The Mind Of The Man: Ron Howard
by debi lee mandel
Academy? Award-winning director Ron Howard held a press tele-conference Wednesday morning to promote Universal's upcoming release of 2001's Best Picture, A Beautiful Mind to DVD and discussed Disney's plans for a 20th anniversary edition of Splash (to include a commentary with Howard, Tom Hanks, Daryl Hannah, Brian Grazer and Babaloo Mandel, et al). The not-so-digitally-OBSESSED Howard says he still prefers theaters, but his own kids are winning him over to the format.
Congenial, relaxed and genuine, it is difficult to imagine how this Hollywood figure has survived the entertainment industry for 42 of his 48 years, let alone find himself on top of the heap. Howard, thoughtful of his answers, responded with enthusiasm, setting the friendly tone of the event.
The following is transcribed from the press conference: Ron Howard Tele-conference: A Beautiful Mind Awards Edition DVD
June 19, 2002
11:00 a.m. CDT
Moderator: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by. Welcome to the Ron Howard conference call. At this time all participant lines are in a listen-only mode. Later there will questions and answers. Instructions will be given at that time. As a reminder, the conference is being recorded.
I would now like to turn the conference over to the Senior Vice President of Publicity for Universal Studios Home Video, Vivian Mayor. Please go ahead.
V. Mayor: Good morning, everyone. Thank you for joining us. We have Ron Howard on the line. I just want to thank you again for this telephone conference call, and I'd like to introduce Academy Award Winning Director, Ron Howard, who will talk about the best picture DVD, A Beautiful Mind, and the special awards DVD, which streets on June 25th.
R. Howard: I'll keep this fairly brief because I want to get to the questions as soon as possible, but the only thing that I can really add or that I certainly want to underline is that it's fair to say that this is the first DVD project that I consciously worked on from the moment I knew it was going to be a "go movie" mostly because, even in pre-production, I was finding the material fascinating and complex, and I also know from my own experience that I always wind up shooting some things that don't make the final cut.
In this particular case, Akiva's screenplay was so strong that I had a feeling that the scenes that we would lose would be gone more for flow, for tempo, than because they were awkward and didn't live up to the quality of the other scenes. For the most part, that's the case.
Building upon the idea that I knew I was going to want to put together a deleted scenes section, I also kept in mind, along with the editors, other material that I thought might be interesting. That led to including special effects, which was important to me, firstly, because I wanted to make sure that there was a clear record of the fact that we didn't take an infant and put the baby under water, but working with Kevin Mack, the visual effects supervisor from Digital Domain, there was an interesting effects challenge.
Normally, you're trying to create a new world, you're trying to add scope, add scale through digital effects. In this case, we were trying to create a sense of his psychological state, his intellectual state, and his creative process. I thought that it would be interesting to show how digital effects have now become a tool, not just of scale and bedazzlement, but also fleshing out character ideas and broadening the possibilities for filmmakers.
Lastly, in pre-production, I did this interview of John Nash in his office where he was, really, for the first time, very forthcoming, and I made this so that Russell Crowe and I would have some source material to work on. It wound up fascinating everyone in the production office. Everyone was playing this tape. They just found John really engrossing, and it was probably an hour anda half of material. People were watching it all the way through and reviewing it, not so much for information, but because they found it intriguing.
I didn't ask John at the beginning of the production because at that stage he was still maybe a little bit hopeful but understandably circumspect. Once he'd seen the film and believed in the movie, I then asked him if we could use some of the footage for the DVD, and he agreed.
I found - and I think all of us did, working on the film - it to be sort of interesting to be thinking about the DVD, as we were particularly in post-production, and beginning to think about what was and was not going to make being in the film, but what could possibly enhance the DVD for people who were curious and wanted a little more detail and insight into the whole process.
That's my introduction. If you want to get any questions, let's do it.
Q: Hi, Ron. Just a quick question regarding deleted scenes. You just said you could shoot the film, knowing that there was a possibility that you were going to use some deleted scenes on DVD. Does that make it easier for you to cut them out of the actual version? Are you thinking, "Well, it won't be a total loss if we ... ."?
