A Beautiful Mind
"It was always my dream to be a director. A lot of it had to do with controlling my own destiny, because as a young actor you feel at everyone's disposal. But I wanted to become a leader in the business." Ron Howard
Movie director Ron Howard is widely recognized for his Academy Award-winning biopic A Beautiful Mind (2001). A former child and teen star, Howard played Opie Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show (1960–1968) and Richie Cunningham on the long-running ABC sitcom Happy Days (1974-1980), as well as appeared in George Lucas’ American Graffiti (1972, and its 1979 sequel). Debuting as a director with Grand Theft Auto (1977), Howard had helmed such films as Cocoon (1985), Gung Ho (1986), Willow (1988), Apollo 13 (1995) and The Missing (2003). He is currently on set directing his upcoming film The Da Vinci Code, and is set to helm a film called East of Eden.
The 5' 9" tall Academy Award-winning filmmaker was listed on Premiere's 2005 Power 50 List and Premiere's 2003 annual Power 100 List. He is also one of Forbes’ “Top 100 Celebrity List” (2003) and Vh1's the "100 Greatest Kid Stars."
Childhood and Family:
Of Dutch, Scottish, English, Irish, German and Cherokee Indian descent, Ronald William Howard was born on March 1, 1954, in Duncan, Oklahoma. The son of actor/director Rance Howard (has appeared in most of Ron's films; born on December 3, 1928) and actress Jean Speegle Howard (a.k.a. Jean Speegle Howard; born on January 31, 1927; died on September 2, 2000), Ronald was raised in Burbank, California, along with his brother, Clint Howard (actor; born on April 20, 1959; has appeared in most of his brother's films; best known as the child lead of TV's Gentle Ben, 1967-1969). Young Ronald attended Burroughs High School, in Burbank, California, where he served as co-editor of the school newspaper. He also briefly studied at the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles, California.
On June 7, 1975, Howard married his high school sweetheart, Cheryl Alley (actress, writer; has appeared in most of Howard’s films in non-speaking roles). They have four children: daughters Jocelyn Carlyle (twin, born in 1985), Paige Carlyle (twin, born in 1985), Bryce Dallas (born in 1981), and son Reed (born in 1987).
"As a young adult trying to make the transition from sitcom actor to motion picture director, I was getting a lot of patronizing pats on the head. 'Hey, hang in there. In another ten or 15 years, I'm sure somebody will give you a chance to direct.' That's not what I wanted to hear at all." Ron Howard
The son of show business parents, Ron Howard began appearing regularly on stage, television and in films from an early age. As a baby, he had an unaccredited appearance in Frontier Woman, which featured his father Rance Howard. At age 18 months, Howard debuted on theater, with his parents, in his father-directed production of “The Seven Year Itch,” at the Hilltop Summer Theatre in Baltimore, Maryland. On television, he first appeared in Police Station (1958) and on the CBS sitcom "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis" (1959), playing various characters.
4-year-old Howard had his first feature-acting role in Anatole Litvak's romantic drama The Journey (1959). After a reoccurring role in the long-running family comedy series "Dennis the Menace" (starring Jay North), Howard began catching attention for portraying Opie Taylor, the personable son of widowed Sheriff Andy Taylor (played by Andy Griffith), on CBS’ family comedy series "The Andy Griffith Show." He stayed on the show for eight years, from 1960 to 1968.
During his stint in the long-lived series, Howard also appeared on the big screen. He was cast in Bill Karn's musical crime drama Door-to-Door Maniac (1961, starring country singer Johnny Cash) and Morton DaCosta's Hollywood adaptation of the Broadway classic musical, the Academy Award-nominated The Music Man (1962, starring Robert Preston). Howard also appeared as Glenn Ford's 6-year-old son Eddie in Vincente Minnelli's drama comedy film based on Mark Toby's novel, The Courtship of Eddie's Father (1963, also with Shirley Jones), and costarred as a young kid named Genius, who invents a substance that causes any living thing to grow tremendously, in Bert I. Gordon's sci-fi movie inspired by H.G. Wells' novel, Village of the Giants (1965, with Tommy Kirk, Johnny Crawford and Beau Bridges). On the small screen, Howard played the title role in the family TV movie A Boy Called Nuthin' (1967).
