John Wayne Once Taught Ron Howard About Work Ethic and Movie-Making

by Jennifer Shea

Actor, director and producer Ron Howard has spent time around lots of Hollywood legends. But it was his work with Western icon John Wayne that taught him his work ethic when making movies.

Howard told Men’s Journal that the stars of days gone by had a singular work ethic. And they passed their wisdom on to him.

Ron Howard Learned His Work Ethic from the Greats

“John Wayne used a phrase, which he later attributed to John Ford, for scenes that were going to be difficult,” Howard recalled. “’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.”

It wasn’t just the men, either. Howard said the female stars of yesteryear had a mean work ethic themselves.

“I directed Bette Davis, too – she was the toughest of them all,” he added.

Howard Lives With Regrets

Howard worked with Wayne on Wayne’s last Western, “The Shootist.” For that film, he also got to work with James Stewart, John Carridine and Lauren Bacall.

In “The Shootist,” Wayne plays the aging gunfighter J.B. Brooks. He winds up in Carson City, Nevada with late-stage cancer, and heads to a boarding house run by a widow named Bond Rogers (Lauren Bacall) and her son Gillom (Howard).

Howard got a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his work on the film. And perhaps more importantly, he got to soak up life lessons from Hollywood greats.

But one thing they didn’t teach Howard was how to live with regrets. He told Men’s Journal that his regrets are so strong he doesn’t feel comfortable sharing them.

“I think that you can’t live without suffering some,” Howard said. “You can’t expect perfection. It is important to sort of acknowledge some of our imperfections. I write them down. There’s something about acknowledging mistakes and being able to put them down on paper; they become facts of your life that you must live with. And then hopefully you can navigate the road a little bit better.”

Howard has been navigating his directing career just fine, his most recent film being the November 2020 Netflix drama “Hillbilly Elegy.”