Ron Howard’s rise from child actor to legendary film director was an epic Hollywood couldn’t have written better

Ron Howard's rise from child actor to legendary film director at Click Americana

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Ron Howard, a name synonymous with top-notch entertainment, has had a trajectory in Hollywood that most can only dream of. Starting as a cherubic-faced child actor, he morphed into a director with a Midas touch.

The boy behind Opie

The world first met young Ron Howard as Opie Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show. It was the 1960s, and America was charmed by the small-town antics of Mayberry.

Young Ron Howard

Young Ron Howard, with his affable nature and that signature red hair, quickly became a household favorite. But while most knew him as Sheriff Taylor’s earnest son, few could predict the cinematic giant he would become.

Transitioning to a career behind the camera

Post-Opie days, Ron Howard didn’t just rest on his laurels. He continued his acting stint with a starring role in American Graffiti, and became very well-known as an adult as Richie Cunningham on Happy Days.

Happy Days TV show cast

But it was the director’s chair that held the most allure.

Films like A Beautiful Mind, which delved into the complexities of the human psyche, and Apollo 13, a gripping portrayal of a space mission gone awry, showcased Howard’s depth and versatility. These weren’t just films — they were experiences. The Academy certainly agreed, showering him with nominations and awards.

The Oscar-winning director was also behind the helm of ParenthoodBackdraftFrost/NixonThirteen Lives, and many other acclaimed films. (He also co-created  actress Bryce Dallas Howard.)

Ron Howard’s legacy & impact

In Hollywood, where careers can sometimes be short-lived, Howard’s endurance stands out. Each project he took on reflected his innate understanding of storytelling. Be it drama, comedy, or thrillers, he seemed to possess a chameleon-like ability to adapt to any genre.

It was more than just having a keen directorial eye, but about understanding the human experience, which Howard so beautifully translates onto the screen.

Director Ron Howard in 2010
Ron Howard at the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s 2010 Humanitarian Award, Beverly Wilshire Hotel, Beverly Hills, CA 05-05-10 (Photo by S Bukley/Deposit Photos)

Ron Howard’s collaborations with the best

Howard’s projects often involve a roll call of Hollywood’s crème de la crème. From multiple collaborations with Tom Hanks, including the gripping Da Vinci Code series, to working with well-known actors like Russell Crowe, his synergy with actors brings out their best. It’s this mutual respect and shared vision that’s resulted in some of cinema’s most memorable moments.

Ron Howard’s career, woven with threads of passion, innovation, and collaboration, is a reminder that when art meets heart, the outcome is nothing short of magical.

Take a look below at two interviews with young Ron — the first from way, way back in the day, when he was 11-year-old child actor Ronnie Howard, the second from when he was starring on Happy Days — and see some photos from his career!

Ron Howard – young and old – with a milk mustache (1997)

Young actor Ron Howard with a milk mustache

Director and actor Ron Howard with a milk mustache (1997)

Andy Griffith’s Ronnie is all boy

By Vernon Scott, Hollywood in the The Daily Independent (Kannapolis, NC) August 11, 1965

Ronnie Howard, the red-haired moppet of “The Andy Griffith Show,” is that rare child actor without guile and a Hollywood head.

He’s a well-adjusted 11-year-old who would rather play baseball with the kids on the block than go on a personal appearance tour.

Young actor Ronnie - Ron Howard

He’s wealthy but he doesn’t know it, principally because his parents, Mr and Mrs Rance Howard, keep him on a paltry allowance and send him to public school when he’s not working on the show.

Ronnie, his parents and younger brother, Clint. 6, live in an unpretentious three-bedroom house in the San Fernando Valley. He describes it as “just a plain old house.”

Mrs. Howard has furnished the home in the currently-chic distressed mode. Ronnie puts it differently.

“This furniture is beat-up-looking when it’s new,” he says. “I think Mom likes the idea of distressed stuff, because when Clint gets through jumping around the house, it gets pretty battered. The more beat up it gets, the better it looks.”

Still, Ronnie’s mother recently spent three days revarnishing the damaged pieces.

Young Ron Howard in an Andy Griffith promo shot
Young Ron Howard in an Andy Griffith Show promo shot

Baseball fan

Ronnie is possibly the only television star without a room to call his own. He and Clint share a bedroom, although Ronnie also has use of the family den where he likes to “fool around.”

Both Howard lads are baseball fans and collect cards bearing likenesses of their heroes. Naturally, they root for the Dodgers, and Sandy Koufax is Ronnie’s particular idol. Little Clint has 280 cards in his collection, and Ronnie’s hoard tops 300.

In the neighborhood, Ronnie is indistinguishable from the other kids. He runs around in blue jeans, open shirt and tennis shoes. He has one good suit for church and parties.

When the show is before the cameras, Ronnie is tutored by the same teacher he has studied with for the past five years. The video season ends, however, two months before summer vacation. At that time, Ronnie enrolls in public school.

