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Wednesday, 23 January, 2002, 11:31 GMT
Ron Howard's happy days
Ron Howard
Ron Howard came from an acting family
Ron Howard is the only US director to make the nominations for the influential Directors' Guild of America award for outstanding directorial achievement. BBC News Online takes a look at his career.

Director and producer Ron Howard became a household name in the 1970s, thanks to his years starring on the US TV show Happy Days.

The series, set in the rock 'n' roll years of the 1950s, saw Howard playing the all-American teenager Richie Cunningham, alongside infamous greaser Fonzie.

After six years in the role, freckle-faced, clean-cut Howard had established his popularity as an actor in the immensely popular show.

But perhaps more importantly, it gave him unlimited access to the filmmaking process, and he learnt a good deal while on set.

Henry Winkle
Happy Days starred Henry Winkler as Fonzie
Born into an acting family, Howard became an instantly recognisable face on TV, having been in and out of shows throughout his childhood.

1962's Music Man featured an eight-year-old Howard as Winthrop Paroo, in the tale of a confidence trickster who tried to con a town by setting up a boys' marching band so he could escape with the proceeds.

The child actor went on to play Opie Taylor in the Andy Griffith Show from 1960 to 1968, as the son of the county sheriff.

And only a year later, Howard made his first film, Deed of Derring Do aged just 15, starring his father Rance, who is also a director, and brother Clint.

Although the film did not create much of a ripple in the film world, it allowed Howard to cut his teeth behind the camera.

Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman
Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman starred in Far and Away
In 1977 he directed and starred in Grand Theft Auto, a film starring teenagers in which cars are smashed up for the delight of the audience.

He left Happy Days in 1980, and by 1984, the young filmmaker managed to make his mark with romantic comedy Splash.

It starred a youthful Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah, whose characters fell in love after Hanks was swept away by Hannah's alluring mermaid charms.

As well as an Oscar nomination for best screenplay, Splash was also nominated both for a Golden Globe and by the Writers Guild of America.

Cocoon

Howard continued to build on his success with sci-fi comedy Cocoon the following year.

The film, which featured Jessica Tandy and Steve Guttenburg, saw a group of hapless aliens retrieving cocoons of their fellow beings from earth.

Tom Hanks
Tom Hanks starred in Apollo 13
It earned two Oscars - for Don Ameche as best supporting actor and for best visual effects.

Howard repeated his feat of nominations from both the Golden Globes and the Writers Guild of America.

And in 1988, he made another fantasy film, Willow, which starred Val Kilmer and British actress Joanne Whalley, gaining two Oscar nominations for effects.

He went from strength to strength, and by 1992, Howard was able to attract major Hollywood players, such as Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman.

Ron Howard
Howard directed his first film aged 15
The couple starred in Far and Away, a romantic drama about Irish immigrants in the US in the 19th Century.

By 1995, Howard was working with Hanks again, but this time there was no fantasy element to the film Apollo 13.

It was a dramatisation of Apollo 13's ill-fated flight to the moon, which was pulled back from the brink of death and disaster at the film's nail-biting climax.

It won two Oscars for best editing and sound, and was nominated for a further seven gongs.

But Howard could not resist the lure of another fantasy film, and produced a box-office smash out of How the Grinch Stole Christmas in 2000.

Beautiful Mind

Based on the quirky children's books by Dr Seuss, it starred Jim Carrey as the green, grumpy character covered in latex.

His latest film, a Beautiful Mind, is also tipped for the Oscars, having been received as a critical success.

It stars Russell Crowe as John Forbes Nash, a mathematician who battled schizophrenia and went on to win the Nobel Prize.

Having won four Golden Globes for the film, including best actor for Crowe, Howard has been singled out as the only US director deemed worthy of a prize by the influential Directors' Guild of America.

Although it bodes well for the Oscars in March, a film veteran like Howard knows only too well that award ceremonies are far from predictable.

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