Ron Howard’s Devotion to Storytelling Earns Him a Walk of Fame Star

Over the course of a 30-year career behind the camera, Ron Howard has released an array of films, from such dramas as “A Beautiful Mind” and “Frost/Nixon” to action films like “Backdraft,” comedies such as “Parenthood” and those that touch on several genres at once, like “Apollo 13.” His latest, “In the Heart of the Sea,” opening Dec. 11, examines issues of morality and spirit within the context of a historical seafaring epic.

This fascination with multiple platforms for storytelling has earned Howard box office success, as well as two Oscars, four Emmys, a Directors Guild of America Award and a host of additional laurels, including his second star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame that he will receive Dec. 10.

If there’s a unifying element in Howard’s film career, it is his adherence to the story at the core of each project.

“I’m always attracted to stories on a thematic level, or a set of themes,” Howard says. “I feel like if I can identify them, understand the questions they raise, and if I think I have the answer, offer that. And if not, I try to discover that.” In his search to uncover the truths of his stories, Howard has found that his curiosity can bring to light deeper issues that in turn, inform and expand the development of the project in ways beyond simply cementing plot points. “In the greatest situations, you develop more questions than you can actually address,” he says. “You wind up discussing aspects of the human experience that you wouldn’t otherwise have time to (address), and that’s fascinating and sometimes surprising.”

Brian Grazer, Howard’s longtime producing partner and co-chairman of their production company, Imagine Entertainment, notes that Howard’s focus resonates with audiences.

“The canvas (of a film) always comes first,” Grazer says. “I’ll say to him, ‘Don’t you have to live inside these characters?’ And he’ll say, ‘No, I’m a filmmaker. I make movies about stories.’”

In investigating the world of the story, Howard gives his characters dimension to breathe and grow into memorable figures — the troubled math genius John Nash in “Beautiful Mind,” the obsessive racers in “Rush,” even the Grinch, whose malevolent exterior hides a wounded heart in “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” As Grazer says, “He has a unique skill of bringing his understanding of humanity — that it’s not black and white, but gray — into characters. That creates multidimensional characters in interesting movies that he’s able to conquer.”

Howard’s fascination with storytelling began when his primary career was still acting. He began appearing in films and on television at the age of 5, and found initial stardom as Opie Taylor on “The Andy Griffith Show,” which ran from 1960 to 1968. The role became emblematic for Howard, and he continued to play wholesome young men in “American Graffiti” and on “Happy Days.” As Howard became aware that his acting career was on a singular track, he began looking outside its borders for other means of fulfillment. He found it in directing.

“Virtually all of the directors on ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ had been actors, and my father, (actor) Rance Howard, directed a lot of theater, so that was a natural progression in my mind,” he says.

At the same time, Howard was delving deeply into the new American cinema of the period — films like “The Graduate” and “Bonnie and Clyde” and “The Conversation” — which piqued his curiosity.

“I began to see these movies could transport you in a way that I never felt from watching a TV show, and a director’s role was at the center of that,” he says.

His career behind the camera began with short films featuring his family, including brother Clint, who’s a character actor. Film studies at USC gave him additional experience before Howard made his feature directorial debut with “Grand Theft Auto,” a low-budget action film for producer Roger Corman, in 1977.

But even with a movie under his belt, Howard felt the same degree of limitation he had found as an actor was creeping into the directorial projects he was offered.

“I worked on the kind of films that people would let me tackle, which were comedies or youth-oriented projects, because that’s what people could wrap their heads around for me to direct,” he says. “I had been typecast as an actor, and I didn’t want that to be my experience as a director.”

So Howard let interest and instinct be his guide, and he began to explore more complex concepts in his films. He’s still asking the big questions in his latest work. “In the Heart of the Sea,” which concerns the real-life case of a whale sinking a 19th-century ship that inspired “Moby-Dick,” allowed him to touch on both global and personal issues.

