When I first received that pixie-dusted invite to Hollywood last month, I was overwhelmed with excitement. There would be celebrities. There would be Star Wars studded events. There would be a Millenium Falcon – yes! But there was one thing I hoped for above all – a Ron Howard SOLO Interview.
(Disney invited me to California on an all-expenses paid trip, in exchange for our coverage of events. As always, all opinions are my own.)
As a kid born in the 70s, I grew up watching Ron Howard in front of the screen, not behind it.
There was Richie Cunningham on a family favorite, Happy Days. My family always watched reruns of The Andy Griffith Show too, where little Ron played Opie. Though Ron Howard has successfully transitioned from child actor to one of the most successful, skilled, and admired directors in Hollywood (Backdraft, Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind), we first fell in love with him as Opie.
You can imagine my surprise when Ron Howard gave us Opie right there in the middle of our interview.
A moment to remember – one I have recorded for posterity!
If the Millenium Falcon had landed in Mayberry, Howard thinks Opie would have said something like, “Gee Paw, can I take a ride?”
I about died right there, sitting three feet from Opie Taylor, listening to his little voice. Thank you Ron Howard, thank you!
But we were there interviewing him for the next summer blockbuster, SOLO: A Star Wars Story, so we quickly transitioned.
Ron Howard Solo Interview – Lessons to Take Away
Lesson 1 – Take Time to Meet with Colleagues
Let me rephrase this just a bit. Take time to meet with colleagues – with nothing on the agenda. I’ve often heard this said from executives in many different industries. Meetings solidify and deepen relationships. Those relationships can lead to unexpected opportunities. Hollywood is no different.
It was during one of these regularly scheduled no-agenda meetings that Ron Howard’s involvement with SOLO began.
Howard had a breakfast meeting with Kathleen Kennedy while in London meeting with other writers on different projects. Unexpectedly, Kennedy asked if Larry Kasden could join them (and he was there when Howard arrived at the breakfast). Halfway through breakfast, it was shared that they were at a crossroads with SOLO, and wanted Ron Howard to join the project.
Howard was just meeting with colleagues. He hadn’t heard any rumors. He didn’t have an agenda. He just made time for friends in the industry and what a path it led to.
Lesson 2 – Don’t Pass Up Out of this World Opportunities
Ron Howard had just been offered an incredible opportunity. Though he was flattered, he was also hesitant.
That’s when he turned to the script of SOLO: A Star Wars story.
STAR WARS FUN FACT: Howard shared that the story of young Han Solo was really hatched well before Disney acquired LucasFilm. George Lucas and Larry Kasden have been waiting to tell this story for a long time, well before there were any directors involved.
The script was compelling. Howard knew immediately.
Ron Howard shared, “It answered the questions of what a young Han Solo’s life experiences might be that would shape him, form him, push him toward that iconic figure that we would know later. And did it in ways that surprised me. So it was really satisfying and logical. But it also had these twists and turns that were unexpected in my mind, and I thought, well that’s a great jumping off place.”
So he deliberated about his decision for three or so days.
Lesson 3 – Always Listen to your Wife
It took his wife, Cheryl Howard, knowing him the way she does, to gently tell him he would be disappointed if he didn’t take on this role as director in the Star Wars universe.
Ron Howard said, “I thought she was right, as she most always is”.
Lesson 4 – Begging Sometimes Works
One of the challenges of Ron Howard coming on board SOLO was that things were changing. The producers really wanted to change the design of the entire sequence with Michael
K. Williams, who was cast in the role that Paul Bettany ultimately plays (Dryden Vos).
That mean a 100% reshoot and unfortunately Michael K. Williams was not available for that.
Ron Howard turned to Paul Bettany, who he had worked with in A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code.
It seems one of our favorite Avengers just might have reached out to Howard to see if he could join the Star Wars universe. Ahem, he’s now in two of the biggest movies of the year back to back – Avengers Infinity War and Solo: A Star Wars Story.
