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Ron Howard

Biography: Ron Howard
Oscar for Best Director

Ron Howard Date of birth: March 1, 1954

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Ron Howard was born in Duncan, Oklahoma. His parents were both actors. Ron first appeared on stage at 18 months and made his screen debut at age four. He had a memorable role in the film The Music Man, and became familiar to millions of Americans as Opie on The Andy Griffith Show. The popular program ran for years in prime time and is still in continuous syndication around the country. At the end of his teens, he joined the cast of another long-running sitcom, playing the leading role of Richie Cunningham on Happy Days. At the same time, he played a leading role in the hit film American Graffiti and in John Wayne's last film, The Shootist . Howard received excellent reviews for these performances, but by then he was determined to become a film director.

The young actor directed several episodes of Happy Days, but could not find a major studio willing to entrust a feature film to a 23-year-old novice, however well-known. At last, Howard struck an unusual deal with independent producer Roger Corman. Corman had taken chances before, on unknown directors like Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese. Howard offered to act in a film for Corman -- for almost nothing -- in exchange for the opportunity to direct.

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Corman had booked an unmade film into theaters on the strength of its title, Grand Theft Auto, without having a script or even an outline of the film. Ron Howard and his father, actor Rance Howard, cranked out the script in two weeks and Ron went into production. The surprising success of Grand Theft Auto allowed Howard to break into mainstream filmmaking, starting with the comedy Night Shift, starring his Happy Days co-star Henry Winkler.

In his acting career, Howard had been typecast as the clean-cut all-American boy. Now he found himself pigeonholed as a director of comedies. He first broke out of this mold with the fantasy film Willow, for producer George Lucas. Soon he was combining comedy and fantasy in the enormously popular films Splash and Cocoon. Splash marked the beginning a a long association with actor Tom Hanks. Since 1986, Howard's films have been produced by Imagine Entertainment, a production company he founded with partner Brian Grazer. In addition to his own directorial efforts, Howard produced the popular films Kindergarten Cop and My Girl

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While continuing his success directing comedies such as Parenthood, and The Paper, Ron Howard moved successfully into large-scale dramas with Backdraft, a suspenseful tale of Chicago firefighters, replete with fiery action sequences. Howard told a tale of real-life heroism in Apollo 13, the story of the aborted 1970 moon mission that nearly cost the lives of its three astronauts. His work on Apollo 13 earned him the 1996 Best Director award of the Directors Guild of America. The one-time child star had moved into the front rank of Hollywood filmmakers.

Howard continued to explore the dramatic side of his craft with the thriller Ransom and an ambitious historical epic, Far and Away , drawing on the experience of his own ancestors as pioneers in Oklahoma. Since its founding, Ron Howard has served as Co-Chairman of Imagine, which, in addition to feature films directed by Howard and others, has produced a number of highly successful television series, including Felicity, Arrested Development, Friday Night Lights and 24.

As a director, Ron Howard scored one of the major triumphs of his career with A Beautiful Mind, the harrowing true story of John Nash, a mathematical genius stricken with schizophrenia at the height of his career. The tale of Nash's descent into madness and eventual recovery drew large audiences and critical praise for its stars, Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly, as well as its director. The film won four Oscars in 2002, including Best Picture and an Oscar for Ron Howard as Best Director. Howard's directorial star continued to shine throughout the decade. He struck gold again with big-budget adaptations of the popular Dan Brown novels the Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons. A more surprising success was Frost/Nixon, the gripping adaptation of a stage play based on former President Richard Nixon's television encounter with British broadcaster David Frost.

Ron Howard and his wife Cheryl make their home in Greenwich, Connecticut. They have three grown children, and as of this writing, one grandchild. Howard is now developing a film version of The Dark Tower, a multipart fantasy by author Stephen King.

This page last revised on Sep 19, 2010 11:33 EST