MOTW: Ron Howard Biography

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A couple of high school grads spend one final night cruising the strip with their buddies before they go off to college.
Photo Credit: Universal Pictures
March 21st, 2013

MOTW: Ron Howard Biography

Ron Howard was born in Duncan, Oklahoma on March 1, 1954. Both of Howard's parents were well-known artists: his father Rance worked as an actor, writer, and director while his mother Jean was an actress. Howard's father's surname was Beckenholdt, but he took the stage name Howard six years before Ron's birth. At the time of Ron's birth, his father Rance was serving in the United States Air Force. Before Ron reached two years of age, he had already appeared in a film, "Frontier Woman," alongside his parents. The following year Howard debuted in the stage production "The Seven Year Itch."

In 1958 the Howard family moved to Hollywood so that Rance and Jean could pursue greater acting roles. Within two years of the move to California, Ron was cast as Opie on "The Andy Griffith Show" at the tender age of six. The producer of the sitcom, Sheldon Leonard, had seen many of Howard's performances on "The Journey" and "Playhouse 90." Howard became a national sensation for his portrayal of Opie, the young son of the main character played by Andy Griffith, and he starred on the hit series for a total of eight seasons. On two occasions when "The Andy Griffith Show" was in the off-season, Howard performed in "The Music Man" and "The Courtship of Eddie's Father." During those years, Howard became extremely close to Griffith, and the pair developed a father/son type relationship as a result. Although Howard was one of the brightest child actors of his time, his family tried to provide an environment as normal as possible for a young boy.

In keeping with Howard's parents' wish for him to experience real life, Howard attended John Burroughs High School. At the age of fifteen, he even reduced many of his acting roles so that he could play a whole season of basketball. Around that age Howard began to develop a love for directing, and conversed with many production crews on set about the ins and outs of filmmaking. In 1969 Howard received director credits on three small budget films. Despite Howard's yearning to direct, his acting career took up much of his short-term focus.

In 1971 Howard starred opposite Henry Fonda in "The Smith Family." Although Howard wanted to get into directing, Fonda encouraged him to pursue acting because of the exposure Howard would get from it. The following year Howard graduated from high school, and enrolled in the University of California's film school. He didn't stay there long though because he was cast in "American Graffiti," a film directed by George Lucas. Playing the role of Steve Bolander, Howard gained huge attention for his performance. The success of the film brought about a hit show, "Happy Days," in which Howard played the leading role of Richie Cunningham.

For the rest of the 1970s Howard only appeared sporadically in films as an actor. In 1977 Howard directed his first major film, "Grand Theft Auto." This taste of directing a feature film led him to create his own company, Major H Productions. For the next few years he directed several TV movies, before getting his next directing break with "Night Shift" in 1982. Two years later, Howard directed "Splash," the movie which birthed the acting career of Tom Hanks. Over the next few years, he directed many Hollywood films, such as "Willow," "Parenthood," and "Apollo 13."

Howard's greatest achievement as a director came in 2002, when he directed "A Beautiful Mind." The film proved to be a success at the box office and picked up several Academy Awards, such as Best Director and Best Picture, and the Golden Globe for Best Film.

In 2006 Howard directed and produced his most successful film yet: "The Da Vinci Code." The film was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Film and made more than three-quarters of a billion dollars at the box office. The film had plenty of controversy though, as many Catholics protested against the portrayal of the early church. Some high profile Catholics called for Howard to include a disclaimer at the beginning of the film stating that the events depicted in it were fiction. Howard, however, refused to give in to these demands despite the widespread criticism.

Howard continued to produce and direct a number of films and television shows over the next few years. In July of 2012 he discovered that his longtime friend Andy Griffith had passed away. Although the pair had not worked on screen for many decades, they kept in regular contact with each other until only a few years before Griffith passed away. Howard remarked how Griffith influenced him not only as an actor and a director, but also as a person.

Since the 1980s, Howard has only acted in documentaries or played bit part roles on screen. Later in 2013 "Rush" will be released to movie theaters. Howard directed and produced this film, which focuses on a Formula One rivalry in 1976. Chris Hemsworth and Olivia Wilde are due to star in this biographical motion picture.