The Evolution of Ron Howard

We take a look back at the director’s career…

RUSH is released in Irish cinemas this weekend. The film, directed by Hollywood heavyweight Ron Howard, tells the true story of Formula 1 drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda, and how their bitter rivalry drove them both to glory.
We decided to take a look back at the career of the director responsible for bringing us fantastic, tense and engaging dramas, and for being the voice of ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT.
Ron Howard began his acting career rather young; at just six years old, he was cast as Opie Taylor in the Andy Griffith Show. From there, Howard went on to appear in various TV shows, including M*A*S*H and THE ELEVENTH HOUR. After he appeared in George Lucas’s film AMERICAN GRAFFITI in 1973, Howard was cast as Richie Cunningham in HAPPY DAYS, a role with which he would become synonymous.
Richie Cunningham was the protagonist of HAPPY DAYS for seven years, but Howard left the show after seven seasons in 1980. The transition from child to adult star is always a difficult one, but Howard took on an even bigger challenge when he decided to move on from the role that made him a household name – that of the all-American teenager – to become a director.
Howard’s first outing as a director was in 1969, when he directed members of his family in a short Western called OLD PAINT. Howard also made two other shorts in the same year, entitled DEED OF DERRING-DO and CARDS, CADS, GUNS, GORE AND DEATH. Howard’s first feature film, however, was 1977’s GRAND THEFT AUTO; a comedy road trip movie in which he also starred.
Following COTTON CANDY, and some TV movies, Howard directed the romantic comedy SPLASH; the story of a mermaid and the man who falls in love with her. Howard quickly showed himself as a director with an eye for the comedic and the odd, and his 1985 film COCOON only cemented this reputation. COCOON is the story of a group of elderly people who inadvertently swim in a pool containing alien life force, and find themselves rejuvenated. COCOON is a story of eternal youth that went on to win two Oscars and has a rating of 80% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Howard stayed with the realm of fantasy with WILLOW, his 1988 epic. The story is that of a dwarf who finds himself tasked with protecting a child from an evil queen who lives in fear of a prophecy that will lead to her doom. WILLOW was written by George Lucas and was shown and promoted at the 1988 Cannes Film Festival. The film was nominated for two Oscars – Visual Effects and Sound Editing – but lost out to WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT, and received mixed reviews from critics. There is, however, an entire generation of adults whose childhoods have been framed by WILLOW, even if it is reputed that the film was a commercial failure.

With BACKDRAFT, Ron Howard continued his record for making Oscar nominated films. Unfortunately, the story of two Chicago firemen who have to work together to foil a dangerous arsonist lost out in the Oscars, but went on to win the BMI Film Music Award for Hans Zimmer’s score. BACKDRAFT starred Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Donald Sutherland.

Howard’s luck turned with APOLLO 13 in 1995, when the film won Best Editing and Best Sound at the Oscars, but the coveted Best Picture and best Director Oscars continued to elude the director. APOLLO 13 focused on three astronauts whose spaceship is damaged, and must find a way back to Earth. APOLLO 13 starred Tom Hanks and Bill Paxton, has a score of 95% on Rotten Tomatoes, and cemented Howard’s reputation as a director with a flair for drama.


To make sure that he did not get pigeon holed, however, Howard directed RANSOM in 1996 and the comedy EDTV in 1999, before moving into the realm of children’s’ cinema with HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS in 2000. The big screen retelling of Dr. Seuss’s beloved book starred Jim Carrey as the Grinch; a creature determined to steal Christmas from the happy residents of Whoville. HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS may not have been Howard’s most successful cinematic outing, but it proved the director’s versatility and won an Oscar for Rick Baker’s make up effects.