Obscurity Imported: Clint Howard Interview, the W-D Edition.
posted by The Damn Hauser Kids. on 3/01/01
We originally had the honor and privilege of sitting down with one of Hollywood's hardest-working bastards at the tail end of October, a culmination of a series of events too odd and fortunate to get into here. We've always been huge fans of Clints' work--though disregarded by that fucking mainstream as a nepotistic wunderchild whose work has been built solely on brother Ron's mercy, it's simply the fact that a man with his look could succeed that pisses in the collective Cheerios of the Normals. Clint does what he does on his own, through a ripshot work ethic that, through his own words, "Doesn't delve on the concept of something being 'too good' for me". He's been in over a hundred films and television spots, cut a couple concept albums, enjoyed life in the sleepy side of Burbank since he was a kid and doesn't ooze an ounce of pretentiousness in person.
His latest onus, The Clint Howard Variety Show, was a Space Ghost-esque flight into utterly apopleptic underground randomness, featuring Clint in a lawn chair and a vacant lot swapping quips and handing out fifteen bucks and a free turkey to stars like Adam Sandler and Joey Ramone. It's a testament to his talent that not even a visit from the Unfunniest Man Alive himself, Andy Dick, could ruin a good laugh.
While the CHVS was originally slated to air on the ill-fated Pop.com banner of online entertainment, it has survived limbo to tentatively air at Countdown.com. Hopefully, it gets seen by those who will appreciate it properly.
The interview with the Schwahlings is as follows. Clint discusses the premise of an Ice Cream Man sequel, his influences, and the idea of Clint Howard: Producer Bigshot with the graciousness and patience of a saint.
C: I'm on the cusp of Aries and Taurus. I was born on Adolf Hitler's birthday.
C: Yeah, me and Adolf.
M: You know, your pop-kitsch factor couldn't be more off the charts..
C: Well, some people are born on Babe Ruth's birthday, some people are born on George Washington's birthday, and I was "blessed" enough to be born on Adolph Hitler's birthday.
M: I'm willing to bet that that one doesn't fall under common knowledge.. let me start. Now, not a lot of people know this, but you did the voice of Roo as well as Col. Hati's son from The Jungle Book-
C: The baby elephant?
M: Yeah, that's the one--forgive me, I'm a bigger geek than is safe.
M: Was that actually the first role that you went out on?
C: No, the first job I actually ever did was in 1961, I worked on an episode of the Andy Griffith Show, playing a character named Leon.
M: Who actually appeared for a couple episodes..
C: Five episodes, yeah. I then immediately began acting pretty regularly.. I don't really know where The Jungle Book and Winnie the Pooh fell into the mix. It's on that list, which is a chronological listing of that stuff, it should say there.
E: What were the perks and downfalls of being a child star?
C: Boy.. the positives were that I was exposed to a wonderful life. Show business is a wonderful life. The downfall was that my childhood was.. compromised to a certain degree, since I was really working. I mean, I had a responsibility to show up to work, and if I didn't feel like it, I still had to. So there was a certain--I wouldn't exactly call it pressure--but yeah, a responsibility.
Now, I had wonderful help from my parents. My dad was really my mentor, he was phenomenal at guiding me and Ron. And without that guidance, god help me.
C: With pop.. Pop taught me the fundamentals of life and acting. He explained to both Ron and I that it was a job, that being recognized by the public is part of it, that fame is false and that.. that it's a job. Your part is to go in, be prepared, and go in and act. And he gave us those simple fundamentals of the business at such an early age.. you know, I don't really remember when I started acting. I was acting really, right after when I started talking and certainly before I could read.
So in a way, I learned at a great age, since it all came naturally. I didn't really know better. I make the analogy that I was raised much like a kid in the circus is raised. Like that kid walking the high wire might seem spectacular to the audience below, but if that kid is learning how to walk that high wire when he's learning how to walk, then it's just going to come naturally.
