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It’s rare enough for an actor to become a director. It’s even rarer for a child actor to remain an actor as an adult. Ron Howard did both. He was a child actor on shows like The Andy Griffith Show, Dennis the Menace and The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. He went on to star in Happy Days when he was 20, but from there became an Oscar-winning director.

Ron Howard
Ron Howard | Giuseppe Maffia/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Howard never directed an episode of Happy Days, though. Howard was a guest on the Smartless podcast on Dec. 14 and explained to hosts Will Arnett, Jason Bateman and Sean Hayes why he never directed Happy Days.

Ron Howard knew he wanted to be a director on ‘The Andy Griffith Show’

Howard was only 6 when he began The Andy Griffith Show. Playing Opie Taylor, Howard paid attention behind the scenes and discovered his future. 

“I was able to be a part of this show and be a part of this process which included the camera operators,” Howard said. “At a certain point I realized that the director was the one who kind of got to hang with everybody, got to play with everybody. I just became intrigued.”

Ron Howard on The Andy Griffith Show
L-R: Sheldon Golomb and Ron Howard | CBS via Getty Images

Once The Andy Griffith Show ended, Howard already had his sights set on movies. 

“Literally by the time that show did ended when I was 14 years old, I had A, fallen in love with movies and began to understand the difference between an episode of The Andy Griffith Show or Leave It To Beaver and The Graduate,” Howard said. “I understood this  was a lot about the filmmaking and I began to know that I really wanted to chase that.”

Ron Howard could have directed ‘Happy Days’ if he wanted to

On Happy Days, Howard played Richie Cunningham, a high schooler in the ’50s who hangs out with cool cat The Fonz (Henry Winkler). Howard was 20 when the show began in 1974.

L-R: Ron Howard, Henry Winkler and Marion Ross | Fotos International/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

“I was offered chances to direct Happy Days at certain points because they knew I wanted to direct,” Howard said. “In fact, I was in film school when the show started. I left USC Film School and I thought it would just be a one year gig because how many series relly run? But it kept going. Jerry Paris was such a genius.”

The 2 reasons Ron Howard didn’t direct ‘Happy Days’

Howard said he had two reasons for saying no to directing Happy Days. One was respect for Paris, who directed 237 episodes.

“In all honesty, I never wanted to rob the cast of a week with Jerry for me,” Howard said. 

Happy Days era Ron Howard
Ron Howard | Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives

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The other reason was that Howard was already looking ahead towards film. He would direct his first movie, Grand Theft Auto, in 1977.

“The other thing was I was wise enough to know if I did a good job on a three camera episode of Happy Days, a show I was in, it wasn’t going to be a giant feather in my cap towards my real dream,” Howard said.