‘Happy Days’ Star Ron Howard Made His Mom Audition for Role in Smash-Hit Film

by Josh Lanier

Ron Howard made his mom audition for a role in Apollo 13. And after she’d finished, Howard said he was in tears.

Most everyone knows Ron Howard’s early life as an actor. He starred in the major television shows Happy Days and The Andy Griffith Show, as well as several movies. His brother has also starred in several productions. Ron Howard’s daughter Bryce Dallas Howard followed him into the business. She’s been in several movies including as a star of the rebooted Jurassic Park franchise. She, also like her dad, is focusing her career behind the camera as a director. But they’re not the only Howards who have found success in Hollywood.

Ron Howard’s mom, Jean Speegle Howard, was an actress as well. But she gave it up to raise her children and nurture her sons’ early careers. She picked it up again later in life once they were adults, and she found some success. She had small parts in the film Cocoon as well as television shows like Matlock.

Ron Howard’s dad suggested that he cast Jean in Apollo 13, his 1996 Oscar-winning film about the true-life failed moon mission, as mom to Jim Lovell, Tom Hank’s character.

After thinking it over, knowing there was “a lot riding on it,” Howard said she could audition. But he would meet her at her house and she could try out there, he recalled years later.

Ron Howard Explains Why He Asked Mom to Audition

Howard showed up at his parents’ home a little later. His mom was nervous but prepared, he said. Ron Howard explained what happened next at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival.

“I didn’t want to do it at the office, so I said I’d come by the house and we’d read through the scene. So I came by, and she was nervous. She had a little housecoat and was prepared to do it. And we went through it a couple of times and she made me cry just because I was proud of her as a son and also because I knew that she could do it, and this was an opportunity. And it was just one or two takes on the day of shooting, but it was a great moment.”

Howard cast her in the film in a memorable scene. You can see the clip below.

Jean Speegle Howard continued acting after that. She had dozens of small film and television roles following Apollo 13 until she died in 2000.