Ron Howard superhero movie

Director Ron Howard has had a diverse career. He’s directed romantic comedies, mysteries, period pieces, and a Dr. Seuss adaptation. We’ve never seen a major action movie or superhero film from him, though, because, Howard says, they doesn’t interest him.

After the jump, learn why the director turned down Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace and a handful of comic book movies.

Howard is currently promoting his newest film In the Heart of the Sea, and on the Happy Sad Confused podcast, he discussed some of his career choices. At around the 30-minute mark, Howard mentioned George Lucas offered him the opportunity to direct The Phantom Menace:

He didn’t necessarily want to direct them. He told me he had talked to Robert Zemeckis, Steven Spielberg, and me. I was the third one he spoke to. They all said the same thing: “George, you should do it!” I don’t think anybody wanted to follow-up that act at the time. It was an honor, but it would’ve been too daunting.

Imagine how different Episode I would’ve been if any of those three directors were at the helm of the prequels. Lucas and Howard collaborated on 1988’s Willow, and the In the Heart of the Sea director speaks fondly of his time collaborating with Lucas. In fact, he was inspired by the director on his adventure film:

There are some subtle, contemporary themes in In the Heart of the Sea, and it surprised me when I read it. And yet, there’s also this bedrock classic story of going to sea and nature turning on the whalers. This is what attracted Herman Melville to the story of The Essex when he wrote “Moby Dick”. I think those elements attracted me, but I wanted to present them in as modern of a way as I possibly could. Borrowing a little bit from George’s inspiration, we wanted to tell a classic story while making a modern movie experience for audiences.

It also sounds like Howard and Lucas have discussed working together again. For all you passionate Willow fans out there, the director mentioned Lucas and him have toyed with the idea of continuing Willow Ufgood’s (Warwick Davis) story, but that they haven’t had any serious conversations about it in years.

With Howard’s two most recent directorial efforts, he’s really pushed himself as a filmmaker. Rush is an excellent movie, and it’s unlike any other film of Howard’s. In the Heart of the Sea is also a different kind of picture from the director, unless it shares more in common with Splash than I imagine. A director as respected and as successful as Howard could simply rest on one’s laurels, but he still chooses to experiment behind the camera. However, he knows that certain projects, like superhero films, aren’t right for him:

I’ve had opportunities over the years [to make superhero movies]. I really feel like you shouldn’t make a movie as a kind of exercise. You have to be all the way in. I was never a comic book guy. I like the movies when I see them, especially the origin stories. I never felt like I could be on the set, at 3 o’clock in the morning, tired, with 10 important decisions to make, and know, intuitively, what the story needs. For me, I’d be copycatting and not inventing. I’ve never said yes to one.

In the Heart of the Sea opens in theaters December 11th.

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