Source: Larry King Live
May 28, 2005
KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE, he's in New York, Ron Howard, the director of dozens of films, including the upcoming "Cinderella Man," as I told him off the air, as I told everybody I run into, "Cinderella Man" is one of the best movies ever made, it's the best boxing movie ever made, it's one of the greatest movies ever made, it's the life of James Braddock, brilliantly directed, wonderfully acted. How did you get the idea to make the James Braddock, a kind of obscure champion, a story?
RON HOWARD, DIRECTOR: Well, first of all, thanks, Larry, I'm glad you liked the movie so much. It means a lot. Well, it is a great story and I had actually heard a little something about James Braddock, because my father, Rance, who actually plays the ring announcer in the movie, he was a lifelong boxing fan and when he was about six years old, the first fight that he listened to -- he grew up on a farm in Oklahoma, they had to drive into the pool hall. That was the only place that had a radio, to listen to this Cinderella Man fight Max Baer for the heavyweight championship and he always used Braddock as a kind of example to me of tenacity, of never giving up and those kinds of virtues that Braddock demonstrated.
I found out when I was working on "A Beautiful Mind" that Russell Crowe had always wanted to play Braddock and there was a screenplay that existed and it was something that he just was passionate about.
KING: Was Zellweger your first choice for the wife? She is brilliant.
HOWARD: Yeah. Absolutely. Well, in fact, she had talked to Russell before I was ever involved and she had also read the script and just believed here was a great story not only about a boxer but about a family, a love story about a married couple and she believed that it was a story that ought to find its way to the screen and it was, to me, this is a little corny, a match made in heaven. I mean, I felt like I had heavyweight action going on in the ring and then two heavyweight superstars for the dramatic, romantic side of the story and as a director, fantastic -- Season it with a little Paul Giamatti in there for a lot of humor and character and I felt like it was something extraordinary.
KING: Hard to believe you have outdone yourself. I know you are doing "The Da Vinci Code" next and I no that tomorrow night, Sunday night, is going to be a big -- what are you doing Sunday night? The movie doesn't open until next week.
HOWARD: Well, it's a sneak preview Larry. Look, it's very competitive right now. All kinds of very high profile films and the studio has seen this movie play so successfully to audiences that I think they felt that a sneak preview would get word of mouth going at a really exceptional level and so I am proud of it.
Hey, all I want to do is just have a lot of people see it and so I'm happy to have them start Sunday night.
KING: Please -- I am telling the audience, go see it, you will not -- it's a great movie. It's also a terrific film, one of the best films about the Depression.
HOWARD: Well, thank you. I have long been fascinated by it. I grew up hearing a lot about it, both my mom and my dad, their families struggled a bit during the Depression and I heard about it and realized there was a level of fear and kind of shock that people were coping with. And as I began to research and actually I made a documentary film about it when I was in high school. When I was in 11th grade and we had done our social studies section on the Depression, we were supposed to write a paper but I asked the teacher if I could make a film instead. I guess the paper would have taken me three or four hours. I wound up with four solid weeks of working on this film, but it was the first long form movie, actually, Larry, that I ever really through myself into.
And one of the things that struck me then and continued to mean a lot to me as I began to put "Cinderella Man" on film was the look you saw on faces of people, particularly living in cities. Men who will still trying to wear their business suits but they're selling apples for five cents a piece. Women wearing their Sunday hats but standing in breadlines and kids digging through the trash, trying to find scrap metal and in the background you're not seeing bombed out buildings, it's not a wartime situation, you're seeing skyscrapers, you're seeing bridges in the background and you realize these people were living in what they thought was utopia and the rug was just pulled out from under them and the look in their eyes is one of absolute shock.
RUSSELL CROWE: Go on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I promise.
RUSSELL CROWE: And I promise you we will never send you away.
HOWARD: When I saw this story and this script I though, well, great, you've got the action of the boxing, you've got this great family love story going on, but also this chance to deal with this subject that hasn't been dealt with too much in films in recent years and I thought as a director I could do something with it.
KING: Do you have a special chemistry with Russell Crowe? HOWARD: Well, I love actors and Russell and I have really hit it off, so I am proud to say I have had good chemistry with a lot of actors and actresses that I've worked with. Russell is so extraordinarily gifted and while our personalities are quite different, our ambition for trying to do good work is realty the same and neither of us wants to go home at the end of a filming day or night feeling like we left anything on the table creatively and so it's a joy to work with somebody who shares my passion, my commitment to exploring the details and offering the audience our very best effort in terms of trying to fulfill the potential of the story we're working on.
KING: And I know my dear old friend who I've known for 48 years, Angelo Dundee, worked with you on this movie, and I saw him quoted as saying Russell Crowe could have been a very good professional fighter.
HOWARD: Well he was very impressed with Russell and he was also impressed with the sort of mental tenacity. You know, Russell dislocated his shoulder about six weeks before we were supposed to start shooting, Larry, and we all thought the movie would be shut down but Russell called me immediately, literally on his way to the hospital, and Angelo was there at the time, Russell had been sparring and had hyper-extended his shoulder on a missed left hook, dislocated it, and he had chipped the bones as his shoulder went back into the socket.
He called me and told me he was going immediately to see a surgeon and get into physiotherapy and he knew then that he was going to have to have kind of an emergency procedure done but he also said to me -- you know, he was in horrible pain, but he said, you know, our man, Jimmy Braddock, he fought hurt an awful lot, Ron. Don't you worry. This is going to work for me. It's going to work for the movie.
KING: When you see this movie you will love him and you will love Jimmy Braddock.
Your cinematographer who I think works with you on a lot of movies.
HOWARD: This is our second time to work together. Salvatore Tortino. He is also going to be doing "Da Vinci Code."
HOWARD: He's a dynamo. He's a dynamo and like Russell, he throws himself headlong into it, there's some great behind the scenes footage of Salvatore Tortino, even though he is director of photography, he is in the ring, operating the camera himself, with pads all over him, allowing Russell to punch him. Give him shots to the head and body. I mean, it was all planned and organized, but nonetheless, it was a big workout.
We were able to do a lot with the camera, Larry, because Russell was so willing to literally do anything and that's the way you get that kind of boxing action and that kind of intensity on the screen, is when the actors are willing to just give it that 110 percent and deal with that pain threshold and the exhaustion and the training to get fit. There is not a single frame of a screen double for Russell Crowe in the movie. Not a single one. He would never have it and as a director I wouldn't even want that. It would be right.
KING: Ron, you have outdone yourself. My congratulations.
HOWARD: Thank you Larry. Look, I love that you appreciate the movie. Thank you.
KING: The movie is "Cinderella Man." There will be a sneak tomorrow night at theaters all over the country. A Sunday night sneak. It opens next Friday. It is brilliant. Tomorrow night on this program we will replay our interview with Dr. Billy Graham and our guest on Monday will be Vice President Dick Cheney. We will be right back.
RUSSELL CROWE: I won.