5 Real Life Movies by Ron Howard
Writer: Casey Lee
Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl as rival F1 drivers in Ron Howard's latest biopic "Rush".
After a long career as a television actor, Ron Howard found himself in the director's chair after a deal with none other than legendary director Roger Corman to appear in one of his movies. Trained by Corman, who had mentored some of Hollywood's finest like Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola and James Cameron, Howard would make his directorial debut "Grand Theft Auto" in 1977 and continued to stand behind the camera for as long as he was in front of it as an actor (and mostly still in television).
As a filmmaker, Ron Howard's career may not be as illustrious as the other fellow 'graduates' that came from the 'Roger Corman Film School', but for each forgettable flop such as "The Dilemma", "Parenthood", and "Backdraft", there were also the hits like "Willow", "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and "Cocoon" that proved him to be a versatile director who could handle various genre fares throughout his filmography for more than 30 years.
But Howard will be best remembered for his works when they touch on the human element, especially when it's about real people who have to faces the odds of truth being stranger than fiction, as we look through the movies by him based on real events that occurred.
Apollo 13 (1995)
In "Apollo 13", three astronauts make a deadly bid for survival when an explosion damages their spacecraft and burns away a majority of their oxygen supply while on a mission to the moon. Based on a book about that mission by astronaut Jim Lovell and Jeffery Kluger, Ron Howard makes his first adaptation based on real events with the 1970 failed moon landing.
To create an authentic experience that was felt by the astronauts on their desperate race back to Earth, Ron Howard decided not to use any of the actual footage from the mission and recreate them either through miniatures or subjecting Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton and Kevin Bacon to artificial environments for the zero gravity scenes.
"Apollo 13" would launch itself to be nominated for nine Oscars including Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Visual Effects, Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, but was brought back down to earth with two technical awards for Best Editing and Best Sound in the end.
A Beautiful Mind (2001)
Adapted from a biography of the same name on Nobel laureate John Forbes Nash Jr., "A Beautiful Mind" starts off during the early years of Nash developing his award winning theory in Economics, but gradually decays into a remorseful destruction of his life and his marriage as a result of his severe schizophrenia.
Russell Crowe, who was picked over Tom Cruise to play Nash, engrossed into the role with several meetings with the real John Nash, where he learned to imitate some of his movements and behaviour, which resulted in a tea scene when the real Nash took 15 minutes to make a decision between coffee and tea. The film was also shot in sequence to the plot of the movie so that Crowe was able to progressively descend into the madness that Nash would face in his later years as shown in the film.
"A Beautiful Mind" would probably remain as the crown jewel of Ron Howard's career as a director, giving him his first Oscar when it won four Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay by screenwriter Akiva Goldsman and Best Supporting Actress for Jennifer Connelly, who played as Nash's wife, Alicia.
Cinderella Man (2005)
Titled after the nickname of heavyweight boxer James J. Braddock during the Depression-era, "Cinderella Man" is based on Braddock's rag to riches story, who started out as an injured dock worker and would eventually become a boxing champion.
Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Billy Bob Thornton, Mark Wahlberg and Clive Owen were among the names that were mentioned to play as Braddock, but the role eventually landed on Russell Crowe, reuniting him with director Ron Howard since "A Beautiful Mind". While filming, Howard insisted that Crowe would have to endure real punches thrown at him by his opponents during the fight scenes that led to him suffering from a concussion which caused a delay to the production.
Although "Cinderella Man" was well received by critics and won an Oscar nomination for Paul Giamatti who played as Braddock's manager, it was knocked out as a box office dud even when a cinema chain in the US offered refunds for anyone who wasn't pleased after watching the film.
Adapted from the stage play written by Peter Morgan about the historical interviews between Robert Frost and former US President Nixon in 1977 after his resignation for the Watergate Scandal, "Frost/Nixon" was also the first collaboration between Ron Howard as director and Peter Morgan as screenwriter, with the former having to beat out the strong competition from other directors like Martin Scorsese, George Clooney and Sam Mendes, among others, to get the gig.
Howard had agreed to direct "Frost/Nixon" for Universal on the condition that Michael Sheen and Frank Langella, who played as Frost and Nixon respectively in the original play, were brought back to reprise their roles on the bigscreen. A condition that would prove to be invaluable to the critical success that was garnered to "Frost/Nixon" when it was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor for Langella, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Editing at the 2009 Academy Awards.
"Rush" is centered on the rivalry between British F1 driver James Hunt and Austrian driver Niki Lauda during the Formula One season in the 1970s that takes a dark turn when the Austrian suffers third degree burns from an accident during the German Grand Prix.
Cinema Online, 27 September 2013
Screenwriter Peter Morgan wrote the screenplay based off his meetings with the real life Lauda that he had met through his wife, and was not writing it for any studio at the time before Ron Howard came into the picture.
This is Howard's and Morgan's second collaboration since "Frost/Nixon" and it certainly won't be their last as production for their third collaboration "Heart of the Sea"; based on the true events that inspired the story of Moby Dick, has just begun as of this writing with Chris Hemsworth returning to play in a leading role.