In 1969, Howard began trying his hand at directing. He made two short films, the 8-minute Old Paint and the 2-minute Cards, Cads, Guns, Gore and Death, as well as Deed of Daring-Do (available as a special feature on the DVD release of The Missing (2003). All films featured his parents and brother. However, Howard still continued acting and could be seen playing Bob Smith on the ABC comedy-drama, "The Smith Family" (1971, starring Henry Fonda and Janet Blair) and starring in George Lucas' innovative teen drama comedy film American Graffiti (1973, with Richard Dreyfuss and Cindy Williams), playing Steve Bolander, which he later reprised in the less successful 1979 sequel, More American Graffiti.
Howard delivered a dramatic portrayal of Lyle Barlow, opposite Cloris Leachman, in the acclaimed CBS production The Migrants (1974, adopted from Tennessee Williams' story). That same year, Howard began his stint as Richard 'Richie' Cunningham, the all-American-boy-next-door, on the long-running ABC sitcom, Garry Marshall's '50s revival "Happy Days" (alongside Henry Winkler). He was a regular on the series for six years (1979-1980), before eventually leaving to pursue a career as a film director.
Meanwhile, Howard played the title role of a rambunctious boy adventurer in the ABC adaptation of Mark Twain's novel, Huckleberry Finn (1975, alongside his parents and brother) and appeared as an unaccredited cameo in Mark Haggard and Bruce Kimmel's musical comedy The First Nudie Musical (1976, starring Cindy Williams and Stephen Nathan). He also portrayed the craziest driver in town, who steals the fastest car in the state, in writer-director Charles B. Griffith's comedy Eat My Dust, and costarred as Lauren Bacall’s son, who worshipped a dying gunslinger (played by John Wayne), in Don Siegel's adaptation of Glendon Swarthout's novel, the melancholic Western The Shootist (both in 1976).
"If I had to choose between a great acting job and a good directing job, I'd choose the directing job." Ron Howard
1977 saw 23-year-old Ron Howard with his directional debut, Grand Theft Auto (he also starred and co-wrote the screenplay with his father), a low-budgeted film produced by Roger Corman. The film earned positive reviews and Howard followed it up with helming the NBC teen comedy movie Cotton Candy (he also co-wrote the screenplay with his brother Clint). After departing from the series "Happy Days" in 1980, Howard directed Bette Davis in the television movie Skyward (he also produced), and then directed the 1981 TV movie Through the Magic Pyramid (a.k.a. Tut and Tuttle). He also continued acting and was seen in the made-for-TV movies Act of Love, Bitter Harvest, Fire on the Mountain, and served as executive producer for the big screen’s Leo and Loree (starring "Happy Days" co-star Don Most).
The wacky comedy Nightshift (1982, he also played a role), which centers on two morgue attendants who double as pimps, is Ron Howard’s breakthrough work as a director. The film also marked Howard’s first collaboration with producer Brian Grazer, "Happy Days" screenwriters Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, and actor Michael Keaton. After helming the 1983 TV movie Littleshots, Howard hit back with his third feature, Splash (1984). The film is a romantic fantasy about a man and a mermaid, portrayed by Tom Hanks and Darryl Hannah. The film, scripted by Mandel and Ganz, was launched by Disney's Touchstone Pictures and became the company's most successful live-action film up to that period. The next year, Howard had another hit with sentimental favorite Cocoon, a sci-fi movie about old people who revive youthful energy thanks to alien interference. For the film, veteran actor Don Ameche received a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award. He also co-founded Imagine Films Entertainment with producer Brian Grazer (Howard served as co-CEO) and took it public the following year.