“The story was so relatable and modern, because whale oil was the energy industry of its time, and it was doing a lot of good. It was lighting the world,” Howard says. “But what was the price? This brutal industry of hunting whales. And as much as these men could reconcile themselves to it, when the whale attacked them, they all wondered if it was punishment. It made me wonder if there was an aspect to humanity that even as it engages in brutal behavior, they have to ask the question, ‘Am I crossing some line here?’ I wanted to infuse our story with those questions.”

As Howard continues to investigate the human heart in his films, his interest in telling stories draws him to other media. Efforts to this end include the revived “Arrested Development” for Netflix, documentaries like “Made in America,” about the eponymous music festival founded by Jay Z, and the National Geographic Channel science series “Breakthrough.”

“Film is an emotional medium,” he says. “And emotion trumps intellect (in storytelling), but the two have to be there. If you can link those two things and create an experience that for audiences that grips them, that’s the key.”

More Film

  • it chapter two, comic con

    Comic-Con: 4500 Gallons of Fake Blood and Everything Else to Know About 'It Chapter Two''

    Comic-Con 2019 kicked off with a stacked presentation from the director and cast of “It Chapter Two” on Wednesday, inspiring a curious amount of joy at San Diego’s Spreckles Theater in spite of the abject terror offered up by the film. The closing chapter to 2017’s record-obliterating “It,” the highest grossing R-rated horror film of [...]

  • 'Between Me and My Mind' Review:

    Film Review: Trey Anastasio in 'Between Me and My Mind'

    Trey Anastasio doesn’t look like a rock star. With his thick rimless glasses and flop of sandy red hair, you might say he resembles John Sebastian, but really, he looks like a mashup of Mike White and Jon Cryer and the filmmaker Chris Smith. He’s an appealingly ordinary shaggy-geek dude, like some guy you might [...]

  • Photo taken July 18, 2019, from

    More Than 20 Feared Dead in Arson Attack on Japan's Kyoto Animation

    UPDATED: More than 20 people are feared to have died Thursday morning in an arson attack on the Kyoto Animation company in Japan, shocking a nation in which extreme violence is very rare. Emergency services in Kyoto City received a call about 10:35 a.m. local time reporting an explosion on the first floor of the [...]

  • sith trooper

    Sith Trooper Revealed From 'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker'

    “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” revealed a new storm trooper uniform Wednesday at San Diego Comic Con as part of a special exhibit celebrating the evolution of the storm trooper design. Dubbed the Sith trooper, the new uniform sports all-red armor plates with a matching red and black blaster. Also decorating the armor is [...]

  • Dunkirk

    Harry Styles Is the Perfect Prince Eric; Why He'd Rock 'Little Mermaid' Role

    Could Harry Styles be the perfect Prince Eric? One day after the announcement that the One Direction star is “in early negotiations to play the iconic ‘Little Mermaid’ role,” the internet exploded with speculation as to how he would portray the object of Ariel’s affections. “I can see lots of reasons why Harry is perfect,” [...]

  • The Lion King

    Film News Roundup: PETA Sponsors Rescued Lion in Jon Favreau's Name

    In today’s film news roundup, PETA honors Jon Favreau for “The Lion King,” “Tigers Are Not Afraid” gets a theatrical release, a Kirk Franklin biopic is in development and “The Sixth Sense” gets an anniversary showing in Philadelphia. HONOR The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is sponsoring a rescued lion to honor director [...]

  • Tokyo Director-in-Focus-at-Japan-Now

    Nobuhiko Obayashi set as Japanese Director in Focus at Tokyo Film Festival

    Indie director, Nobuhiko Obayashi will be feted as the director in focus at the Japan Now section of this year’s Tokyo International Film Festival. The festival will give a world premiere to his “Labyrinth of Cinema.” Supporting his art by shooting commercials, Obayashi is an indie whose dreamy works have influenced numerous other directors in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content