Clint Howard: ''Ron's shadow is a pretty cool place to be''
The inside scoop from the star of Ice Cream Man
When two siblings occupy the same professional space, we tend to look for a Cain and Abel narrative. It's so fun to read about sibling rivalry because it's an experience most of us can relate to. Mom and dad had finite approval to dish out; the competition was sometimes fierce. That's why when we look at two actors who are brothers, we might expect to read the details of their heated contention. Sometimes, though, a story is great because of how unexpected it feels. That's the case with Clint Howard's career, which ran parallel to brother Ron's but left no room for resentment.
In five episodes of The Andy Griffith Show, Clint Howard played Leon, a neighbor kid a few years younger than Opie. Clint and Ron Howard would continue to share projects throughout their careers. Clint was on Happy Days with his brother, and Ron directed Clint in movies like Cocoon, Splash, Parenthood, Apollo 13, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. And while Ron may have had a higher-profile acting and directing career, Clint Howard has been working consistently for sixty years. Frequently, those roles are fantastic.
During the time that Ron Howard was honing his skills as a Hollywood super-director, Clint was racking up dozens of acting credits in horror and sci-fi B-movies. Movies such as Evilspeak, Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker, Leprechaun 2, The Dentist 2, and Ice Cream Man add up to one of the most impressive résumés in cult movie history.
"Ron does take after take after take. That's one thing that irritates me about him" Clint told Knight Ridder Newspapers in 1999. By comparison, Clint was in movies that were more fun to shoot, according to him.
Ron Howard was first able to chase his directorial ambitions in a Roger Corman picture. The legendary producer gave the elder Howard a shot at directing Grand Theft Auto. While Ron grew into directing, Clint was happier acting. To date, he's appeared in twelve Roger Corman movies.
"He lives vicariously through me from time to time," said Clint of his older brother. "When he knows I work for Roger, he'll always call and ask me about it, and he'll quiz me about the guerilla filmmaking experience. I think he misses that some. I know he talks about hoping to one day be able to go off and make a tiny little movie that doesn't have to make a lot of money."
Miraculously, despite the side-by-side trajectories, neither Howard brother cites any career-induced friction in their relationship. Ron was on record saying he loved casting Clint in his movies. Clint, too, spoke lovingly of his brother, describing Ron as "nurturing."
"Ron's shadow is a pretty cool place to be," he said. "Hey, better to be Ron Howard's brother than to be Son of Sam's brother."