R. Howard: No, and I'm not shooting any extra material with the DVD in mind. It's just that after making a number of movies I know that inevitably happens and it's always a little frustrating.
In the past, I've occasionally included scenes in network and syndicated television versions, where the flow is going to be disrupted by commercials anyway, so often that's the reason that a scene is lost, is for tempo and flow, so if that's not really an issue, given the medium of presentation, then I sometimes add the scenes back.
In this case what I thought would be - as I began looking at the scenes that we were cutting out, it really started with the fact that I was cutting a scene my dad was in. It was a good scene, very well acted by Russell Crowe and Christopher Plumber, an interesting scene, a scene I never would have imagined coming out, and my dad was in it and did a fine job, but it was filmatically relevant because it's the scene where Christopher Plumber really articulates for the audience one of the central ideas, which is when you see someone standing on a corner talking to themselves, don't lose sight of the fact that that person is very much engaged in a real conversation for him or her. So my father was playing the patient who was offering that example.
I always thought it was a crucial scene, but it was one of the first scenes to go and, therefore, shockingly painful, but important. I began thinking that with this screenplay that was so well written we were going to be losing scenes for surprising reasons. So in addition to just including deleted scenes, I thought we'd do a section where I would just explain why the scene was lost.
It was actually interesting, once the film was locked and released and in theaters, and well accepted, to go back and discuss the edits while it was still fresh in my mind. In fact, that's one thing I really liked about this DVD commentary. It's the first time I've been able to do the commentary while the filmmaking experience was really vivid and fresh in my mind. Usually it's kind of a nostalgic revisiting. But in this case, it was very much in the forefront of my thinking.
Q: One other thing, are there any scenes that were deleted that did not make it out to the DVD? Is there still stuff that we don't see or will not see?
R. Howard: There is a lovemaking scene between Russell and Jennifer, a pretty PG-13 kind of lovemaking scene because it was always intended to be a PG movie. I didn't include it because I thought that if you included that scene it would start selling DVD's thinking that it was something really incredibly racy. I thought it would be a little misleading.
Q: False advertising?
R. Howard: A little bit. Yes.
Q: Hi, Ron. Quick question. As you develop these DVD's—I know that as a director that's not necessarily in your area of responsibility—but like you line up talent and other folks to do promotion; do you now need to line them up to do DVD commentaries, like the actors and things like that?
R. Howard: I don't. No. I enjoy doing it. In this case, it was great that Akiva was available and could to do it as well. I know that Disney is putting together a Splash 20th anniversary DVD release next year, and I think they got Tom and Darryl Hannah to do some commentary on that as well, as Brian Grazer and myself, and actually, ... and that was really fun. That was a trip down memory lane more than anything else, but great fun to do.
Speaking for myself, I'm beginning to view the DVD as an opportunity to sort of do what authors do, with authors' notes and acknowledgements, a preface, and things like that. I think that has some value and is worthy of some thought. I don't view it as a financial issue or a crucial project but in fact, just kind of a nice opportunity.
Q: Do you think that some DVD's or some movies lend themselves more to the second disk? I would think your Apollo movie would be natural to go back and do that sort of thing with.
R. Howard: I'm not enough of a collector to be able to say what's worthy of a second disk and what isn't, so I can't really make comparisons for you. I leave that up to the studio, which produces them and markets them. I think they have to look at the materials that are available.
Sometimes I have sort of mixed feelings about the behind-the-scenes stuff because I'm always a little leery of undermining the magic. But my assumption is that people will have experienced the film first before they ever really go to those channels. So I like this a lot better. I think this is more for the curious and the astute than necessarily putting all the behind-the-scenes stuff on "Entertainment Tonight" and giving away all the magic and the impact of the illusion for people who are just channel surfing and who might see more than they really want to see. So I feel a little bit better about looking behind the curtain with DVD material.
Look, I basically look at this as the material that I've encouraged Universal to include had been the stuff that I think I would be interested in looking at and, certainly, what I would have loved to have seen when I was still a student.
