Ron Howard said he was bullied for playing Opie Taylor
"My character's name, Opie, rhymes with dopey… I'd have to get into fights with people."
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On The Andy Griffith Show, young Opie had to learn to deal with bullies. Luckily his pa was there to show him how to stand tall, and audiences swelled with pride watching Opie grow into a respectable young Mayberry man by the show's end.
However, being on the most popular show on television apparently didn't make the actor who played Opie a very popular kid.
In the 2012 biography Ron Howard, author Hal Marcovitz quotes Howard talking about this sensitive time in his life.
"Among my peers, I was embarrassed to be an actor," Howard said. So instead of being proud of his achievement, he said he never mentioned his work on TV with other kids.
"It was not something to be talked about," Howard continued, explaining that he did draw some pride from the work. He just felt he had to keep it secret. "The Andy Griffith Show was the No. 1 show in the country, so I always knew there was something that I could do that was unusual and that I could function in an adult environment."
It didn't matter how little he mentioned Mayberry, though.
"I was the butt of a lot of jokes," Howard said. "My character’s name, Opie, rhymes with dopey… I'd have to get into fights with people."
As Andy steered Opie's ability to stand up for himself on the show, in the real world, Howard was close to his dad Rance, and thus had plenty of support. He said he didn't have any more trouble coping with these bullies in the real world than Opie did on The Andy Griffith Show.
"Fortunately, I could sort of hang in," Howard said.
An imaginative kid who seemed to view the world as a play-thing, Howard found plenty of friends on set.
"I used to really spend a lot of time hanging around with the crew," Howard said in the book. "The crew would get a real kick showing me what they did," Howard said, whether he wanted to learn more about working a boom mic or pivoting a camera.
This was where his dream to become a director was born, not really because he thought it was the coolest job, but seemingly because it was the most social.
"It didn't take me long to realize that the director was the person who got to sort of hang out and play with everybody," Howard explained.
Howard, of course, did grow up to become a director, and one of great acclaim. But the very first film he ever directed featured one of his favorite playmates backstage on The Andy Griffith Show: his brother Clint Howard.
Fans know that Clint appeared in five episodes of The Andy Griffith Show as the adorable kid cowboy who occasionally pops up in Mayberry to do adorable stuff like offering others a bite of his sandwich. Well, Clint hung around the set much more often than just five times, and when he did, they sometimes engaged in playing cowboy games as you can see here.
And when Ron decided to direct his first movie at just 15 years old, it was his brother Clint who he cast to star across from him in his debut.
The Western was called Deed of Derring-Do, and it was all of three minutes long. It cast the Howard brothers as gunfighters, eyes tensely locked in a classic Gunsmoke-like street showdown.
You could say this was the moment they'd been practicing for backstage of The Andy Griffith Show! And when Ron entered his little movie into a Kodak-sponsored contest, he actually got awarded second place!
So while it's sad to think that young Ron had to defend his choice to start his acting career so young, it's clear that there was nothing "dopey" about all the smarts the eventual Oscar winner for Best Director and Best Picture soaked up the on the set of The Andy Griffith Show.