Nationality: American. Born: Duncan, Oklahoma, 1 March 1954; son of Rance (an actor, writer, and director) and Jean (an actress; maiden name, Speegle) Howard. Education: Attended the University of Southern California and Los Angeles Valley College. Family: Married Cheryl Alley, 7 June 1975; children: Bryce Dallas, Paige Carlyle, Jocelyn Carlyle, Reed. Career: First appeared on the Lassie TV series at age one; appeared in TV series beginning in 1960, including The Andy Griffith Show , 1960–68, The Smith Family , 1971–72, Happy Days , 1974–80, and as voice on Fonz and the Happy Days Gang , 1980–82; president, Major H Productions, 1977; producer and executive producer of TV series, including Maximum Security , 1985, Parenthood , 1990, Sports Night , 1998, and Felicity , 1998; founder (with others), Imagine Films Entertainment, Inc., 1986. Awards: Director of the Year, National Association of Theatre Owners, 1985; Louella Parsons Award, Hollywood Women's Press Club, 1985; American Cinematheque Award, 1990; Directors Guild of America DGA Award, outstanding achievement in motion pictures, for Apollo 13 , 1996; DGA Award, outstanding miniseries, 1998, and PGA Golden Laurel Award, television producer of the year
award in longform, 1999, for
From the Earth to the Moon.
Imagine Films Entertainment, Inc., 1925 Century Park East, Los Angeles,
Bryan Lourd and Richard Lovett, Creative Artists Agency, 9830 Wilshire
Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90212.
Deed of Derring-Do
Grand Theft Auto (+ sc)
Cotton Candy (+ sc)
Skyward (for TV) (+ exec pr)
Through the Magic Pyramid ( Tut and Tuttle ) (for TV)
Gung Ho ( Working–Class Man ) (+ exec pr)
Parenthood (+ sc)
Far and Away (+ sc, pr)
Apollo 13 (+ music exec pr)
Ed TV (+ pr)
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Frontier Woman (uncredited bit part)
The Journey (billed as Ronny Howard) (as Billy Rhinelander)
Door-to-Door Maniac ( Five Minutes to Live ) (as Bobby)
The Music Man (billed as Ronny Howard) (as Winthrop Paroo)
The Courtship of Eddie's Father (billed as Ronny Howard) (as Eddie)
Village of the Giants (billed as Ronny Howard) (as Genius)
A Boy Called Nuthin' (for TV) (as Richie "Nuthin"' Caldwell)
Smoke (for TV) (as Chris)
The Wild Country ( The Newcomers ) (billed as Ronny Howard) (as Virgil)
Happy Mother's Day, Love George (as Johnny); American Graffiti (billed as Ronny Howard) (as Steve Bolander)
The Spikes Gang (as Les Richter); Locusts (for TV) (as Donny Fletcher); The Migrants (for TV) (as Lyle Barlow)
Huckleberry Finn (for TV) (as Huckleberry Finn)
The Shootist (as Gillom Rogers); The First Nudie Musical (for TV) (as Actor at Audition); I'm a Fool ; Eat My Dust! (as Hoover Niebold)
Grand Theft Auto (as Sam Freeman)
More American Graffiti (as Steve Bolander)
Act of Love (for TV) (as Leon Cybulkowski)
Bitter Harvest (for TV) (as Ned De Vries); Fire on the Mountain (for TV) (as Lee Mackie)
When Your Lover Leaves (for TV)
Return to Mayberry (for TV) (as Opie Taylor)
The Magical World of Chuck Jones (for TV) (as himself)
Frank Capra's American Dream (for TV) (as Host/Narrator)
From Star Wars to Star Wars: The Story of Industrial Light & Magic (doc) (as himself/interviewee)
The Independent (as himself); Chuck Jones: Extremes and In-Betweens, a Life in Animation (as himself)
Leo and Loree When Your Lover Leaves (for TV)
No Greater Gift (for TV); Into Thin Air (for TV)
Take Five (for TV); No Man's Land
Clean and Sober ; Lone Star Kid ; Vibes
Inventing the Abbotts
From the Earth to the Moon (mini, for TV)
Student Affairs (for TV); Beyond the Mat
Eye See You ; How to Eat Fried Worms
Interview in Playboy (Chicago), May 1994.
Interview in Time Out (London), no. 1380, 29 January 1997.
Interview in Radio Times (London), 8 February 1997.
Interview in Premiere (Boulder), April 1999.
Kramer, Barbara, Ron Howard: Child Star and Hollywood Director , Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, 1998.
Landrot, M., "Ivre de contes," in Télérama (Paris), no. 2312, 4 May 1994.