M: Now.. if you think back, do you recall at all whether you taking an interest in acting was.. something you saw as a child in your parents and wanted to emulate.. or was it more something that they saw potential in you for, and wanted you to try out?
C: Well, my parents, both being actors.. I grew up around it. It's a wonderful game. To a kid, it's like play acting--playing army, playing cowboys and indians, it was just like a higher form of that. The only difference is that when you're a professional actor, you've got better toys to play with.
I always enjoyed it. It never intimidated me, it was always fun--again, my dad made it fun. It was always important.. even though I mention that there was pressure.. there really was no pressure. Not in a conventional sense. My dad always insisted, the one thing he insisted on was that we would prepare. And really, when you're prepared, that work is pretty much done.
E: Does having a sibling in show business create friction, or solace.. or both?
C: There's really no friction between Ron and I. Solace, yes, definitely. He's a director.. who loves me, who trusts me, and who hires me.
C: It's better to be Ron Howard's brother than Charles Manson's brother.
Mel: Or Andy Dick's brother.
C: (Laughs.) Ron is.. you know, actually a really cool shadow to be in. And you know, the thing about shadows is that they're just that. What you make them. Cool.
M: Speaking of that.. the thing is that.. a lot of people assume that since you're Ron Howard's brother, you get cast in his films because of it. But when you look at your filmography; start as a child actor, have a very impressive resume' as a character actor, and you consistently do vehicles that are based on characters that the director, producer know that they can turn to you to handle..
C: Well, Ron hires me because he trusts me. I think that first of all, he's got people he's got to answer to. I honestly don't believe that he's ever hired me for something that.. he felt I wasn't going to help out.
M: Ron's status considered, I guess it isn't like he could just throw you into a cast with the whole onus that "Well, it's my BROTHER"..
C: Oh, sure he could! He could do that once or twice, but I feel like.. and I know it's the truth that he hires me because I score for him.
M: And it's never a case of a project being bent over to make room for you.
K: Well, I think a lot of it has to deal with.. Ron putting you in exactly a spot that always works. And it's not necessarily a huge role, but it's always like.. "There's that guy", it's subtle.
C: Well, I'm the guy that people always recognize all the time from Ron's movies. But the fact of the matter is that Ron uses a lot of people that he trusts over and over. Scorcese does the same thing. All directors do that. Because it all comes down to.. if you're a director and you're coming onto the set, and you don't have confidence in the actors, then it makes your job harder.
But Ron and I have a really good relationship. It's kind of that unspoken language thing, being brothers who are so close. He doesn't have to worry about me, he doesn't have to worry about my opinions, since he knows that I'm going to be straight with him. He likes that. This business is so much about..
C: People blowing smoke up your ass. He knows that I'm honest, I think he appreciates that.. because when I see something that I don't think is working, I'll bring it to him.
K: Very cool.
M: Yeah.. now, since this is our closet bag, we have to talk about it. The Ice Cream Man.
M: First off, we wanted to know if there was ever a discussion about a sequel, if anybody ever approached you about doing a second movie.
C: Oh, when we were making the movie, there were obviously discussions.. like the Ice Cream Man can live on, so on and so on. But I think when the movie actually came out and made about.. eighty-five cents..
C: All those conversations kinda dried up. But I had joked with Norman (Apstein, the director of the original film) that I could play The Pizza Man, The Thai Food Man, that I could do lots of things spun off from it. But I dunno, they took such a good hit in the shorts financially from that movie that they learned their lessons about making straight movies, and went back to making blue movies.
K: Blue movies.. which ones?!
C: Actually, no. No, you might need to check that. He did do another.. movie.. it wasn't Caligula, that was with Roddy McDowall, right?
M: Yeah, Bob Guccione.
C: Yeah, that wasn't it. It was something along those lines. ("The Erotic Adventures of the Three Muskateers--ed.) http://us.imdb.com/Details?0128188
M: Went back to making an honest living?
C: Something like that! I'd actually love to hook up with Norman, there's literally three or four people who I'm still in communication with who worked on the Ice Cream Man, and none of us can track Norman down. I hope he's okay.
