COURTESY OF UNIVERSAL PICTURES
1977 Grand Theft Auto
1982 Night Shift
1986 Gung Ho
1992 Far and Away
1994 The Paper
1995 Apollo 13
1999 Ed TV
2000 How the Grinch
2001 A Beautiful Mind
2003 The Missing
2005 Cinderella Man
2006 The Da Vinci Code
[Clint] in the other [juvenile] role and took a liking
to my dad and cast him as one of the villains. We
had a great experience making this movie in Jackson
Totten, in his early 30s with a dynamic personality, was a strong actor’s director. He had directed a
low-budget, independent feature when he was 21
years old, and he kept saying, “You don’t have to wait
until you’re 35 to direct a feature.” My imagination
ran wild with the idea, and I came out of that project believing that I wanted to be a director and that
I could be a director.
CC: You’ve said before that the atmosphere director
George Lucas established on the American Graffiti
 set was a cultural departure in old-school versus new-school moviemaking. How was it different?
RH: Instead of burly tough guys making up the
crew, on that set there were actually several women
on the crew, and college-educated film lovers were
everywhere. It was fascinating to me: Clearly the
winds of change were blowing, but it was a pretty
comfortable breeze for me. I liked the feel of it.
CC: Did you pick up on some directing tips from working with Lucas?
RH: He framed shots with such an overall attention
to the detail that went into each frame. That blended
with spontaneity—creating an environment that
was so authentic, supported with a great script.
CC: Had you already been to film school at that time?
RH: That was the summer before starting film
school at USC, where George Lucas was already a
legend at that time. His was a great name to be able
to drop there. He knew I loved movies and that I
would be going to USC. That gave us much in common. Of course, at that point I was just an actor. I
was happy to have the job and to observe what he
For Ron Howard’s
his experiences as a child
actor in films and on televi-
sion, see the December Online
Edition. Visit costco.com, and
click on “Costco magazine.”
CC: So Happy Days happened while you were going to
RH: I kept interrupting film school to take acting
jobs, but I was dogged about continuing school. I
didn’t care if it would take six years to finish; I liked
it there. I wasn’t getting great movie parts, but then
Happy Days came along. I felt that it was too good a
job to overlook. Of course, I had no idea that it
would become the mega-hit that it did.
CC: How long did that show run?
RH: Happy Days lasted for 11 seasons. I was with it
for seven and a half seasons, the first season being a
half. Then my contract was up, and I left to become
For four hiatuses in a row, I had used that time
off to make four films. One was a feature film for
Roger Corman [Grand Theft Auto, as director and
star], and then three television movies. But I knew
that since it takes a whole year to make a movie, no
studio was going to allow me to make a feature film
dividing my time while I was acting on a TV series.
CC: So you were 23 years old when you got to direct
Grand Theft Auto, the Corman production that he let
you direct if you starred in the film?
RH: We started shooting the day after my 23rd birthday. In four weeks of shooting I lost 12 pounds, and
I was skinny to begin with. When that shoot was
over, despite the low budget, story limitations and
other hurdles, I told my wife at the wrap party that I
loved making that movie even more than I thought
CC: Do you have any desire to work in front of the
camera again, acting?
RH: A fleeting desire to act a little bit. Every once in
a while somebody has offered me something pretty
enticing, but I’ve never been in a position to say yes.
Even a couple of roles where people earned nominations. Good roles, but given my family and the demands of Imagine Entertainment, I haven’t felt that
I had weeks available to devote to something else.
CC: You and Brian Grazer have a prolific partnership,
which is Imagine Entertainment. How did you two
RH: Brian and I both realized that we were the two
youngest guys with offices on the Paramount lot.
In my case, I had negotiated that into my Happy
Days deal, and I was already producing and directing TV movies at the time. Brian had been working
for a couple of producers and had gone out on his