In 1986, Howard executive produced the ABC sitcom version of his feature Gung Ho (a.k.a. Working Class Man, starring Michael Keaton) and reprised his childhood role of Opie Taylor in the NBC immensely popular reunion movie Return to Mayberry (executive produced by Andy Griffith). After executive-producing the short-lived CBS sitcom "Take Five" (1987) and the TV sequel "Splash Too" (1988, ABC), Howard had a box-office mishap with the lavish fantasy Willow (1988), produced by George Lucas. However, he rebounded with the hit ensemble comedy Parenthood (1989), for which actress Dianne Wiest received a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award nomination. Howard also produced its sitcom spin-off for NBC in 1990-1991.
Entering the 1990s, Howard headlined Backdraft (1991), a big-budgeted stirring firefighter drama who’s cast members including Robert De Niro, Kurt Russell and Donald Sutherland, and Far and Away (1992), a romantic period adventure starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, which both met with mixed reviews. More positive reviews came for The Paper (1994), a sappy drama comedy about tabloid journalism, which featuring an all-star cast including Michael Keaton, Glenn Close, Robert Duvall and Marisa Tomei.
Apollo 13 (1995), a true story of the 1970 Apollo 13 mission, adopted from Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger's book, helped Howard again catapult his name toward the spotlight. The film, starring Tom Hanks, Ed Harris, Gary Sinise and Kathleen Quinlan, swept 9 Academy Award nominations and won the Best Sound and Best Editing Academy Awards. It also earned Howard the coveted Director's Guild Association Outstanding Feature Film Directorial Achievement Award. The following year, Howard returned with a remake of a 1956 film about a child kidnapping, in the violent and bloody thriller Ransom, starring Mel Gibson and Rene Russo. Adding to his director job, Howard executive-produced the ABC sitcom "Hiller & Diller" (1997), became one of the producers of the Emmy-winning HBO series "From the Earth to the Moon" (1998), executive-produced WB’s highly-touted drama series "Felicity,” and the ABC sitcom "Sports Night" (both in 1998, along with partner Brian Grazer). He also returned to the director’s chair helming Edtv (1999), a loose remake of a French-Canadian comedy-drama about a man who wins a contest and has his life aired 24 hours a day on TV, starring Matthew McConaughey.
Entering the new millennium, Howard executive-produced the animated series "The PJs" (Fox, 1999-2000; WB, 2000-2001), along with Grazer and Eddie Murphy. He then made a big budget remake of the classic cartoon about a creature intent on stealing Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000), which stars Jim Carrey and was adopted from Dr. Seuss' book. He also executive-produced Wonderland, an ABC short-lived drama created by Peter Berg.
2001 witnessed Howard winning two Academy Awards, for Best Director and Best Picture, thanks to his biopic A Beautiful Mind. The film, adopted from Sylvia Nasar's book and starring Russell Crowe, is about mathematical genius John Forbes Nash Jr., who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, but eventually triumphed over this tragedy by winning the Nobel Prize. The film also presented the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award to Jennifer Connelly. Afterward, Howard voiced the animated figure Tom Colonic in the Farrelly brothers’ Osmosis Jones, executive-produced the ABC summer series "The Beast" and produced the comedy feature Stealing Harvard (2002, both alongside Grazer).
Following the Academy Awards, Howard headlined a psychological thriller adopted from Thomas Eidson's novel, The Missing. The 2003 film, starring Tommy Lee Jones and Cate Blanchett, is set in 1886 New Mexico. More recent, he recruited Russell Crowe to costar with Renée Zellweger in his biographical story of the Great Depression fighter and folk hero Jim Braddock in Cinderella Man. Howard is currently in Britain and will soon complete his upcoming film project, the mystery drama, The Da Vinci Code. The film, based on Dan Brown's best-selling novel, will star Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou and Ian McKellen. Howard is also set to bring John Steinbeck's novel on screen, East of Eden, about the farmlands of the Salinas Valley in California.
Additionally, Howard is the producer of Matthew O'Callaghan's next film project, Curious George (starring Will Ferrell).
"I've acted with all types, I've directed all types. What you want to understand as a director is what actors have to offer. They'll get at it however they get at it. If you can understand that, you can get your work done." Ron Howard