John Wayne Taught ‘Happy Days’ Star Ron Howard This Unforgettable Lesson

by Samantha Whidden
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He starred alongside John Wayne in the 1976 Western film “The Shootist” and decades later, Ron Howard opened up about the unforgettable lesson he was taught by the late Western actor icon.  

As Ron Howard spoke about the lesson from John Wayne, he told Men’s Health, “John Wayne used a phrase, which he later attributed to John Ford, for scenes that were going to be difficult. ‘This is a job of work,’ he’d say. If there was a common thread with these folks – Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Glenn Ford – it was the work ethic. It was still driving them. To cheat the project was an insult. To cheat the audience was damnable.”

After revealing the lesson he learned from John Wayne, Ron Howard shared what Henry Fonda told him when he was 16-years-old. “‘If you love movies, become a director; if you love, acting, keep your focus on the theater.’ In either case, you’ve got to be willing to take a huge risk every 18 months, or else you’re not really trying.”

Ron Howard further explained that Fonda’s advice suggests even in a popular medium like film, the audience is able to sense when someone is manufacturing instead of creating. 

Between the lesson he was taught by John Wayne and the advice he received from John Ford, Ron Howard shared what advice he would give to his younger self. “Particularly if you want to direct. There was a combination of shyness and just fear of looking stupid that kept me out of a lot of interesting creative conversations that I could have had at an early age.”

Along With the Lesson From John Wayne, Ron Howard Reveals the ‘Secrets’ To Being a Good Leader

As he continued to open up to Men’s Health, Ron Howard revealed the “secrets” to being a good leader. “I love leaving the door open to good ideas,” Howard explains. I love the collaborative swirl. 

Ron Howard further explained that he gets a charge by problem-solving usually under some stress. “The sun is going down and we have eight minutes. And we have to solve it. Great things come out of it. I used to feel that I had to be dictational in order to be respected. But after Id id a couple of TV movies, I began to see that authority came with the job.”

Although he began to relax and let more people into his process, Ron Howard admitted that it can’t be a democracy. “I liked Bush’s line about being the decider – it’s one of the only things I liked about him. Once in a while, I play the decider card.”

Ron Howard goes on to reveal how he handles regret. “The regrets I have are strong enough that I wouldn’t share ’em. I think that you can’t live without suffering some. You can’t expect perfection.”

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