Critically acclaimed director, producer, and actor Ron Howard is a big-timer in Hollywood, turning everything he touches to gold. Ron is known for directing award-winning movies like Cocoon, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Cinderella Man, Willow, and Apollo 13.
Howard has spent over 60 years in showbiz, starting as a child actor and rising to be one of the most outstanding directors in Hollywood.
Sadly, as a young actor, Ron was bullied for his role in the 60s sitcom, The Andy Griffith Show.
In this video, Facts Verse discusses Ron Howard’s bullying over the years and the thoughts that kept him going.
Opie Taylor from the Andy Griffith Show
60s kids definitely remember happy-go-lucky ‘Opie Taylor‘ from the hit CBS comedy series, The Andy Griffith Show. Opie was often up to boyish adventures and getting into occasional mishaps. But in the end, the character was always truthful, upright, and generous. And he strives to heed his dad’s advice and teachings.
What a lot of people may not know is that the actor who played ‘Opie,’ Ron Howard, was bullied for the character.
On The Andy Griffith Show, young Opie had to learn to deal with mean bullies. Thankfully, his father was there to show him how to stand up for himself. And millions of viewers were filled with pride watching Opie grow into a decent young man by the show’s end.
However, being on a hit television show didn’t make the actor who played Opie, Ron Howard, a very popular kid.
Ron Howard’s Origin Story
Ron’s story begins with his parents, Rance and Jean Speegle Howard, who were both born in Oklahoma. They met at The University of Oklahoma, where they studied drama. By 1949 they got married and eventually moved to California. They had their first son, Ron William Howard, and a second son Clinton Engle Howard five years later.
Their ability to be the first to pursue a career in arts changed their lives and set the stage for what would become one of the most successful families in Hollywood history.
Ron and Clint admit that they would have had a more challenging time navigating Hollywood without their father’s background in the movie industry, especially as kids.
Ron Howard Gets Bullied
In the 2012 biography, Ron Howard, author Hal Marcovitz provides insight into the delicate period in Howard’s young life.
It was so bad that Howard was embarassed to be an actor. Instead of being proud of his achievement, he never mentioned his work on TV to other kids.
While he still drew some pride from his work on television, he felt that it needed to be kept a secret. Of course, The Andy Griffith Show was the number one show in the country. Howard understood that he was different from the other kids for being part of its cast. It was a testament to his abilities and his maturity as a child actor.
It didn’t matter how little he mentioned Mayberry, though. His character’s name was a recipe for disaster, and he ended up on the receiving end of a lot of jokes. Opie rhymes with dopey, so it wasn’t long before other kids came up with names to bully him with. This led to many physical fights throughout his childhood.
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Ron Howard as Opie
As Andy Griffith helped Opie become more assertive on the show, in the real world, Howard had a close relationship with his father Rance and thus had a lot of support. He said he didn’t have any more trouble dealing with these bullies in the real world than Opie did in Mayberry.
Ron’s father, Rance, was an actor, writer, and director. During his son’s time as Opie, his support went beyond helping the young Ron cope with bullies. He was also very instrumental to the development of Opie on screen.
Rance’s years of experience and skill on the big screen were an advantage for Ron. Rance would sit for hours with young Ron, helping him memorize scripts and adding flair to the character.
Evidently, Opie’s character was written a little differently at the beginning of the series. He was more like the classic sitcom child character, with tons of punchlines and wise comebacks that were clearly written by somebody else. However, Rance spoke to Andy Griffith about this and suggested that they change the relationship between him and Opie to model a more traditional father/son relationship.
And that conversation about Ron’s tight bond with his real-life dad stuck with his TV dad, Andy. After that, they made Opie’s character attributes more sweet and endearing instead of slapstick and funny.
Believe it or not, some good did come of Ron being bullied.
Having to stay quiet and lay low for fear of retaliation from other kids ignited Ron’s interest in directing. He viewed the job of the director as the most social. Howard explained that he quickly learned the director was the one person on set who got to hang out with everybody.
