It's no secret that famed director Ron Howard grew up in a happy family, despite growing up in Hollywood as a child actor. His father, Rance Howard, instilled his Oklahoma values in Ron and his brother Clint, and despite the fame, they remained a close-knit family. But no family is complete without the matriarch and Jean Speegle Howard can very much also be credited with helping her boys thrive professionally. Ron became a household name as an actor and Oscar-winning filmmaker and Clint Howard is a renowned character actor.
You might not have realized that Jean was also an actress. The Duncan, Oklahoma native was pursuing roles in her home state with her husband Rance before they had children. They even studied theater together at the University of Oklahoma. She ended up giving it all up to raise her sons as they moved out to Burbank, California and Ron became a star on The Andy Griffith Show. But raising a son to be a talented director comes with some perks and over the years, Jean has made multiple appearances in Ron's films, most notably in Apollo 13.
It was actually Rance's suggestion that Ron use his mother for the role of Jim Lovell's mother (Tom Hanks' character) but initially, he was hesitant for a couple of reasons. It was going to be a very important movie (it won two Oscars and a heap of nominations) but also, he wasn't sure if his mom was old enough for the role despite her being an elderly woman. Ultimately, he decided to give her a shot and as we know, she nailed the role of Blanch Lovell.
"I didn't want to do it at the office, so I said I'd come by the house and we'd read through the scene," Ron explained at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival.
"So I came by, and she was nervous. She had a little house coat and was prepared to do it. And we went through it a couple of times and she made me cry just because I was proud of her as a son and also because I knew that she could do it, and this was an opportunity. And it was just one or two takes on the day of shooting, but it was a great moment."
Following the film's 25th anniversary, Ron explained to ET that he was really glad he listened to his dad.
"I'm so happy my dad twisted my arm," he said.
"I really didn't think Mom was old enough to do it, and I was also just frankly nervous about it because I knew what a pivotal role it was. But she really knocked it out of the park."
Later in life, Jean resumed her acting career and appeared in numerous films and TV shows. She was Mrs. Claus in Scrooged, Mrs. Phelps in Matilda, and had small roles in I Don't Buy Kisses Anymore, Black Sheep, My Fellow Americans, Los Locos, The Paper, and Cocoon. She had also guest roles on The Wonder Years, Roseanne, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Married... with Children, Two of a Kind, Ellen, Grace Under Fire, Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place, Unhappily Ever After, The Louie Show, and Fired Up. She was all over the place in the 80s and 90s!
"Once we were raised, she decided to dip her toe back in. My dad said she was the best actor at OU, that she was that talented," Ron told Tulsa World.
"And then she comes back, and she became the new 'little old lady' in the sitcom world, working with a little bit of everybody and becoming very popular. And my dad just said: 'I told you boys.'
Sadly Jean passed away from heart and respiratory illness in 2000. Ron dedicated his film How the Grinch Stole Christmas to his late mother, saying in the credits that she "loved Christmas the most." We can't wait to read Ron and Clint's upcoming memoir to read more interesting family stories about growing up with Rance and Jean.