Howard became one of Hollywood's most sought-after directors beginning in the mid 1980s with the one-two punch of "Splash" and "Cocoon," both huge critical and financial successes that demonstrated the young filmmaker's ability to balance fantastical elements with light-hearted comedy - a crowd-pleasing and highly lucrative combination in Tinseltown. At the time, the mainstream public knew Howard mainly as a TV actor, with his roles as young Opie Taylor on "The Andy Griffith Show" and, later, fresh-faced teenager Richie Cunningham on "Happy Days." To find out that the freckle-faced innocent of their youth could call the shots on the pressure-filled set of a studio film must have come as something of a surprise for those who grew up watching him, but Howard has nevertheless continued to churn out critically-acclaimed box-office hits through the decades, including such films as "Parenthood," "Apollo 13" and "A Beautiful Mind." He sure has come a long way from Mayberry, that kid.
- Chris Eggertsen