Howard, of course, grew up to become a director and one of great acclaim. His very first film even featured one of his playmates behind the scenes on The Andy Griffith Show: his brother Clint Howard.
Fans of the show know that Clint featured in five episodes of The Andy Griffith Show as the charming kid cowboy who sometimes shows up in Mayberry to do adorable things like giving others a bite of his sandwich.
Clint was on set more than five times, and when he was, he and his elder brother Ron sometimes engaged in playing cowboy games.
Clint was the more popular of the duo in school. According to Ron, he was an excellent athlete, smart, gregarious, and confident. He exuded this even in the work he was doing as well. But, of course, these weren’t necessarily the same qualities Ron exhibited.
So, when Ron decided to direct his first movie at the young age of 15, it was no surprise that it was his brother who he cast to star across from him in his debut.
The movie was titled Deed of Derring-Do, and it was only three minutes long. It cast the Howard brothers as gunfighters staring down each other on a dusty frontier town street.
He entered the film in an amateur movie-making contest sponsored by Kodak and placed second!
An incredible feat for a 15-year-old, wouldn’t you say?
The Howard Family Values
Ron Howard has always had a close-knit relationship with his family, and it is evident that this has played a pivotal role in his success as a director. Many child stars have experienced downward spirals caused by exposure to the glitz and glamour of early stardom. This is something Ron and his younger brother seem to have avoided.
Howard and his brother, Clint, who is also an actor and former child star, both agree that their parents instilled values in them that spared them from becoming Hollywood casualties.
In their recently released memoir, The Boys: A Memoir of Hollywood and Family, the brothers offer a look into the fame, joy, and uniqueness of their lives while also addressing the ways they coped with stardom as kids.
Clint revealed that their parents never lived outside their means. They wanted to preserve a sense of normalcy for him and Ron, and didn’t want the kids to think that they were the breadwinners of the household.
In an interview with New York Times, Ron shared how his parents turned down an offer to set up Opie clothing line. This would have added hundreds of thousands of dollars to the family’s fortune, but Rance and Jean knew better. They didn’t want the boys distracted so early on in their careers.
It is easy to guess that Rance had seen the adverse effects of early stardom on quite a number of child actors, and this spurred him to do all he could to shield his boys from the ills of Hollywood.
Ron Howard’s Mother
It’s evident that Ron Howard had quite a pleasant childhood, but this would not have been possible without the family’s matriarch, Jean Speegle Howard. She can very much be credited with helping her children succeed professionally. Ron did turn out to be an Oscar-winning director, after all, and Clint, a renowned character actor.
Jean’s input in the lives of her sons was invaluable. She even gave up her acting career to raise them, ensuring that as child actors, they didn’t fall victims to Hollywood.
But raising a child to be a talented filmmaker does come with some benefits, and over the years, Jean did make several appearances in Ron’s movies, most remarkably in Apollo 13. At her death, she had become a popular actress and appeared in more than 30 television shows.
Ron’s Career After The Andy Griffith Show
However, Ron didn’t have it all easy during his career. Before fully pursuing his dream in directing, he starred in Happy Days but walked away when he felt marginalized as ABC began to focus on Fonzie, who initially began as a secondary character but soon became the lead character. Ron has said that the motivation for more control and autonomy led him to take that next step and transition to pursue his dream.
Ron has won two Academy Awards, four Emmy Awards, two Golden Globes, and a Grammy. In addition, he was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 2013.
To crown this success, a new generation of Howard’s family continues the legacy. His eldest daughter, Bryce Howard, starred in “The Village” and “Black Mirror,” and her younger sister, Paige Howard, starred in the Nickelodeon series “Adventureland.”
Ron’s story is classic evidence that regardless of external pressure, the family’s impact on children shapes how they see themselves and the world.
That concludes this video on Ron Howard and the thoughts that kept him going. How do you know Ron Howard best – from his appearance on the Andy Griffith Show, or on Happy Days? Let us know in the comments. And if you liked this video, make sure to hit the like button and subscribe to Facts Verse for more videos!