career point for Howard was playing the role of Victoria, a vampire seeking revenge, in the Twilight series' third installment The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. She landed the part after Rachelle Lefevre dropped out from a scheduling conflict in July 2009. Howard had already been a huge fan of the books and considered Victoria to be an "incredible character". Reviews from the media were polarized, but critics did take a liking to Howard in her role.
In December 2009, Howard was cast in Clint Eastwood's Hereafter (2010), as a burgeoning love interest of Matt Damon's character. When Howard first read the script to Hereafter, she was hooked on it, having been attracted to its central character (Damon) – a reclusive man with the ability to speak to the deceased. "It's personal for me because a lot of my family members actually have that ability. It's kind of wild," Howard said. In early January 2011, Howard became the first celebrity ambassador for purse designer Kate Spade. Her first film of 2011 will be The Help, a movie adaption of Kathryn Stockett's 2009 best-selling novel of the same name, and will also star Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain. It focuses on African-American servants and their wealthy white employers in Mississippi prior to the civil rights era. Howard has teamed up with her father to help produce Gus Van Sant's Restless, a dark coming of age movie about a teenage boy and girl who are engrossed with death. She was cast in a supporting role opposite Seth Rogen, in the cancer dramedy 50/50 which is based on a true story. "It’s viewing that experience through a very truthful lens of humour", she said of 50/50's take on its heavy subject matter. Both films have September releases. In 2011, she announced that she would be directing a film called The Original. She co-wrote the screenplay with her brother-in-law Dane Charbonneau and described it as "a Breakfast Club for my generation". This would mark her directorial debut.
Howard became a devoted vegan after Joaquin Phoenix showed her Earthlings (2007), a documentary about animal cruelty. Since seeing it, she has apparently consumed no animal products, not even milk or eggs. Her other activities outside of the acting profession include playing basketball and writing. On June 17, 2006, in Connecticut, she married her long-term boyfriend, actor Seth Gabel, whom she met at New York University and had dated for five years without interuption. On February 16, 2007, they became parents of their first child, Theodore Norman Howard Gabel. On January 19, 2012, Howard gave birth to her second child. A girl named Beatrice Jean Howard-Gabel.
Howard is close friends with Natalie Portman and Jake Gyllenhaal.
|2000||How the Grinch Stole Christmas||Surprised Who|
|2004||:The Village||Ivy Walker|
|Book of Love||Heather|
|2005||Manderlay||Grace Margaret Mulligan|
|2006||As You Like It||Rosalind|
|Lady in the Water||Story|
|2007||Spider-Man 3||Gwen Stacy|
|2008||The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond||Fisher Willow|
|2009||Terminator Salvation||Kate Connor|
|2010||The Twilight Saga: Eclipse||Victoria|
|2011||The Help||Hilly Holbrook|