Ron Howard Transcript
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.
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.
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.
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
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 and a 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.
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.
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 ...
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
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.
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.
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.
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?
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
little bit. Yes.
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
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.
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
Do you think that some DVD's or some movies lend
themselves more to the second disc? I would think your
Apollo movie would be natural to go back and do that sort
of thing with.
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
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.
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
Reporter: 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.
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.
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.
Just a quick follow-up to that. How about when only the
modified version is available?
Howard: Well, bummer, I think. But, again, most people
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,
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Right. I got sort of lost when he was explaining all that
stuff on the blackboard.
Howard: Me, too. I never got it.
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.
It was interesting to see him because he really did seem
to come alive in that scene.
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.
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.
Reporter: I have a question for you pertaining, when did you actually become a DVD fan?
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.
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.
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.
What about your family for your teenage kids, are they DVD
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.
Reporter: At you home do you have a special home theater environment?
Howard: Yes, we do, down in our basement.
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.
Reporter: 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?
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.
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
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 statement 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.
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.
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?
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
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.
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?
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 Beautiful Mind DVD, but the
early feedback has been really positive. I suspect that
we're going to be even more organized about it on the
Reporter: 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?
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.
Reporter: 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.
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.
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
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.
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?
Reporter: 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?
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.
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
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.
Reporter: 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?
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.
Reporter: Does it change the way you look at the business at all?
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.
Reporter: 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.
Reporter: 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.
Reporter: 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?
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
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
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.