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Clint Eastwood Once Saved Ron Howard From a Potentially Humiliating Situation at a Film Festival

Photo Credit: Rodin Eckenroth / FilmMagic and Stringer / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Rodin Eckenroth / FilmMagic and Stringer / Getty Images

Ron Howard has become one of the most respected directors of his generation and is responsible for many successful films and film franchises. Although he didn’t start as a director, he found his knack for it later in his life and he just seems to be getting better at it over the years. However, his work hasn’t always been praised. If not for Clint Eastwood, Howard would have suffered some pretty serious humiliation early in his directing career.

Howard took on a big project with Willow

Headshot of Ron Howard as Richie Cunningham in "Happy Days"
Before he began his career as a director, Ron Howard starred in multiple on-screen credits, including in the 1974 sitcom Happy Days. (Photo Credit: CBS Television Distribution / diannecan / MovieStillsDB)

Before he began his directing career, Howard was a young actor on The Andy Griffith Show and soon became a household name acting as Richie Cunningham in the sitcom Happy Days. Stepping away from acting, Howard went on to direct huge films like Splash (1984),  Apollo 13 (1995), A Beautiful Mind (2001), and The DaVinci Code (2000).

He tries his best not to compare himself to other directors, but looks ups to Eastwood’s confidence in his directing style. “We’re all constantly keeping score. You can’t help it. But trying to pit ourselves against other people in some measurable way is largely a waste of time, Howard previously said. “Look at Clint Eastwood and Ridley Scott, two guys who, at least creatively, inhabit their space in a way that I admire. I don’t know them well, but I don’t think they are looking over their shoulders and wondering what people will think of them.”

Howard’s own confidence in directing took years to develop, and in 1988, he took on a big project directing George Lucas‘s sci-fi fantasy film, Willow. Unfortunately, the film was not initially received very well.

Eastwood’s action saved him from humiliation

Headshot of Clint Eastwood on a red carpet in a suit with a bowtie
Portrait of Clint Eastwood during the Cannes Film Festival in May 1988, France. (Photo Credit: Pool GARCIA / URLI / Gamma-Rapho / Getty Images)

When Howard showcased Willow at the Cannes film festival, he expected it to be at least somewhat well-received. Unfortunately, the complete opposite happened. Following the screening, the audience proceeded to boo Howard and the film! It was a painful and negative reaction to a movie that has now developed a cult following. However, one man decided to give Howard the respect that he deserved.

Howard’s daughter, actress Bryce Dallas Howard, explained how the situation went down. “My dad made a film called Willow when he was a young filmmaker, which screened at the Cannes film festival and people were booing afterwards. It was obviously so painful for him, and Clint [Eastwood], who he didn’t know at that time, stood up and gave him a standing ovation and then everyone else stood up because Clint did.”

Thanks to Eastwood, Howard avoided complete humiliation and the entire atmosphere of the festival changed for the better.

Bryce wants her dad to be like Eastwood

Headshot of Ron Howard and Bryce Dallas Howard
Director, Ron Howard, and daughter, actress Bryce Dallas Howard, attend a benefit screening of Digital Jungle Pictures’ “Broken Memories” at the Writers Guild Theater on November 14, 2017, in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo Credit: David Livingston / Getty Images)

Bryce has always been grateful to Eastwood for his kind gesture toward her father at Cannes. Since that time, Bryce has looked up to him. She’s even told her father that he should take a page from Eastwood’s style and adopt it for himself.

She explained, “Clint puts himself out there for people,” which directly translates into his directorial approach. “As a director he is very cool, very relaxed, there’s no yelling ‘action’ or ‘cut’. He just says: ‘You know when you’re ready.’ I told my dad he should do that!”

Howard would love to direct a remake of the film

Behind the scenes shot of the Willow film
Behind-the-scenes shot of Willow featuring Ron Howard, Val Kilmer, and Warwick Davis (Photo Credit:  Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer / nnia /MovieStillsDB)

Despite the original reception of the film at the Cannes festival, Willow holds a special place in Howard’s heart. However, looking back, there are a handful of things he’d change about Willow if he had the opportunity to direct a remake of the film. With more experience directing, he feels confident about what he’d do differently.

“George Lucas was so trusting; I was still fairly green, I always say it was a little like me doing my doctoral thesis working with George Lucas on that movie Willow,” Howard said. “And I think today I could make it even more dynamic, I could make it cooler, I could make the funny stuff funnier, but all that said, you know Willow was a great experience and I’m really glad it sort of lives in peoples’ memory.”

There is a television spinoff

Warwick Davis on the set of the new Willow series
Warwick Davis on the set of the new Willow series (Photo Credit: Lucasfilm / Imagine Television Studios / yassi / MovieStillsDB)

There has since been a television series spinoff of Willow on Disney+ that acts as a kind of sequel to the film. Warwick Davis has taken on the role of Willow Ufgood once again, and the series’ plot picks up where the film had left off. Howard is an executive producer on the new series.

More from us: Did You Know That Clint Eastwood Wasn’t The Original Choice For Dirty Harry?

Howard described the show as “both true to the traditions of Willow and the work that we did then… [and] a real contemporary evolution of it, in a cool way that is entertaining. It preserves a lot of the humor, but in a much more modern way. Jon and the team are great, and it’s great to see Warwick Davis back as Willow, wiser, but [still] Willow. It’s been fun to be a part of it.”

Samantha Franco

Samantha Franco is a Freelance Content Writer who received her Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of Guelph, and her Master of Arts degree in history from the University of Western Ontario. Her research focused on Victorian, medical, and epidemiological history with a focus on childhood diseases. Stepping away from her academic career, Samantha previously worked as a Heritage Researcher and now writes content for multiple sites covering an array of historical topics.

In her spare time, Samantha enjoys reading, knitting, and hanging out with her dog, Chowder!