“School’s a lot more fun than studying by myself at the studio (Desilu Cahuenga),” he says, “but I love to act, so I really don’t mind the kind of life I lead.

“When I get home from the studio, I change my clothes and play baseball with my team in the Hap Minor League. It’s for kids from 9 to 12 years old. I play the outfield and sometimes shortstop.”

Actors Clint Howard and Ron Howard in the mid-1960s
Actors Clint Howard and Ron Howard in the mid-1960s

On weekends, Ronnie begs his parents to take him to the beach, where he enjoys body surfing on a small plastic surfboard.

Like most kids, he is crazy about fried chicken and corn on the cob. He also wolfs down hamburgers, but spinach turns him green. Ronnie digs pop music, but no girls.

Because he has a limited amount of time to himself, Ronnie doesn’t have a dog. But he is the proud owner of a cat named Mitts — Mitts because he has six toes on his front paws, reminding Ronnie of a catcher’s mitt. On working days, Papa Howard drives Ronnie to work.

MORE RON HOWARD: ‘Happy Days’ brought the 50s back – plus see the opening credits & popular theme song

On the set, Ronnie is great pals with the series co-stars, Andy Griffith and comedian Don Knotts. Frequently he eats lunch in the studio commissary — as close to his actor friends as possible. “They’re real nice fellas,” he says.

Ron Howard and Don Knotts playing baseball
Ron Howard and Don Knotts playing baseball

Ronnie is home no later than 6 pm — often much earlier — in time for neighborhood games. At night, he hits the books and studies his script.

The future? “I think I’m going to keep on acting,” he says. “I really like it, and someday I’d like to become a director, too. Also, I want to go to college, but I don’t know where it will be yet.”

Ronnie was in a hurry. His baseball team was waiting.

Young teenage actor Ron Howard

At age 22, Ron Howard ready to act like an adult (1976)

By Dick Kleiner in the Birmingham Post-Herald (Alabama) February 28, 1976

HOLLYWOOD – This coming March, Ron Howard will be 22. It’s hard to believe, but he’s been acting for 17 years and he feels it’s high time he began acting his age.

Ronnie Howard in his early teens
Ronnie Howard in his early teens

At the moment, he’s the star of the ABC hit Happy Days. Although he’s still playing a teenager on the show, he says that at least he’s getting a chance to show some signs of maturity.

“These next few years,” Ron says, “will be a period of transition for me. At least I hope they will be. I can’t go on forever playing an 18-year-old. Happy Days is letting me mature somewhat. Last year, me and my buddies on the show were juniors in high school and this year we’re seniors. Next year, the plans call for us all to go on to college.”

But he’s looking beyond the series, which inevitably will end someday. Then he wants to have a crack at grown-up roles, parts with some meat on their bones. He feels he’s been playing kid parts long enough.

School dance in American Graffiti movie (1973)
Cindy Williams with Ron Howard in the movie American Graffiti (1973)

This is his third season on Happy Days. He had eight years as Opie on The Andy Griffith Show, a few years on The Smith Family, and in between, he was in dozens of movies including, of course, American Graffiti.

All that was fine when he was a boy playing a boy and a teenager playing a teenager, but he’s a man now and it’s time to put aside childish things.

One thing, he’s a married man. Last June, he married his high school sweetheart Cheryl. She’s still going to college, studying psychology, and plans to go for both a master’s degree and a doctorate, and then work with either retarded children or in the field of geriatrics.

Ron is continuing his education too, when he can, but it’s hard to do work and go to college. He admits his educational pursuits currently are “just dabbling,” just taking a few courses which interest him in such subjects as history, business, and literature.

Even though he started acting when he was five, his father, an actor named Rance Howard, never pushed him. On the contrary, Ron’s dad always was careful to tell him he didn’t have to be an actor if he didn’t want to be one.

Actor Rance Howard, father of Ron Howard
Actor Rance Howard, father of Ron Howard

And for a time when he was in high school, he quit acting in favor of sports. As he puts it, “I devoted myself to basketball,” and had dreams of a career on the basketball court.

“At that time,” he says, “I expected to grow to be a six-footer. But I didn’t. Maybe that’s why I went back to acting.”

Now there’s something else on his mind. He’d like to direct. At the moment, he and some friends are making a movie, budgeted at $10,000, which is high for a strictly amateur project.

Ron wrote it and is directing it, and the group figures it will take them 15 weekends to complete. Cheryl Howard is in charge of make-up, costumes, and is the script girl.

So the Ronnie Howard of The Andy Griffith Show has become Ron Howard, a fully-grown and very serious person. It was, after all, inevitable.

Ron Howard on the cover of Disney Channel magazine (1986)

Ron Howard on the cover of Disney Channel magazine (1986)

Ron Howard and family in 2015
Ron Howard and family in 2015 at his Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony
Seth Gabel, Bryce Dallas Howard, Ron Howard, Cheryl Howard, Family at the Ron Howard Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at the Hollywood Blvd on December 10, 2015 in Los Angeles, CA (Photo by Jean Nelson/Deposit Photos)

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