Ron Howard is not only a man with many creative strings to his bow, but he is also undoubtedly an established Hollywood legend. Starting out as an actor, most memorably playing Richie Cunningham on the TV series Happy Days, he eventually graduated to the role of director. The step behind the camera is one of the most successful actor-to-director transitions the industry has ever seen and Howard has since been at the helm of films that have been seen and beloved by many; Splash, How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Da Vinci Code to name a few. Howard’s next film, Solo: A Star Wars Story (of which he took over directing responsibilities after Phil Lord and Chris Miller were fired) may perhaps have his biggest audience to date.
Born in Oklahoma, show business and an affinity for the performing arts was very much present in Howard’s family. His mother, Jean Speegle Howard, was an actress and his father, Rance Howard, was a director, writer and actor. In 1958, the family moved to Hollywood and rented a house nearby to the studios where The Andy Griffith Show was filmed – the television show that Ron Howard was eventually cast in in 1960. He starred in all eight seasons as the titular character’s son, Opie, before making his foray into film, particularly with a role in George Lucas’ American Graffiti (1973). However, it was his role as Richie Cunningham in Happy Days that garnered him the most attention, starring opposite Henry Winkler’s “The Fonz”. Despite his tremendous success, Howard candidly admitted that he saw no future for himself in acting, “I listened and learned – and knew that I would never survive as an actor. I was always a little uncomfortable watching myself and felt I was not capable of doing it differently from the way I was delivering each particular part. Over time it would have driven me mad.”
Howard knew from his early acting experiences that directing was a career that he wanted to pursue and he made his directorial debut in 1977 with the comedy/action film Grand Theft Auto. Since then, he has been entrusted with some of Hollywood’s most lucrative and high profile projects including Apollo 13 and the Christmas classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Howard’s most successful and ongoing collaboration of his career is with the legendary actor, Tom Hanks; the pair have made five films together and Hanks recalls their first meeting with great fondness, “Usually when you meet directors they’re older, they wear a suit and they talk all high falutin’ and things. But Ron was a guy who looked like my older brother, going: ‘What do you think of this? What do you think of that?’ I knew we’d work well together straight away.” One of Howard’s most critically acclaimed films to date remains A Beautiful Mind, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Director. Although it received criticism for its divergence from history, it was praised for its portrayal of mathematics and depiction of mental health. The Guardian remarked, “Howard pulls off an extraordinary trick in A Beautiful Mind by seducing the audience into Nash’s paranoid world. We may not leave the cinema with A level competence in game theory, but we do get a glimpse into what it feels like to be mad – and not know it.”
Despite not allowing his children to be exposed to much film or television, two of Howard’s brood became actors; Bryce Dallas Howard and Paige Howard. Howard’s eldest daughter Bryce has forged an enviable career with roles in films such as The Village (2004), The Help (2011) and Jurassic World (2015). It seems that creative talents and a passion for film-making is ingrained in the Howard genes.
• Splash (1984)
• Parenthood (1989)
• Apollo 13 (1995)
• Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
• A Beautiful Mind (2001)
• Rush (2013)
By Evie Brudenall