* * *
Ron Howard is the rare Hollywood success story—a child star who became one of the film industry's most successful and prolific directors. As little Ronny Howard, the sweet-faced redhead spent the better part of his childhood in front of the cameras playing easygoing Opie Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show (1960–68). His small-screen success playing the personable son of the widowed Andy Griffith earned Howard numerous film roles similarly playing good-natured father's sons. In The Music Man , he made his musical debut singing "Gary, Indiana"; in Vincente Minelli's The Courtship of Eddie's Father , Howard starred as another sweet son of a widower opposite Glenn Ford.
After graduating from high school and attending the University of Southern California, Howard returned to acting in George Lucas's milestone 1950s film, American Graffiti , playing Steve, the clean-cut, All-American boy about to leave for college. The film spawned the TV sitcom Happy Days , in which Howard played the lead role of the straight arrow, good-natured Richie Cunningham for six seasons. It was time put to good use as Howard learned everything he could about the business.
Howard directed his first film while still acting on Happy Days. Like so many first–time directors, Howard received an early break from the low-budget, independent film king Roger Corman. Howard's Grand Theft Auto (1977) is rather unsophisticated car crash-filled action fare. His next film, however, made much more of an impression. Night Shift is a wacky but endearing comedy about two morgue attendants who double as pimps. The unlikely premise succeeded due as much to Howard's brisk direction as to Michael Keaton's effective acting in his screen debut.
Howard's next film catapulted the young director to the Hollywood A-list. Splash , a romantic fantasy about a man and a mermaid starring Tom Hanks and Darryl Hannah, proved a hit with 1980s audiences, who welcomed Howard's wholesome values. Howard brought the same feel-good ethos to 1985's Cocoon , a sci-fi fantasy about senior citizens who discover the fountain of youth. The respect accorded Howard by the film community gave him the ability to attract some of Hollywood's best veteran performers, such as Jessica Tandy, Don Ameche, Hume Cronyn, Wilford Brimley, and Maureen Stapleton, bringing the film a heavy dose of class. Although the film was a huge hit with audiences, some critics, such as Pauline Kael, felt that Howard "overwork[ed] his ecumenical niceness—his attempt to provide something for all age groups and all faiths." But Hollywood and American audiences couldn't get enough of Howard's family values, and he followed up with Cocoon II as well as Willow , another lavish but far less successful fantasy.
In 1985 Howard joined forces with producer Brian Grazer to form Imagine Films Entertainment. Their company, with Howard as executive producer, oversaw such popular 1980s fare as Clean and Sober and The 'Burbs. But whenever Howard took the helm as director, audiences came to expect comforting, sweet, and often humorous films such as Parenthood (1991).
In the early 1990s Howard began to expand his vision, bringing more ambitious fare to the screen—-from the firefighting romance-adventure Backdraft (1992); to the Tom Cruise-Nicole Kidman Irish-American epic Far and Away (1992); to the comedy-drama about tabloid journalism, The Paper (1994). But Howard's somewhat sentimental, all-American values continued to permeate his cinematic vision.
In 1995 Howard assembled an all-star cast led by Tom Hanks to take on his most challenging film to date. Apollo 13 depicts the near-disastrous lunar mission in April 1970. But the film is as much about the heroism of the men and women of NASA, and about America's space program in general. Roger Ebert wrote, "Ron Howard's film of this mission is directed with a single-mindedness and attention to detail that makes it riveting. . . . He knows he has a great story, and he tells it in a docudrama that feels like it was filmed on location in outer space." Hailed by critics and audiences alike as one of the year's best films, Apollo 13 earned Howard the Directors Guild Award for 1995.
Howard followed up his success on Apollo 13 with the rather mindless Mel Gibson adventure Ransom. But his next film, Inventing the Abbotts , brought Howard back to more familiar territory—the 1950s. This time the mature Howard delved beneath the happy veneer of small–town America. Blessed with what one critic called "the most beautiful cast in the world," Howard examined repressed teenage angst and explored crises of sex, love, and identity at the intersection of rich and poor in Middle America. Though the fresh, crisp, and pretty feel of the film was very Howardesque, the themes ran deeper than many of his previous efforts.
The same held true of his 1999 comedy, Ed TV , a satire about late twentieth-century celebrity. Starring Matthew McConaughy and Jenna Elfman, Howard tried to use humor to skewer America's obsession with fame. Though the picture was moderately well received, it demonstrated the increasing depth of Howard's thematic interests.
Ron Howard once remarked that he became a director in order to avoid being typecast as an actor. He has also refused to be typecast as a director. Although all of his films are explorations of the human experience, he has ventured into many genres—science fiction, fantasy, epic adventure, romance, comedy, drama, satire—as well as into countless worlds. Ultimately, Howard sees himself and his directorial career as a work in progress. He has said, "One of the great things about being a director as life choice is that it can never be mastered. Every story is its own kind of expedition, with its own set of challenges."
It would be impossible to guess what the future will hold for Howard, other than that he will undoubtedly continue to make films at the brisk pace of roughly one a year, and he will explore the human condition with the all-American values and respect for Hollywood tradition inculcated as a child playing all-American boys beloved by all-American audiences.