Q: Hi, Ron. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. I have a question about original aspect ratios. I'm getting to a point with DVD's where they're gaining such popularity that, for example, A Beautiful Mind comes out in two versions: a full-screen modified version and the wide-screen version, and your previous film, The Grinch, did that, too. I'm wondering if you could just comment on the whole aspect of putting your film on a home viewing format and trying to balance that with presenting it in its original aspect ratio and how consumers react to that.
R. Howard: I don't know anything about how consumers react, so I don't track these things; I just don't have any of the statistics in mind at all. I really appreciate the fact that the films can be presented in their original aspect ratio because that's how they were framed. I know a lot of people, even my own kids, they don't like that. They would just rather see a nice little screen no matter what. The nice thing here is that people can see it however they like.
I've already, in my own mind, I do keep the frame clear for TV and protect to that, when we shoot as much as I possibly can, and then when I can't, we try to block out microphones or lights or anything that might catch a frame and hard map for that stuff. I accepted long ago that there was kind of a theatrical version and then the ancillary version, and I'm really delighted that for people who care that the original format doesn't just vanish with the end of the theatrical release.
Q: Just a quick follow-up to that. How about when only the modified version is available?
R. Howard: Well, bummer, I think. But, again, most people don't care.
Q: Hi, Ron. On the deleted scenes version, there's only so much time for your comments on it, and the last scene where Russell makes the speech and you were commenting on the deleted scenes, the close-up of Jennifer, during his speech you weren't able to comment because of time constraints about the language of the speech. It was very eloquent, but it was different than the final product. You mentioned the word "a beautiful mind" in that speech. I was hoping you could comment now on why you modified it, etc.
R. Howard: That's a pretty good question. I'd actually had forgotten that I didn't get to comment on it in there. That was the last of the sleepless nights for me in postproduction was finally modifying that speech, because I felt like it was a very delicate matter. We were taking some creative license with the speech anyway, so I wanted it to be eloquent, but I also wanted to preserve some restraint and a little mystery, and it was just a question of refinement and taste.
It was a very controversial thing. It was one of those where I couldn't come close to getting a consensus. Finally, I just had to go with my own gut on it, and I just decided to eliminate a couple of sentences.
Q: Either way, it ended up good.
R. Howard: It was a great performance and, again, that's one of the things that made editing this film so difficult. In a way, it was one of the most challenging, even though we didn't have big action scenes and complex montages or anything like that, because the performances were so rich; the screenplay was so detailed that every time you took something out you were really losing a value. The question was, did the value exist somewhere else? Many times I felt that the actors and, particularly Russell, were so expressive that less was more, at times. But when you're close to the material, it's a real challenge to sort through that and it was a real interesting exercise, and as with all films, I think I learned a lot.
Q: Hi, Ron. Congratulations on all this success. When you're working on the DVD, are you trying to serve two audiences, basically the people who saw it in the theater and then the people who are watching it for the first time on DVD? Then how do you kind of juggle that?
R. Howard: I wasn't really thinking about that. What I love about DVD is that the quality is good. What I'm really thinking about is here is an opportunity to present this movie once and for all. So I actually assume people are going to be seeing it for the first time on the DVD, and it's going to be reaching people who didn't make it to the movies or some years down the road, people who weren't old enough to see it at the time.
That's the way I feel about the feature presentation, the presentation of the movie itself, and then the added footage is really a unique opportunity to embellish on the subject of making a movie and the subject of the film itself, as was the case with some of the interviews, in particular that interview with Nash.
Q: Right. I got sort of lost when he was explaining all that stuff on the blackboard.
R. Howard: Me, too. I never got it.
Q: You sounded like you understood it.
R. Howard: I'm an actor still, and I needed to make him believe that he was doing a fine job of expressing it. I was grasping the general concept. I would admit to people, "I never understood how to get you to the moon on Apollo 13 either." But I began to understand a vernacular well enough to know what area they were talking about at a given time.
Q: It was interesting to see him because he really did seem to come alive in that scene.
