Ron Howard on Turning Down ‘Star Wars’ Prequel: "Too Daunting"

Ron Howard - H 2015
Jonathan Prime/Warner Bros. Entertainment

“He didn’t necessarily want to direct them," said Howard of George Lucas. “He told me that he had talked to [Robert] Zemeckis, he talked to me, he talked to Steven Spielberg.”

Director Ron Howard revealed that his résumé of blockbuster films could have included Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace. In a podcast interview on Happy Sad Confused with Josh Horowitz, the director said that he along with Robert Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg passed on golden offers from Lucas to direct the franchise prequels

“He didn’t necessarily want to direct them,”said Howard. “He told me that he had talked to [Robert] Zemeckis, he talked to me, he talked to Steven Spielberg. I was the third one he spoke to. They all said the same thing: ‘George, you should just do it. This is your baby.' Nobody wanted to follow that act I don’t think at that point. That was an honor, but it would’ve been just too daunting."

Lucas ended up directing the trilogy including, Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace, Episode II — Attack of the Clones and Episode III — Revenge of the Sith. Howard lauded Lucas as his "directorial mentor" whom he worked with on Willow (1988) and American Graffiti (1973) and shared Lucas' impact on his latest film, In the Heart of the Sea.

“There are some subtle, contemporary themes in the story 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," said Howard. "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. I was borrowing a little bit from George’s inspiration, about how do you tell classic story, preserve that, but make it a modern movie experience for audiences.”

Howard also expressed that he passed on offers to direct blockbuster superhero films.

“I’ve had opportunities over the years. … I was never a comic book guy. I like the movies when I see them for the most part, 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 that I would intuitively on a gut level know what the story needs. It’s a little bit different tone. For me, I’d be copycatting and not inventing, so I’ve just never said yes to one."

Howard said he is set to produce the adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower. When asked if Matthew McConaughey will star in the film, Howard replied, “We’re hoping.”

Dark Tower is looking very promising," said Howard. "I’m not going to be a director on it and I couldn’t be, given schedules and so forth, but I’m going to remain a producer with it if it goes. … It’s a really strong adaptation and we’ll see if we finally get it over the goal line and get to make it.”

Listen to Howard’s full podcast interview below.