Alert
Close

Watch the NASCAR race on Sunday at Martinsville Speedway. Join the Drive to End Hunger!

Highlights

Open

 

FREE FUN!

AARP Games - Play Now!

Contests and
Sweeps

$10,000 Winter Escapes Sweepstakes

Beat the cold and cozy up to a chance of winning $10,000! See official rules.

AARP Auto Buying Program

MOST POPULAR

Viewed

Opie Grows Up

Ron Howard's Revenge

Think nice can't trump vice? The "Angels & Demons" director may take us to the dark side in his films, but his heart's still in Mayberry.

Ron Howard's Revenge

— Photo by Jeff Lipsky

Ron Howard learned early on, when he was just a kid actor on "The Andy Griffith Show," about the inseparable nature of art and life. After a read-through of each episode's script, cast and crew would gather on the back lot of Desilu Studios to talk about what worked and what didn't. Griffith would be there, with all his fatherly wisdom, along with costar Don Knotts. Little Ronny, just six when he became Griffith's TV son, Opie Taylor, his red hair capping that fresh face of innocence, would listen to them discuss the characters, and how humor should never come at the expense of others. "Andy Griffith was a big factor in shaping my sense of the way an adult male, and particularly one in authority, handles himself," Howard says. Years later the father of four would find himself standing in the kitchen of his home in Westchester County, New York, lecturing his teenagers as only a devoted dad and passionate movie lover could: "If they were doing something I didn't think made sense," Howard says, "I would say, 'What if you saw a character doing what you're doing in a movie? Would you agree with that character? Would you like that character?' "

Now 55 and on the eve of releasing his 20th film, "Angels & Demons"—based on the prequel to Dan Brown's epic novel, "The Da Vinci Code"—the actor turned director says that family and film have made him one very satisfied man. After all, he won an Oscar for directing A Beautiful Mind (which also won Best Picture), and his screen version of "The Da Vinci Code" raked in $200 million at the box office. He enjoys a long-term marriage and has a close-knit family. Yet his films don't shy away from life's dark side: kidnapping, mental illness, religious heresy. One of his earliest movies ("Night Shift") was a comedy about a prostitution ring run out of a city morgue. "He's not just a clean, happy guy," says his friend and longtime producing partner, Brian Grazer. "He has edge—but no anger. He understands darkness."

Still, through it all, Howard has remained at heart the freckle-faced boy from Mayberry, whose worst retort to his onscreen dad, when asked to do something he didn't want to, was: "Aww, Pa!"

"He is Opie grown up," says Henry Winkler, who co-starred with Howard on the television series "Happy Days" in the 1970s and still counts Howard among his closest friends. "He's wise. He was wise when I first met him. I think he's an old soul. There is this wonderful sense of fairness in Ron."

Howard's boy-next-door face currently sports a mustache and beard, and his hairline is now drastically receded. Sitting at a farmhouse-style table in his Beverly Hills production-company office surrounded by photos of himself with Stephen Spielberg, actor Frank Langella in character as Richard Nixon (from Howard's previous film, "Frost/Nixon"), wife Cheryl, his kids, and, yes, even a two-year-old grandson, Howard is self-deprecating, quick to offer a laugh at his own expense. When asked about his enduring popularity, he deadpans, "I've just been around a long time." Then his ears seem to perk up, his lips part to reveal that gap-toothed grin, and he bursts out in hearty laughter. He reacts in like manner when asked about a recent YouTube interview series on his filmmaking: "Was it getting, like, 5,000 hits per minute?" he asks in mock optimism, following the question with a loud guffaw.

It's hard to spend time with Howard and not be reminded of that uniquely American film classic "It's a Wonderful Life": He's refreshingly unassuming in a Jimmy Stewart kind of way, and his outlook has an upbeat, Frank Capra-esque quality. He infuses folks with a belief in people's goodness because that's what he genuinely seems to believe in himself.

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts

Processing

Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Downloadable mobile app from AARP® Roadside Assistance from Allstate.

AARP Credit card from Chase

Members can earn 3% cash back on purchases with the AARP® Credit Card from Chase.

Member Benefits

Join or renew today! Members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.

Rewards for Good

Your Points Balance:

Learn More

Earn points for completing free online activities designed to enrich your life.

Find more ways to earn points

Redeem your points to save on merchandise, travel, and more.

Find more ways to redeem points

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Downloadable mobile app from AARP® Roadside Assistance from Allstate.

AARP Credit card from Chase

Members can earn 3% cash back on purchases with the AARP® Credit Card from Chase.

Member Benefits

Join or renew today! Members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.