Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

`Opie' Still Perfect after All These Years

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

`Opie' Still Perfect after All These Years

Article excerpt

OK, I admit it: I wanted to get Opie to talk dirty.

Not dirty words, necessarily, but I was hoping to get director Ron Howard, the squeaky-clean former "Andy Griffith Show" and "Happy Days" star, to say one not-so-nice thing about one person he's worked with in his 34-year career. No such luck. The most off-color tidbit the nicest guy in Hollywood offered is that when he was a teen-ager (post-Opie, pre-Richie), he had acne.

It was an important case of acne because it led indirectly to Howard's new newspaper movie, "The Paper." Howard was in his senior year at John Burrows High School in Burbank, Calif., he was opinion-page editor of the newspaper, and a story he wrote almost got Mr. Straight Arrow kicked out of school.

"I was going to a dermatologist, and I was given this special diet," remembers Howard (whose skin has cleared up and expanded - now there's a speed bump of flesh running right down the middle of his thick, red hair). "I went into the cafeteria and tried to adhere to the diet, but the only thing I could get was a plain salad, no dressing. So I started writing about that, focusing attention on how lousy the food was and calling for a boycott. The boys' vice principal didn't take too kindly to it, so I almost got transferred to another school."

So it was easy to interest Howard in the first draft of the newspaper comedy/drama "The Paper," which opens today and was co-written by "Jurassic Park" screenwriter David Koepp and his brother, Stephen. Howard helped them restructure the script, building its four subplots toward a big finish. They also performed a sex-change operation on a major character.

"I offered the role of the managing editor to Glenn Close when the role was still a man," says Howard. "I had this notion of changing the character to a woman, and you know what? She thought about it for a few days and talked to me about why I wanted to change it and then jumped right on board." As a result, when city editor Michael Keaton takes a roundhouse punch at his much-despised colleague, it's Close on the other end of his fist instead of, say, Gene Hackman.

"The Paper" benefits from time Howard spent in actual newsrooms soaking up color - the movie is strikingly authentic and detailed. …

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