M: On that note.. working on a film, working with a director like that.. they hand you two foam rubber heads.. and tell you, "Go terrorize these children".. how much direction do you actually need? I would assume that they know to leave it in the hands of a professional, to kinda let you do what it is you do?
C: Hey, they knew who they were hiring!
C: Actually, there's sort of a funny story about the Ice Cream Man--they had hired somebody already. Then it came to their attention that I was available and willing to work for the kind of money they were offering.. and basically, they ended up having to pay the guy off. So, they ended up paying for two Ice Cream Men.
Mel: No shit? Pardon my language.
C: No, really.. so they used me, which made me feel pretty good. They pretty much booked me when they found out that I could do it.
M: They did the right thing.
C: (Laughs) I enjoyed working on the movie. Hey, we knew what we were making. We knew it wasn't going to be Oscar grade. Our tongues were firmly planted in our cheeks when we made this movie. We had a good time.
And when you make a movie like that, there are things that come out the way you had planned, and there are things that come out.. like you hadn't exactly planned. Like Jan-Michael Vincent. I hadn't really figured that he would need to be propped up. (http://us.imdb.com/Bio?Vincent,+Jan-Michael) I'll leave it at that. Suffice to say, it was kind of a surprise. If it turned out that we needed someone to hold Jan up while he read his lines, then hey..
M: Guerilla filmmaking?
C: Oh, yeah. Yeah. Guerilla filmmaking at its best. We had a great time.
M: Awesome. Now.. have you ever been approached by The Simpsons or Space Ghost Coast to Coast to do a guest spot?
C: Oh, no. I'm not in that loop.
M: Considering the kind of person they usually look for- (Emo Philips gets a call and Clint doesn't? Shoot someone -ed.)
C: You see, the Simpsons get people like Ron.. I think I'm almost too underground for the show.
K: No. No way.
M: I think it's just their loss. There isn't a single person who watches that show who, the minute your animated alter-ego walked onto the screen, wouldn't bounce to the edge of their seat and stage a freakout.
J: He'd have to be in an episode with the Comic Book Guy.
C: (Laughs) See.. I don't really have a press agent. I just like to let things play out the way they play out. I don't want to go out and get corny about this, but to a certain degree I really just let.. God sorta run the show. I feel like, whatever happens, happens. My job is to suit up and be prepared for the show.
M: Amen! It's too bad there isn't more subscription to that philosophy, there'd be no strike.. question?
K: Just as a general question, what were your feelings on the strike?
C: Well, I personally feel that actors should be prepared to strike.
M: For the sake of the union?
C: Yeah, I mean.. my dad is more involved in this than I am.. but over the years, we've worked hard to nail the contracts that we've got. People don't realize how tenuous a situation an actor's life is, how insecure it is. The daily money scale may seem outrageous to your layman, but.. hell, there are good years where I have only twenty days of actual employment. And I'm considered one of the lucky ones!
K: True, true..
C: I'm all for Fi! Fi! Fi!. And I'm also for people who.. like, I know a guy who works at a Starbucks. During the strike, as a non-member of SAG, worked in a commercial. And hell, I told him, good for you. I love my union, but I can't condone a guy acting and not getting paid. But I understand, hey, the guy wants to be an actor, he gets the opportunity..
M: The door's open.
C: Yeah, and I say that because I don't do commercials.
C: If there were a theatrical strike, I'd sing a different tune.
K: Hell, makes sense to me.
E: What is your definitive idea of a happy, happy day?
C: About.. (Pause) Seventy degrees. No wind. And I break eighty on the golf course. No three-putts.
M: Awesome.. Now. The MTV Movie Awards in 1998. Which, we feel, much like this site.. kinda peaks with Clint Howard..
M: What was the general reaction of the quote-unquote A-List talent and the supposed "superstars" to you going up there and accepting the lifetime achievement award? Were they congenial, did they not know who the hell you were..
