Ron and Clint Howard are Hollywood legends and together they have written an autobiography called “The Boys: A Memoir of Hollywood and Family.” The brothers alternate writing portions of most chapters, sharing their experience of growing up in the entertainment business and how their parents kept them sane throughout their childhood.
The Town Hall & Strand Bookstore presented a live interview event with the Howard brothers on discussing their memoir with journalist Malcom Gladwell.
For the first time, the Howards examine their childhood in detail from Ron’s experience of playing Opie on “The Andy Griffith Show” to Clint’s stints on “Gentle Ben” and “Star Trek.” In answering people’s most commonly asked questions, “What was it like being on tv as kids?” and “How did you somehow navigate?” The Howards say in order for people to understand the answer to those questions. People first have to understand their father, Rance Howard, and their mother Jean Howard, in how they raised them in a normal household despite being successful child stars.
“We decided to answer those questions as an excuse to really deal with the origin story of our parents who made this radical decision to leave the midwest and chase show business,” said Ron Howard. “We felt like that idea was really watching what we were doing in preparing the memorial for our father, who is the second that passed and going through all of it. I rose the idea to Clint, I never wanted to do an autobiography of myself but I felt there was something specific that could be useful to people and I knew it will be cathartic. It was really an excuse to tell their story and reflect on what it meant to us.”
The Howards praised their parents for installing values at an early age and not letting them end up like traditional child stars. “Instilling this value that it was work, yes, we were on television, yes, people recognized us, we were in the public eye, but what we really had were jobs and our job was to prepare and go in. Never once did mom and dad allow the fame, the glamour, and the notoriety of the business to go into our heads,” said Clint Howard.
Their parents never made them pursue an acting career or made them do anything the brothers weren’t comfortable doing. Ron and Clint watched their father as a performer and on their own created a passion for acting. How the brothers got into the entertainment business was a fluke but the parents allowed it because they could manage the responsibility that comes with their children being in the business. Soon after, their father taught them the importance of storytelling, the responsibility they have as actors, and giving them advice in perfecting their craft.
“They thought they could manage it, and it was a reaction in what they saw in us, the very first job we ever did wasn’t because they wanted to put their kid in the business, it was kinda a fluke, it was all in the book,” said Ron Howard. “What they did see was, oh we never thought it would make any sense because this was a very unique circumstance, but he has an amplitude perhaps we can manage it. When they moved from New York to L.A. because television moved to L.A. because my dad was pursuing better roles. He put me with his agent to see what would happen and I started landing roles, step by step they kept recognizing they can manage it.”
Beloved fans filled up the room who has been watching the Howard brothers on television and movies since childhood. People felt like they were part of the conversation in listening to them talk about their fond memories. The Howards were telling amazing stories and audience members can walk away with a story they can cherish forever.
“The Howard brothers needed very little prompting from the interviewer, they are both natural raconteurs and were eager to tell stories about their parents and their experiences as young actors,” said Carolyn Jay, an audience attendee. “Malcolm Gladwell could not get over how detailed their memory was of events so long ago, and attributed it to their creative lives and imaginations enhancing their ability to remember. He felt it was their “superpower.” Personally, I would say their memories stayed with them because of the strong emotions associated with these fun and exciting times in their young lives.”
The Boys is a remarkable story of a family who chose a very public line of work but managed to live by their own private values. Ron and Clint Howard cherish their parent’s decision in living their own version of the simple life. Raising them to be respectful human beings and teaching them how to succeed in life. The Howard brother had supportive parents who just wanted the best for their children, and the memoir is a reflection of that.
“Dad would say this to us all the time, you are learning to act and I am excited, you are good at it. I am teaching you what I can and so are those other people, you are having this opportunity to work with, but you don’t have to do this, said Ron Howard.” The minute you tell me you don’t want to do this, you will have to still fulfill a contract but you are not destined to do this. I want you to find something that you love like I found something I love.”