R. Howard: It was great. It's not really mentioned there, but what was so important is that the first three or four meetings that I had with him, I had three meetings, they were at restaurants and things like that, and with John, and sometimes with John and Alicia, and he was just very, very shy, very reserved. He had forgotten a lot of this stuff anyway, due to the treatments and the years and the medication that he took during that period. Then we even did - I didn't conduct it, but we did a sit-down interview with him with some prepared questions, and Karen ... from Imagine actually conducted that interview, and that was a little better, but still a little too formal. I needed to better understand the Nash equilibrium anyway and the bargaining theory, so I thought that maybe he'd do it for me and that would kind of be a way to get him up on his feet, see him move, let me record that.
We had no footage of Nash as a young man, none anywhere, just maybe a dozen or so photographs. It was very little for Russell to go on, but I could get this record that could help Russell with the last segment of the movie, last sequence. He had some questions, and it was an opportunity, actually as he was explaining it I realized, from his body language and his attitude and everything else, how much more relaxed he was.
So I began slipping in some of these questions that hadn't really been asked before or if they'd been asked, he couldn't quite remember or didn't have much to say on the subject. I can't say there were any giant bolts of lightening as a result, but I did feel like I was learning a little more about him. He was really interesting.
Q: I have a question for you pertaining, when did you actually become a DVD fan?
R. Howard: I'm always a little behind the vanguard there, when it comes to technology, but I think that it was not so long ago. Everybody kept raving about the Apollo 13 DVD, but I still haven't seen that.
I really liked the Pitch Black DVD, and I liked the commentary. It was just interesting to hear him talk about that. It was a movie I liked, and I went to the commentary and it was great. I began to miss it on some of the older movies that were released.
First of all, I realized how great this would have been if I could have been looking at DVD's when I was 18 years old, how much it would have meant to me. So I just began to be a little more conscientious about it.
I can't say that I am a DVD junkie. I see most films that I want to see in the theater, and so most of my DVD watching is catching up with the occasional movies that I missed or revisiting a film that I really care about, in which case I really want the extra channels, because it's a movie that I already love, and I want to know more about it.
Q: What about your family for your teenage kids, are they DVD fans?
R. Howard: Yes, they are. But they don't care much about the extra channels. They just want to see the movie over and over and over again.
Q: At you home do you have a special home theater environment?
R. Howard: Yes, we do, down in our basement.
Q: HGTV, 16.9?
R. Howard: I don't even know what we have down there. It's not the latest and greatest. It was all put in about five years ago and it hasn't changed.
Q: Ron, it's good to talk with you. First of all, I just want to know - first and foremost I think movies are best when they can inform us and entertain us. I can't help but think that you as a filmmaker, you learn something, maybe, about yourself, when you're making a film like A Beautiful Mind. How did this film change you on a personal level and on a professional level, the way you make films?
R. Howard: It's hard to define change in oneself unless something really dramatic happens, like you give up some vice, fall in love or something like that. None of those things happened on this film. I was all set in both regards, thank God.
But it was a tremendous growth experience, just on a personal level, because I learned a lot more about the mind, about psychiatry and mental illness than I had before. From a filmmaking standpoint, it was sort of a continuation of something that I began to understand; I'm a little embarrassed to admit this, but I will. I began to really understand it with Apollo 13. I applied what I learned on that film to A Beautiful Mind, and was really rewarded by audiences' response, as well as box office, awards, and that sort of thing, and that is that the simple idea that the truth is enough, that honesty on film can be very enriching.
Certainly, we took a lot of creative license with A Beautiful Mind, but at its center we were going for a realistic, honest, kind of underplayed expression of what this white man's journey might have been like. Not as pure a docudrama as, say, Apollo 13, but a similar standard. So even if we were working with something where we had collapsed time or simplified some aspect of his life, the scene was highly researched, and the scene and the choices in the scene were informed, not just out of our own creative minds, but out of that research.
To see audiences respond to both movies the way they did is an important lesson. I think earlier in my career I was probably a little more inclined to press for an audience reaction and to push things to a slightly more heightened state. Not to say that I wouldn't find that appropriate again. With The Grinch we probably pushed things as hard as we did, pushed every button we could find.
But as it relates to this kind of storytelling, the kind of movie that, as you said, does depend on a level of insight into our real world and our real feeling experience, I was really gratified to see how much work audiences would do and how far they would go to grasp, to understand, to embrace really complicated ideas. I think, in short, I learned to trust the audience with both movies a lot more than I might have seven or eight years ago.