C: Oh, no, no.. I mean.. Adam (Sandler-ed.) was there, Mike Meyers was there, I think, really, everyone enjoyed it. I didn't get any sense of like, "What's that goof doing getting an award?", or anything. If anyone felt that way, they didn't express it towards me. I don't give a shit what they think.
Schwahs: (Applause. Laughter. That's a soundbyte if there ever was one.)
C: But I'll tell you what, the fact of the matter is that I think I have yet to get an acting job from that particular movie award. I dunno, I.. my dad told me when I called him and told him that they wanted to give me a lifetime achievement award--it was actually April Fools when the call came in, and I thought my agent was playing a joke on me.. I call him and go, "Darryl, are you bullshitting me?" And he says "No, they feel that you're a quintessential character actor, they feel you're the perfect guy to be honored"--anyways, I call my dad and I say "Dad, what do you think about this?" And he says, "Oh. You've gotta do it."
C: He says, "Listen. If you take it seriously, everyone will sorta fall into lockstep with you. And it'll be great. If you go up there and make a goof of it, then it just won't work." So I prepared my little speech, and really, I knew.. hey, it wasn't the Pulitzer Prize.. it was absolutely meaningless, but if I treated it with the respect I felt it deserved.. Dad said don't goof on it, I did just that and it turned out well.
K: What was funny was when you got that, when I first saw it, I went.. it's a goof. But then, once you spoke.. I was like.. I don't care if it is or isn't, that's a genuine response. That's an honest response. And absolutely, I felt that was the coolest part. The reaction was generally like that, is this a goof, but you had such sincerity and honesty about it that it kinda turned the tide and people went "Yeah.. he has been doing this a long, long time."
C: I have! And I deserved the fucking award!
K: Please, if Alicia Silverstone can get on that show..
C: Yeah. If Melissa Gilbert can have a star on Hollywood, then I can have my golden bucket of popcorn.
K: That's a question, do you even HAVE a star on Hollywood Way?
C: Oh, hell no.
K: You never had an interest? Or you just didn't want to bother with the sponsor BS..?
C: I don't wanna throw down the three grand or whatever.
M: Maybe we should start a fund on the site. (click our bannerz, clint sez so lol rofl-ed)
C: Tell you what, start a fund.. give me the money.. and we'll head down there and I'll scribble my name on a blank star with a black marker. I'll keep the cash, you can take a picture of me next to it.
M: I'm game! Send those checks!
M: Now, we discussed this already, but contrary to what's been thrown up on certain sites, you ARE in The Grinch.. what was your role like in the movie?
C: I play a sycophant named Whobris. I am the mayor's little kiss-ass assistant.
K: I love it.
C: Flittering around, being a yes-man for Jeffrey Tambor (http://us.imdb.com/Name?Tambor,+Jeffrey).. and we had a great time. A lot of fun. Jeffrey and I worked really well together, and the one really relaxing thing about The Grinch was that it wasn't "The Iceman Cometh". There wasn't a lot of pressure on us to "get real". I mean..
M: It's a cartoon. It's Seuss.
C: Exactly. All we had to do was look at each other. Jeffrey had a joke going on where he felt like this was going to set our acting careers back a couple decades.
K: We're Munchkins!
C: Yeah! Here we are, sitting in these director's chairs in these goofy little outfits with this makeup on.. that was all you need. We had a wonderful time doing it, the lack of pressure made it really relaxing.
K: Yeah, I have to say.. I wasn't convinced at first, but it looks like it's going to be worth it.
C: Well, it is what it is. Ron honored the story, and the story is really pretty paper thin. But it looks great.. it's short.. it's kid-friendly.. it's going to be a great movie, it's going to be a movie parents can take their kids to..
K: Universal can market the hell out of it..
K: Seriously! We've got toys, we've got trinkets, we've got like.. teenage clothing..
M: Well, Seuss is pretty much a timeless demographic. If you can tap into that, then shit, more power to you...
C: Well, Universal's gambling.