As Bettany puts it, “If you don’t ask…”.
As Howard puts it, “Begging sometimes works”.
Lesson 5 – Trust Your Instincts
Howard described directing SOLO as playing three-dimensional chess. It was a real challenge, one allowing him the ability to really respect all the Star Wars movies that came before.
It was a challenge, but one that was fun.
Favorite advice came from friend, original Star Wars director, and Lucasfilm founder, George Lucas. Lucas said to him, “Just trust your instincts. I think you’re gonna find you’re comfortable in this filmmaking style”. Howard admits Lucas was right.
Lesson 6 – Attitude is Everything
We had asked about the friendly competition he and one of his daughters has this summer. (Bryce Dallas Howard is starring in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom). He quickly reminded us that it’s hard not to root for your daughter – as a parent I wholeheartedly agree.
But Ron Howard went on…
He spoke about the gift he (and his daughter) have been given, saying, “It’s kinda like a gift, I suppose. You know, you work at something that you love. I give 110% to everything that I do. Some things click, some things not as much. And I just love it as a lifestyle, our way of life. I’ve felt very rewarded by this opportunity and I hope fans feel really good about the movie because these movies are made for the fans.”
I can tell you THIS FAN feels great about the movie –> My No-Spoiler SOLO Movie Review!
Lesson 7 – Be Generous with your Praise
When Ron Howard joined SOLO, he knew there would be a lot of judgment surrounding Alden Ehrenreich’s performance as young Han Solo. He noted that he thought Ehrenreich wore that responsibility well.
If there was one opinion about Ehrenreich’s performance that mattered more than Ron Howard’s, it would be Harrison Ford’s, right?
So Ron Howard shared that a week or so before premiere, he had personally talked with Harrison Ford about SOLO. Ford had just seen the movie, loved it, and really respected what Ehrenreich had done.
While Howard wanted to share the news, he knew that “noone speaks for Harrison Ford except for Harrison Ford”.
So what a thrill it was for Harrison Ford to share the news and surprise Alden Ehrenreich from behind during the press junket. Get the scoop and see the video in my Alden Ehrenreich interview! We were just down the hallway from that happening.
The lesson here is clear. Harrison Ford could have kept his thoughts to himself. He’s a relatively private celebrity, didn’t attend the red carpet premiere, and could have stayed out of the spotlight. But his blessing and his praise meant the world not only to a young Hollywood actor like Alden Ehrenreich, but it meant the world to Ron Howard too.
Lesson 8 – Be One of the Good Guys
It’s clear that we all were fans of Ron Howard’s before we walked in the door to interview him, but in this day and age, I needed to know that Howard was one of the good guys. As the father of four (including daughters who grew up to be Hollywood actresses), I was confidant that he was.
My interview with Emilia Clarke interview made it perfectly clear.
From child actor to Hollywood director, and from friend to father, Ron Howard is someone you would invite into your home. In some ways he’s just as my grandmother remembers as she had watched a young Ron play ball against my uncles all those years ago…a regular guy.
About SOLO: A Star Wars Story
Board the Millennium Falcon and journey to a galaxy far, far away in SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY, an all-new adventure with the most beloved scoundrel in the galaxy. Through a series of daring escapades deep within a dark and dangerous criminal underworld, Han Solo befriends his mighty future copilot Chewbacca and meets the notorious gambler Lando Calrissian, in a journey that will set the course of one of the Star Wars saga’s most unlikely heroes. The film stars Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Paul Bettany.
SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY opens in theatres May 25th.
Take a look…
Alden Ehrenreich Interview:
Ready my exclusive Alden Ehrenreich Interview – Han Solo!
Check out my recap of the SOLO premiere – the celebrities, the after-party, and the Millenium Falcon details!
Now for some extra Star Wars fun…
EXTRA FUN: Get in the Star Wars mood by creating these incredible Star Wars Themed OREO Cookie Balls