A headline in USA Today last week read: “Bryce Dallas Howard: My dad Ron Howard ‘legit’ thought Jessica Chastain was me.”
Some might know Ron Howard as Opie from Mayberry. Others may know him as Richie from “Happy Days.” I know both Opie and Richie.
I also know the man Opie and Richie grew into—Ron Howard, director of highly acclaimed films like A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13, Backdraft, Parenthood, and Cinderella Man. There is not enough space to list them all, but suffice it to say I’ve never seen a Ron Howard film that was not worth the watch.
OK. You’re correct. I have never actually met him, but he grew up inside my TV—in sitcoms and movies. I feel as though he’s been a part of my inner circle.
Back to the headline. Bryce Dallas Howard is Ron’s eldest daughter. You know Bryce–maybe. She’s an actress—a good one. She was masterful as the scheming Hilly Holbrook in The Help and played a convincing Brit as Elton John’s mom in Rocketman.
As for the headline, I did not bother to read further. If this is the most the media can dig up about Ron Howard (something to do with him mistaking Jessica Chastain for his daughter) then Ron wins.
Howard is a kind of Hollywood miracle. Not many child actors or entertainers make it to adulthood unscathed. Issues with entitlement or drugs or alcoholism or self-esteem seem to eventually find them and take root. Think River Phoenix, Michael Jackson, Lindsay Lohan, Macaulay Culkin, and Amanda Bynes. Again, there’s not enough space to list them all.
Not only has Howard evaded the problems that come hand-in-hand with fame, but he grew up enjoying a fairly normal childhood. He appears to be a regular kind of guy.
Howard married his wife Cheryl in 1975. They have four children and a couple of grandchildren. He goes to work (as a producer/director) and enjoys time with his family.
To be sure, Howard is wealthy. He loves what he does, and he’s good at it. The key is that money is not what appears to come first in his life.
Howard credits his parents for keeping his (and younger brother Clint of Gentle Ben fame) head on straight. They made sure the boys played sports, and they were ever-present during filming—not to take advantage of their sons’ fame, but to make certain that their boys remained grounded.
“Not one day in either of our juvenile careers was a hired, legal guardian used,” said Ron.
Andy Griffith modeled Andy and Opie’s father-son relationship after Ron and his dad Rance. That fishin’ hole Andy and Opie approach in the opening credits? Ron perfected the art of skipping rocks across that water with his dad during breaks. Nor was it uncommon to see the two of them playing catch on the set.
Rance and his wife Jean gave both Ron and Clint a solid family base. Family remains a priority with the brothers. They look out for one another.
And Ron is not shy about casting family members. If you check out the cast lists of his films, you will find his dad, his brother and/or one of his kids playing a bit part here and there. In fact, I believe Clint has appeared in every one of Ron’s films. One could say Howard practices nepotism in its most positive form.
Ron Howard is proof that a youngster can pursue a career in Hollywood without succumbing to “Child Actor’s Curse.” Howard’s parents did not hype their son to celebrity status for their own benefit. Instead, they cocooned him in their protection.
As an adult, Howard claimed his parents’ guidelines as his own. It’s not the stuff that makes tabloid headlines, but it’s the stuff that makes all the difference.