M: ..and it isn't Charlie's Angels.
C: (Laughs) No. No, it's not.
M: Is there anything you'd like to slip a cheap plug in for? This is the alloted space.
C: Somewhere out there, eventually, look for the Clint Howard Variety Show, the Shortest, Cheapest Variety Show in the History of Entertainment..
M: Hell yes! We can dream!
C: Well, I am one of the producers.
M: Hopefully coming to a website near you.. what's next for you?
C: Uh.. looks like unemployment.
M: You? Not for long..
C: No, I actually haven't worked in a while. My partner, Barry and I are developing a movie project. I've never done this, but there may be interest from several parties on doing a movie that Barry and I will produce. That would be an interesting way to make a few bucks.
M: Where'd you land the script?
C: Well, it's really about my partner's life. That's all I'd really care to get into it at this point contractually.. you guys'll probably be the first to know anything solid.
C: But it's really just a fascinating, fascinating story. And like I said, I have never done this before, I have never used my cards in this business before.. but when I read this..
M: Time to call in the favors?
C: Immediately. And I was right, every executive that has heard this story has gone "Wow". I'm kinda putting in for the game.. that's how I see showbiz. It's a job, it's not my life, it's a way that I make a living. And in that, I wouldn't produce shit. I would never involve myself in that capacity in something for the sake of it being fluff entertainment. I feel strongly about it, I really think that Barry and I may have something.
K: Going back to Ron, would you ever consider pushing it for Imagine?
C: That's actually one of the outlets that we're pursuing.
M: That's great. If you ever need cheap non-union talent..
K: Or cheap union talent.
M: Yeah, fancy ass.
C: (Laughs) Any other questions?
J: I have a question. Who did your voice on that Star Trek episode?
C: You know.. when I originally did it, I was told that they were going to run my voice through a synthesizer. And that's the last I had ever heard..
K: You did Star Trek?
C: Yeah, an episode called The Corbonite Manuever.
M: It's awesome.
C: I had read in a book somewhere that a series guy, a guy who did a lot of voices for Star Trek.. Patrick Cassidy? Ended up doing the voice. I was always under the impression, not like I care, that it was going to be me, but wasn't. It's really amazing how that Star Trek episode took off. It's become an industry unto itself. If I ever wanted to cash in on it..
K: Comic cons!
C: Twenty, thirty bucks a throw. I'm not above it. I'm a whore!
K: Personally, I'd think that there would be outlets in every kind of fan base for that kind of stuff..
C: There are, there definitely are.
K: What's your take on pro wrestling?
C: It's gotten.. pretty theatrical. I'm a sports buff. And I've known since I can pretty much remember that wrestling was all about the entertainment. I don't make it a point to watch it, but when I do, I always get a kick out of it. I did a movie with Hulk Hogan..
M: Santa With Muscles!
C: That was the one.
M: Which, not as any detriment to your participation, was voted in the accursed IMDB as being one of the worst movies of all-time.. it may have actually have been tied for first.
C: No. It wasn't very good.
M: I think it was the last push by producers for Hogan as a box-office draw, which may be a good thing. If nothing else, it closed the book there.
C: Well, I'll tell you.. Terry.. is a really nice guy. He's a hard worker. Personally, I think if he were ever given the right circumstances..
M: Rocky Three.
C: .. yeah, he could be really good. It was a cheap, low-budget movie that, you know.. you had to have a certain kind of attitude and mentality to excel in that arena and I kind of felt like they left Terry hanging out to dry on that one. I saw most of it.. maybe not the whole thing, but I could have given the director a few notes on making it a better movie. What the hey.
M: But you were there to work.
C: Directors have enough grief without a guy like me kabbitzing.
E: What's your middle name?
C: Engle. Clint E. Howard.
M: I hate to say it, but we've got to let you go do things like making a living.. but thank you for your time, you've been awesome.
C: My pleasure.
M: Watch for Clint Howard's hostile takeover of the Internet, coming soon to a pirate bandwith in your neighborhood!