Q: Here's another quick question in regard to the way the audience would react. You mentioned in your opening statement here that the DVD and the supplemental materials are going to give people more insight into the story of John Nash. This is a question about the audiences. I've seen the film in the theater already. They get the DVD. They say, "Geez, I want to learn more." They look at that material. Is it your hope that they perceive the film differently now?
R. Howard: No. What I really hope is that if there's any confusion or hanging questions, perhaps it supplies an answer. More than anything I hope that it offers some insight into the sensibility of the filmmaking team, so that the choices that are made are sort of understood on a creative level. I sort of expect that people who go to those channels are interested in knowing more about the process of making the film and why certain choices were made.
I think that that initial sense of the movie is what I hope people will continue to carry with them. I'm not really trying to change anybody's mind. But in the same way that if you hear a song and then you find out something about the songwriter or understand where the song was written or why, sometimes there's something satisfying about it. Or you see a painting and you find out something about the artist; it sort of broadens your sense of why the picture looks the way it looks and, perhaps, why it makes you feel the way you feel.
Q: Good morning, Ron. I'm wondering, given your experience with this DVD, will supplementary channels be, do you think, a regular feature of your movies in the future? Do you have a criteria of just what and how you'll add on?
R. Howard: Not a strict criteria, but I definitely enjoyed the process, and so did the production team and the postproduction team, of keeping track of the options and the possibilities. It's too early to see how people are going to be responding to the BeautifulMind DVD, but the early feedback has been really positive. I suspect that we're going to be even more organized about it on the next film.
Q: Do you think this is going to change the way you're thinking about making movies? Do you think it's going to change the way people think about looking at movies? Are we educating an audience?
R. Howard: There are two parts to that. First, I don't think it's going to change the way I approach making a movie at all, because the first objective is really to maximize that single sitting experience. My hope is that people will watch the movie start to finish and experience what I love to experience when I see a film, and that is to be swept up by it and carried away by it. That's not going to change for me.
I think there's no question, none whatsoever, in my mind that movie audiences are becoming more and more sophisticated by the month, and they have been for about the last decade. You go and you talk to a high school film class today, which I do from time to time, and it's staggering, the technical savvy that they have. And it's great, their grasp of the grammar of film, and there's just no question, and that's exciting. That only challenges filmmakers more and more, and that bodes well for the medium.
Q: This question actually doesn't pertain specifically to the DVD. It's a little more general about the movie itself. I was curious as to how much time, if any, Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly spent talking to and studying Nash and Alicia Nash, and how involved the real characters the movie was based on were in helping the actors to develop their characterizations.
R. Howard: Not a lot, by design really. This is sort of my sense of how to approach this. Alicia and Jennifer met and had a lunch at one point, and they may have spoken on the phone. I met with John and Alicia a good deal.
Russell didn't meet with John in pre-production. In fact, he sort of wanted to, and then it didn't really fit with his schedule. I saw just a little reticence on his part and I jumped on that, because while I didn't want to deny him access to John if I felt like it was going to help him, on the other hand, having acted in a couple of television movies where I played characters based on folks that were still living, I know I didn't want to meet the people.
I was always encouraging Russell and Jennifer to not feel that they had to create imitations of these characters, not what I was looking for in terms of their interpretation. These are not household names. I wanted them to learn as much about the characters as they were comfortable learning, but trust the screenplay and their own actors' intuition and my direction.
However, John showed up when we were shooting at Princeton, and it was only the second or third day of filming. I went to Russell, and I said, "John just showed up here. I can ask him to leave." Because I had really asked John not to come that first week, but he stubbornly kind of showed up anyway. Russell said, "No, no, it's cool. I know what I'm doing. We've worked it out. I've got the character and it's fine."
John hung around for about a half an hour, and he and Russell talked between setups a bit. In fact, Russell even borrowed a little bit from their conversation and improvised a similar exchange about tea, later on in the movie, to one they had just had sitting in the cast chairs back by the video monitors on that day. Does that answer your question?
