Ron Howard on Hanging With Jay-Z, ‘Arrested Development’ Revamp

From Rolling Stone:

Ron Howard is one of Hollywood’s biggest directors, but lately he’s been delving outside of studio blockbusters to take on other kinds of projects. “My kids are grown, and I feel that I can afford the time to just be a little, you know, a little more experimental,” he tells Rolling Stone. The 58-year-old recently trailed Jay-Z for an upcoming documentary he’s directing about the rapper’s role in the Budweiser Made in America Festival due out in 2013; he’s mentoring James Murphy on his first directorial project; and he’ll soon return as the narrator of the upcoming season of Arrested Development. Says Howard of the comedy series’ new season, “It’s hilarious and it’s also really bold in terms of the approach to catching the audience up on the characters, and simultaneously sort of weaving their stories in and around a new set of predicaments.”

So did you have fun hanging out with Jay-Z?
I really did. The whole thing was interesting for me. I’ve never interviewed anybody, first of all. I’m pretty good at the initial instincts, and the very first time that I met [Jay-Z] some months back, we met with him in his office and there was just something that I really respected about him. I think he’s pretty true to himself and pretty clear about what he thinks. Kind of the opposite of mercurial, I’d say. I don’t know what the opposite of mercurial is, but he’s I think tremendously focused. I’ve been around a lot of artists who are also good at business and . . . one minute they’ll sound like an artist and the next minute they’ll sound like the characters in Mad Men. Jay-Z’s a very good businessman and he talks about it and enjoys it, but he doesn’t shift. He has a sense of what he thinks people might appreciate, because he sort of trusts that if he appreciates it, there are people out there who will as well. And that’s what’s interesting to me: that he’s accomplished in those areas but I don’t hear that sort of cynical, world-weary quality.

It’s interesting that you’re working with James Murphy, too.
Oh, yeah. My kids are grown, and I feel that I can afford the time to just be a little, you know, a little more experimental about what I do with my time away from the movies and the TV shows, which are still my main drive. James Murphy just came through this project, Canon’s Imagination. This is year two of that, and last year we did it and my daughter Bryce directed the film, and people send in pictures targeting their own photographs for certain narrative categories. And then the public votes and they narrow it down to 10, and last year I chose one from each category and handed it over to Bryce and she had to direct a movie. And it was successful. It was a great creative experiment. With James Murphy, we wanted somebody from the music world, and of course he’s so creative and visual and a really talented and intelligent guy. So I’m actually dying to see what he does with this exercise. I think I’m going to be inspired by him. Theoretically, I’m supposed to be offering some guidance and support, but I think he’s one of the ones I’m sort of most curious about seeing work with this whole program.

How is it going with Arrested Development?
It’s going great. There’s a really good article that somebody did, an interview with Mitch Hurwitz. It’s pretty funny. It’s hilarious, and it’s also really bold in terms of the approach to catching the audience up on the characters and simultaneously sort of weaving their stories in and around a new set of predicaments that are, you know, a brand new sort of five-alarm fires or however many alarms, whatever the maximum number of alarms is. I should remember that from Backdraft, but I don’t.

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