Ron Howard should not be in Hollywood. It’s not that he isn’t talented. Far from it. The former Opie Taylor from The Andy Griffith Show and Richie Cunningham of Happy Days blossomed into an incredible award winning director. Apollo 13. A Beautiful Mind. The Da Vinci Code. Cinderella Man. Parenthood. And his latest out-of-the-galaxy hit, SOLO: A Star Wars Story.
No, Ron Howard most certainly is talented. It’s just that he’s also so darn likable! When you think of Hollywood, you usually think of the flash and bling and divas. You think of directors who are larger than life. But Ron Howard is… well, he’s just honest, genuine, humble and unbelievably nice.
Wearing his traditional baseball cap, Howard sat down with 25 eager bloggers (myself included) in a conference room in Los Angeles recently to discuss his part in SOLO: A Star Wars Story. It’s a part, he almost didn’t take. In fact, he turned it down initially.
Turning Down a Star Wars Film
Invited to a breakfast with Kathleen Kennedy (President of Lucasfilm) and screenwriters Jon (SOLO) and Larry Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back), Howard wasn’t sure what they were going to ask of him. Unaware of some of the directorial conflicts they were having with SOLO at the time, Howard thought perhaps they were going to ask him about a future Star Wars movie. But that’s exactly what they wanted. They asked the director if he would ever consider coming in and taking over as director for SOLO.
“And I said, well, it’s very flattering but I, I can’t imagine that I would,” said Howard. “I don’t think so. Instead I urged them to reconsider [switching directions] and think about it. And they said, well they had already made their decision. They were going to make a change.”
So what changed Howard’s mind? Did he somehow feel a disturbance in The Force? Not exactly. It was really two things that sealed his fate: the script and his wife.
“I read the script and I was so compelled by that script,” he revealed. “It answered the questions of what a young Han Solo’s life experiences might be that would shape him, form him, push him toward that iconic figure that we would know later. And did it in ways that surprised me. And so it was really satisfying and logical. But it also had these twists and turns that were unexpected. In my mind, I thought, well that’s a great jumping off place.”
He also knew there was a fantastic cast attached to the film. Over the next three days, he really began to weigh the opportunity. And that’s when his wife Cheryl pulled a Yoda and dropped a big wisdom bomb on him.
“At a certain point, my wife Cheryl and I were talking about it. And she said, ‘I know you pretty well and I think you’re going to be disappointed if you don’t do this.’ I thought she was right, as she most always is.”
Challenges From a Galaxy, Far, Far Away
It’s one thing to accept the role of director; it’s another thing to be directing a Star Wars movie. After all, this is Star Wars, only the galaxy’s biggest set of fanboy films to span generations. Clearly there are some challenges and expectations that come with such a film.
“What I did discover is that the reason these Star Wars movies resonate with us and we see them more than once, often is because they entertain you in so many different ways,” said Howard. “And I didn’t realize that as a fan. But when I was directing the scenes, I realized that’s a real challenge. You’ve got action elements. You’ve got sci-fi elements that are very particular to this galaxy. You’ve got this blend of humanity and humor and drama and then these deeper bigger themes And it’s like playing three dimensional chess to direct these scenes. When the harmonics are right, it creates this sort of range of ways that the movies entertain you.”
“But it’s a real challenge. I recognized and respected the movies that came before me all the more when I realized how complicated it was. So it was a challenge but it was fun. And George Lucas had said to me, ‘Just trust your instincts. I think you’re gonna find you’re comfortable in this filmmaking style.’ And he was right.”
Star Wars vs. Dinosaurs
Some parents have it tough. Their kids can struggle to make a career for themselves and never make it. Others are lucky and persevere. In Howard’s case, his daughter Bryce Dallas Howard has flourished as an actress, most recently starring opposite Chris Pratt in the Jurassic World films. Her latest, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, hits theaters June 22, 2018. That’s only a few short weeks after SOLO premieres.
So does Ron Howard consider his daughter the competition? Not a chance.
“Well, it’s hard not to root for your daughter,” he said. “And you know, I think we’re in a very fortunate position. This whole experience of being a part of Star Wars and this summer’s movie lineup was so unexpected. And once we realized that our movies were coming out a month apart or something like that… I don’t know. It’s kind of like a gift, I suppose.”
“You know, you work at something that you love. I give 110% to everything that I do. Some things click, some things not as much. But I just love it as a lifestyle, our way of life. I’ve felt very rewarded by this opportunity and I hope fans feel really good about the movie because these movies are made for the fans. I certainly was, very much in agreement with that and working for the fans in this particular instance.”
As for linking his past to Han Solo’s, Howard had an interesting answer to an interesting question. What would little Opie Taylor think if the Millennium Falcon landed in Mayberry?
“Well, I think he’d probably say, ‘Gee Pa, can I can I take a ride?'”