Q: Yes. I was just curious. My other question had to do with just the idea that you're making a story based on real lives, people still living. I know that certain things in the biography were not in the film, and I just wondered how closely, if at all, you worked with Akiva Goldsman in developing the screenplay or did he just bring it to you as a finished thing?
R. Howard: He developed it with Brian Grazer and Karen ... at Imagine for the first draft or so, maybe the draft and a half, before I read it, so the shape of it was already well worked out before I became involved in the project. After that, I worked very closely with him on the ensuing five or six drafts, but a lot of the big ideas were very much in place.
One thing that I felt was important and better-realized in Sylvia Nasar's Biography, also called A Beautiful Mind, which is terrific, by the way, was the burden of those years where he returned to Princeton and was virtually like a homeless person wandering the campus. We didn't have a lot of screen time to devote to it, but it was important to me to develop that idea, and also to deepen the relationship with Alicia, and that came both from aspects of the biography that I liked and also from meeting John and Alicia, so it continued to evolve and change.
But the one thing that the biography didn't do that Akiva was very, very interested in, and I shared his belief that this was important in making a motion picture version of the Nash story, was to try to understand what the experience might have been like for Nash and to really personalize the movie to Nash and play as much of it from his point of view as possible.
John did not cooperate with Sylvia at all, so she approached it from a very objective journalistic perspective, and Akiva and I really wanted to make a movie that was much more personal. Therefore, at times, that's what led to defining the dilutions as real concrete characters that Nash would have relationships with, which is, again, a cinematic theatrical idea, so that's kind of artifice hoping to actually generate a deeper understanding of the truth, and that's one of the things that movies sometimes do well.
Q: You keep mentioning the fact that you confess to taking a lot of dramatic license. During all the Oscar hubbub, did it bother you that even though you admitted that, the controversy surrounding the subsequent nominations and everything?
R. Howard: Yes. It did bother me. I wasn't losing sleep. I was kind of chagrined for a long time and kind of accepting, and then I became really angry about it because I felt like it was, in some way, having a negative impact or threatening to have a negative impact on John's life that I thought was really unfair. That's what I ultimately found. I found the whole thing upsetting, but I really didn't say much about it until it crossed what I thought was a threshold.
Q: Does it change the way you look at the business at all?
R. Howard: No. I see a lot of really gracious behavior and very consciously evolved decisions and choices made in this business all the time, and I also see some disappointing choices that are born out of ambition, greed and a sense of competition. I like to think I exist more in the former. I've probably made a few choices that would fall into the latter category myself; nobody is perfect. It is a competitive business, so I'm fairly accepting of whatever comes my way. It's just having grown up in the business, I understand both. I'm always disappointed when somebody follows the low road and I always really appreciate the high road because I know that low road is kind of tempting.
Q: Hi, Ron. It's a pleasure to talk to you. Two quick questions. As you already mentioned in your introduction, you put a lot of forethought into this. Now how much actual influence did you have over what made it to the final release?
R. Howard: Of the DVD?
R. Howard: Actually, everything that I asked them to include, they did, and then they also had some ideas themselves. I was really interested in the things that I talked about: the Nash footage, the deleted scenes, some explanation for the deletions, and visual effects, because I thought that would be really interesting. I think it was their idea to specifically interview Akiva, and I think they wanted to include the awards stuff and things like that.
Q: Given the amount of effort and time that went into this, was that what precipitated you to want to go back and do a commentary track for The Grinch?
R. Howard: No. I just sort of missed out on The Grinch. They wanted to release it so quickly, and I was just in the throes of this, the same way that I missed Willow. I just literally couldn't schedule a day to go do it. I was disappointed in both cases, but they are going to release a special edition for The Grinch, so that will be ... to that.
Q: Hi, MR. Howard: . I had a question on the content of the film back to the influence. In light of all the controversy, did you receive any letters or exchanges that validated your choices, I would assume, maybe consciousness raising of the subject of mental illness, anything you can share with us?
