Clint Howard: That Guy From That Thing (That You Definitely Know)

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Clint Howard has spent the majority of his life filling up screens big and small. Yet for all his exposure, most people still know him as Ron Howard's little brother.

That's understandable, considering Clint appeared in so many of his big brother's movies, dating back to 1969's "Old Paint," a short western that Ron directed at the ripe old age of 15, featuring a 10-year-old Clint and their parents, actors Rance Howard and Jean Speegle Howard. 

While Clint is definitely a Howard to and through, he's also a first rate, self-identified life-long character actor who's appeared in some 200 titles over the years (he's lost count). Having spent a lifetime in pictures, Howard's also amassed a lifetime of entertaining stories about the business of entertainment.

Howard shared some of those stories with us while phoning in to promote his latest film, "Sparks," a Roger Corman-toned superhero film now available on DVD and in limited theaters. The ever-affable actor chatted about what it means to be a character actor and about some of his most recognizable (sort of) roles.  

This Guy on Being a That Guy

What is a character actor?
Clint Howard:
You know what a character actor is? It ís a guy that never gets to kiss the leading lady, but occasionally we’re required to rape the leading lady. 

What makes you a character actor?
CH: I can put on a lot of different skins. You know? I can do a variety of things. When you look at me you can’t easily pinpoint me as one thing. God gave me a very interesting face and through genetics and everything, apparently I have a pretty interesting sort of personality.

How many parts would you say you’ve had?
CH: Projects? I have no idea. You know, you could look people have gone to the IMBD and looked and said itís 200. You know what? If you added up all the individual episodes of television series and stuff like that it’s probably been over [200]. I know it’s been technically over 100 films. I’ve been doing this 52 years... I just am a grinder. I’m like the turtle, you know, I just keep grinding along.

What roles do you get recognized for most often?
CH: It varies. There are still "Arrested Development" aficionados, there’s "The Water Boy," the Adam Sandler crowd... And of course, Ron Howard’s brother. You know, it’s a wonderful shadow to be under. It really truly is. It’s better to be Ron Howard’s brother than Lizzie Borden’s brother. 

Has anyone ever said to you, "Hey, you're that guy... from that thing!"?
CH: Oh. Are you kidding me? I probably get approached more that way than any other way, and then sometimes people think I’m the Beaver. Which is silly to me because I know Jerry Mathers, and I don’t look anything like Jerry Mathers, and yet people think I’m the Beaver. Well, okay. You know. I like Beaver, but I’m not Beaver.

Some of the Things You've Seen This Guy In ...

Apollo 13 (Sy Liebergot - EECOM White): 
Every day, getting to go and sit down there and it was an exact recreation of the mission control, you know, it was a blast. I probably worked on "Apollo 13" six to eight weeks.  That was the kind of movie where we all immediately bonded. There was a running poker game on the set of "Apollo 13." I can’t even really remember how we did it. We did it on paper. We were playing Hold 'Em, but doing it on paper because none of us wanted to leave money on the table when we had to go off and shoot. So we figured out a system of how we could bet. We created our pot on paper. So we would play poker and then we’d go off and do a shot and then we’d come back and play some more hands. Who’s dealing here? I mean, it was a very memorable experience. 

Rock 'n' Roll High School (Eaglebauer):
I kind of became part of Roger [Corman’s] little stable of actors, because first of all, at that point in my life I needed to work, I liked to work, and Roger was willing to pay me a little more than scale, which was always wonderful. And so I worked on a bunch of his movies, and there was a spirit about those movies. "Rock 'n' Roll High School" was made all in, all in, for $220,000. Yeah. The Ramones made $20,000. You know, Cheap Trick was offered the role but they were just breaking with "In Color," and Roger wouldn’t budge off the $20,000 that they had saved to pay for the music. So The Ramones did everything. They appeared in the movie, they did their soundtrack, they did their live performances, all for $20,000.

Evilspeak (Stanley Coopersmith):
It was the first movie I did where I was on my own as an adult where dad officially said, "My time to guard over you has stopped. Good luck, Clint." I mean, my dad was firmly under the belief that when I was 18 years old it was, good luck, son. 

And he liked it. When I auditioned for the part and the director, Eric Weston was really interested in me, and I was already losing my hair and there was a question of me having to get a little toupee and everything. So okay, we’re going to do that, it looks like I may get the part, and I read the script and it had some questionable stuff, I mean, people getting possessed by demons, and blasphemy against the Catholic church, and that sort of stuff, you know? I don’t know dad, should I do this? And dad goes, "You know son, if you don’t do it, somebody else will." Always the pragmatic man when it comes to acting employment.

 Cinderella Man (Referee):
For the week that I worked on “Cinderella Man” every waking moment or every time I was on the set I was sitting next to Angelo Dundee [the film’s technical advisor, pictured above] just listening to him tell stories about Sugar Ray Leonard, Muhammad Ali, all these fighters that he had over the years.

The Waterboy (Paco):
The Joe Mantegna joke - “That was the best tackle I’ve seen since Joe Montana,” and then my buddy Allen Covert says, “Joe Montana was a quarterback, you idiot.” And then I just turned to him and go, “I meant Joe Mantegna.” 

 I told Adam, I go, “Adam, I don’t think that’s a laugh.” And he just looked at me and he goes, “Trust me. It’s funny.” And I did it. I didn’t quite know how to do that joke. So I just did it full force and sure enough it was a funny line. 

Sparks (Eldridge):
Sparks started out as a comic book, like a series of comic books, and then they made it into a graphic novel, and meanwhile, Chris [Folino] sort of folded it all into a screenplay. I’m the newspaper editor, Eldridge was my name. I don’t think I ever reallyhad a first name. I just remember Eldridge because that was my name plate, and I just play the crusty newspaper reporter who interviews the lead of the movie. It was just another one of those supporting roles. Another one of those character roles, you know?

See Clint Howard in the "Sparks" trailer:

[Related: Clancy Brown: That Guy From That Thing (Who You Definitely Know)]