From Opie to Oscars

Ron Howard has progressed from all-American boy to populist director of mermaids and grinches to Academy Award winner.

Howard earned the best-director prize at Sunday's Oscars for A Beautiful Mind, his dramatization of the life of delusional mathematician John Nash.

"I am not a good enough actor anymore to be able to stand up here and make you believe that I haven't imagined this moment in my mind over the years and played it out about a thousand times," Howard said after accepting the award.

"Before my mom passed away about 18 months ago, she predicted that this was going to happen to me on this film. Well, she also made that prediction on every movie I've directed since 1983."

The win was a validation for Howard, who was snubbed for an Oscar nomination on Apollo 13 six years ago, when that film brought him top honors from the Directors Guild of America.

A Beautiful Mind earned Howard his second guild award two weeks ago.

The Oscar also marked the former child actor's elevation into the ranks of serious filmmakers after 20 years largely spent churning out commercial successes such as Splash, Cocoon and Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Seemingly Howard's least mainstream film, A Beautiful Mind has extended his list of hits, topping $150 million domestically thanks in part to powerful performances from Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly.

Connelly won the award for best performance in a supporting role. The film also was named best picture, and won an Oscar for Akiva Goldsman's adapted screenplay.

Howard, 48, began acting professionally before age 2. He had long TV runs as Opie Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show and as Richie Cunningham on Happy Days and turned to directing with the low-budget Grand Theft Auto.

The morgue comedy Night Shift, starring Happy Days cast mate Henry Winkler, launched Howard's long collaboration with producing partner Brian Grazer. As co-producers, Howard and Grazer shared the best-picture Oscar for A Beautiful Mind.