R. Howard: A tremendous wave of support that was incredibly gratifying, because it was like 99% positive coming from the psychiatric community. I think, frankly, we wouldn't have been surprised if it would have been a little bit more controversial in that regard. But from the earliest instances of asking mental health experts to read the script, it was always very positive, but I never knew how people would respond to the finished version, how the mental health field would respond. It's just been great, including ... where—I'm forgetting the acronym, but it's a mental health awareness advocacy group, so that was great.
But on a more personal note—Brian Grazer and I talked about this all the time—the people that we were bumping in to just on the street who were giving these testimonials and explaining to us how a mental crisis had affected a love one in their family in some really profound way and how the film had offered some insight and so many instances of people saying, "Now I can explain to others what my brother or child or parent was actually going through. I could never articulate it, and your film expresses that." These kinds of communications just meant so much to us.
It was a tremendous added level of appreciation or value that none of us would have ever presumed would necessarily exist. Even the things that happened to us as a result of the film, this meant as much as any of the awards or the reviews or box office. I know that sounds ridiculous and corny; no one is going to believe that; but I can't tell you how much we talked about it and how much we appreciated the feedback.
Q: Good morning, Ron. Congratulations on a wonderful film. I have a question regarding ratings. Being that children can pick up a DVD and stick it in there, is there any consciousness on your part of what will go in that DVD, not particularly for this DVD, but any in the future?
R. Howard: No. I once discussed the possibility with Ransom, which was an R-rated movie that I did a few years ago. There was sort of a television version of the film that I thought was still a very good representation of the movie. In putting together the TV cut, I remember talking to the execs at Disney, and saying, "Would you want to release a video or a DVD PG version of Ransom?" I think they looked at it and decided that they just didn't need to do that, but I was open to that idea as long as it was really labeled that it was a modified version, for rating purposes. As long as I could control that, I wouldn't mind that.
But I wouldn't want to only put out a modified version of a movie, whatever the rating, because, again, I view the DVD version as the collectors' version and the one that's going to live on the shelves, so I want to make sure it's the version that represents my final cut and one that we went to theaters with.
Q: One more question. Are there any particular scenes that play or do not play that are on the large screen in the DVD's?
R. Howard: I don't know about that. I think scope and scale always plays better on a large screen. A Beautiful Mind is a movie that plays with almost equal intensity. I don't think that A Beautiful Mind will lose much, being seen on TV sets. I really don't. Whereas, some other films, you really hope people are going to see the large-screen version. In fact, I'm doing an IMAX release of Apollo 13, which is sort of going in the other direction. That's happening in September, and that's been a great experience to prepare that. I think that's going to be something that people who want to experience that movie on its grandest scale will enjoy that.
Q: Good morning. What's your opinion on reediting and redefining a film, only to make the newer version the only one available on DVD as opposed to the version audiences may have fallen in love with in the theaters?
R. Howard: Are there examples of that, technically?
Q: Not technically at the moment, but George Lucas has said that when he puts Star Wars out on DVD he's only going to release the special editions and not the original 1977 versions.
R. Howard: That's interesting.
Q: Spielberg is putting ET out, and the original version is going to be available in a collectors set, but the mass price version is going to be the version [with the guns] removed.
R. Howard: What do I think about that? I think, again, when the filmmakers are controlling it, it's okay. If an artist wants to take something down off the museum wall and change something, I hope somebody takes a snapshot of the earlier version just for historical value, but I think the artist ought to be able to do that.
Q: Also, coming from the Apollo 13 DVD, which I was looking at the other day, in it you said originally when you started directing that one of your goals you wanted to be the first director to go to the moon. With the Russians selling spots on their space missions, do you think that dream could still become a reality, and what would you want to do if you went?
R. Howard: I think it might be some kind of a possibility. I don't know. They're pretty seriously talking about not so much resorts on the moon, but a resort space station. I think it's unlikely that I'm going to get a chance to go to the moon. I'm not willing to buy myself onto a shuttle because I'm still so active here. I don't have the year to train and go, and having done Apollo 13, I think I have a pretty good sense of what it might be like up there, having done all the weightless footage.
Q: One last question. What DVD is currently in your DVD player right now?
R. Howard: The Alamo, John Wayne Alamo. I'm doing some research.
[Ed. Note: Ron Howard begins shooting The Alamo later this year.]