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Ron Howard Reveals His Career ‘Go-to Mottos’ and How He Chooses His Next Projects: Needs to Have ‘Something of Value’ for Audiences (Exclusive)

Ron Howard On His Go Mottos How He Chooses His Projects
Ron Howard. Giuseppe Maffia/NurPhoto/Shutterstock

From childhood actor to famed director, Ron Howard has a few “go-to mottos” that he leans on in his Hollywood career, which has spanned over six decades.

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“When I’m faced with a really difficult decision, it has to pass the look yourself in the mirror and ask yourself the question, the litmus test, ‘Are you gonna be proud of the decision you make?’” Howard, 68, exclusively told Us Weekly. “And the other one is in a chaotic world that [fellow producer] Brian Grazer and I find ourselves in almost every day — problem solving, trying to launch projects, continuing to just really care about what projects Imagine gets involved in and who we work with. I often stop and say, ‘All right, what is my job today? I’m a little overwhelmed. There’s a lot going on. There are a lot of plates to spin. But just today, what am I supposed to accomplish? What’s my job? And to just, you know, keep bringing it back to that simple, fundamental. It generally serves me well.”

The Happy Days alum and Grazer, 70, have been longtime collaborators, cofounding the film and TV production Imagine Entertainment, in 1985. Earlier this month, the two received the Innovation in Entertainment Award to recognize their impact on the Australian film industry through mentorship, local productions shot and produced in the country, and the hiring of Australian talent.

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“It was a surprise, a pleasant surprise. It really brings a smile to my face, but that’s the way I feel about so many Australians who I’ve collaborated with over the years and my experiences, which are now broadening beyond working with the Cate Blanchetts and Russell Crowes and Chris Hemsworths of the world,” Howard told Us of the G’Day AAA Arts Gala event in L.A. “Screen Australia is this group that we work with and that’s been fantastic. And on top of everything else, I shot a movie in Queensland, had a great experience. Thirteen Lives, which is coming up soon. I’ve also been collaborating with the world class animation studio, Animal Logic, on what is my first animated feature as a director. That’s a co-production with Imagine. So just gives you a sense of how deep and far reaching these collaborations have been. So for all of that to sort of add up into this acknowledgement just feels great. Unnecessary accolade, but I will happily accept.”

Ron Howard On His Go Mottos How He Chooses His Projects
Brian Grazer and Ron Howard at The 20th Annual Producers Guild Awards. Peter Brooker/Shutterstock

It’s hard to believe that The Shrinking Of Treehorn will be Howard’s first animation film ever. “It’s always attractive to me — a challenge,” he told Us. “We’re perhaps a third of the way into the process and it’s also a musical, it’s my first musical. It ticks a couple of boxes in that way. And I went into it with a lot of excitement. I’m still very much enjoying it, the animation veterans that I’m working with. I’m also enjoying the musical side of it and the songs as they’re beginning to appear and take their place in our story. I probably wouldn’t have done it without getting to know the Animal Logic teams. They have so much experience. And our dedicated storytellers are great people to work with. I felt very supported throughout it. We’re making it at Netflix. I’m learning on the job but getting a lot out of it. I’m optimistic about where the project’s going.”

For Howard, if he’s “going to direct it or be a hands-on producer,” on a project, it has to “be meaningful” to him in the long run.

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“It really begins with satisfying my curiosity, either creative curiosity, based on who I might be working with, or the themes of the story. Maybe the problem, the crisis that the characters are facing in the world in which it’s unfolding. If my creative curiosity is satisfied, that’s very exciting for me. I have to believe that in sharing this with the audience, there’s something of value for them,” the Oscar winner explained. “The entertainment, certainly. But also, a set of ideas that can be something that could be constructive, whether it’s celebrating a set of ideas or it’s a cautionary tale. I need to have that clearly in mind and sort of believe in the value of that aspect of telling a story. And then, last but not least, just from a personal standpoint, it’s who am I going to get to work with and where. I had a lot of fun working in Queensland on Thirteen Lives. It wasn’t the reason I did the movie, but I wound up having a fantastic experience there and we were able to accomplish a lot.”

The Beautiful Mind director has become a Hollywood fixture since his Richie Cunningham days. But even with all his success, there is advice he would give his younger self if he could go back.

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“I would encourage my younger self to not feel intimidated by potential collaborators, no matter how esteemed or how powerful, but to recognize that at its very core, this is a collaborative business. And if any of us as creative people or crew members, if we come prepared and we’re ready to work hard, then those who are more experienced, more established, will embrace that,” he revealed to Us. “I think I probably limited myself creatively through sort of almost a fear of being overwhelmed or embarrassed by certain powerful figures that I had perhaps had an opportunity to work with early in my career and shied away from. If you can distill that into a sentence or two, that’s my advice.”

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