Ron Howard

A Beautiful Mind

Interviewed by Stephen Applebaum

Russell Crowe persuaded you to shoot the movie in chronological order. How valuable was that advice?

It turned out to be an extremely important idea. I'd had a couple of experiences in my life where I'd been able to do that - as an actor in "American Graffiti", and then as a director on "Apollo 13" - and it was really valuable. But from a logistical standpoint, it seemed like it was going to be impractical in this case. Then, in an email, Russell said, "You keep saying it's a performance-driven movie, how better to ensure that than to shoot in chronological order?" He was right, of course, because not only are there all the physical changes but also all the emotional and psychological changes as well."

Do you see any similarities between John Nash and Russell Crowe?

The question doesn't really hold water in this instance because what Russell's doing here is creating a character from scratch. When I cast Russell, I sensed a kind of physical presence and a charisma, and a real ambitious intellect. You can't fake either quality, and as gifted an actor as Russell is, it's not like you can come up with the IQ lens and put it on. You have to do a close-up of an actor and see the intelligence.

Is it true that you asked John Nash not to visit the set but he came anyway?

I had asked him not to come because a couple of times I did TV movies where I played a real guy and I just personally never wanted to meet the person. So I wasn't that keen for Russell necessarily to get together with John. I was concerned that Russell was going to feel compelled or responsible to not work from within, but to try and get on track and do some imitation of Nash. What I really wanted were his instincts, because that's what I trusted the most.