Why Ron Howard Almost Got Fired During His 1st Day as a Director

Ron Howard was a television icon from an early age, however, he needed the help of a filmmaking icon to become a director. Because of this help, Howard was able to start directing young. Here’s a look at the major difficulties he encountered while making his first film.

Ron Howard and Cindy Williams near a tree
Ron Howard and Cindy Williams | Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

The iconic director who gave Ron Howard his first film as a director

Jack Nicholson, William Shatner, and Sylvester Stallone are each one of the most famous actors of all time. Francis Ford Coppola, James Cameron, and Martin Scorsese are each one of the most acclaimed directors of all time. What do they all have in common? The same icon helped them down the path to fame. That icon is Roger Corman.

Corman is a film a director and producer who began his career back in the 1950s. He helmed a number of famous films including the original version of Little Shop of Horrors, A Bucket of Blood, and Death Race 2000. In addition, he directed a number of films adapted from the works of Edgar Allan Poe, almost all of which starred Vincent Price. Corman remains one of the most well-known directors of the 1950, 1960s, and 1970s, and his impact on the film industry is considerable.

A trailer for Little Shop of Horrors

RELATED: ‘The Andy Griffith Show’: How Ron Howard’s Desire to Become a Director ‘Evolved’ from the Show

Who saved Ron Howard from getting fired during his first day on set

He also had a considerable impact on Howard’s career. During an interview with the Directors Guild of America, Howard said Corman gave him the opportunity to direct his first movie: Grand Theft Auto. The film is not connected to the video game franchise of the same name.

“The first day of shooting was the day after my 23rd birthday,” Howard said. “I will admit that I was behind in my personal schedule, I was running late. I really wanted to direct a film in my teens. Hubris of youth. I was very anxious that first day. I read an article a few years ago in which Corman said I was one of the coolest, calmest first-day directors he’d ever seen. But I was really jumpy, and the first half of that first day didn’t go very well; I only got about four or five setups. Gary Graver, the cinematographer, sat down with me at lunch and we figured out how to avoid some problems and simplify a few things. He saved my *ss. I literally thought I might get fired at lunch.”

A trailer for Grand Theft Auto

RELATED: ‘The Andy Griffith Show’: How Griffith Reacted to Ron Howard Trying to Change an Episode

How the world reacted to ‘Grand Theft Auto’

So did Grand Theft Auto perform well? Box Office Mojo reports it cost $602,000 to produce. After all, Corman is known for his frugality. According to the book Ron Howard: From Mayberry to the Moon…and Beyond, Grand Theft Auto earned $15 million, a huge take for a low-budget film. In addition, the television rights were purchased for a whooping $1.1 million. Howard brought in plenty of money — even though he was almost fired at lunch.