Former child star Ron Howard has moved beyond everlasting fame as Richie Cunningham to establish himself as one of the most successful movie directors of the era.

Born in Duncan, Oklahoma in 1954, his parents moved the family to Hollywood in 1958. His first big acting role came in 1960 when he was cast as Andy Griffith's 6 year old son, Opie Taylor, in The Andy Griffith Show. The series was a hit, running for eight seasons and making "Ronny Howard" a household name. In his teenage years, he again made his way onto the silver screen for 7 seasons as the preppy Richie Cunningham on the classic Happy Days.

Before taking his directorial turn, Howard starred in George Lucas' American Graffiti and in the 1976 Western, The Shootist, opposite John Wayne (the last film before his death). Howard made his directorial debut with the action comedy Grand Theft Auto in ‘77. His big break happened 5 years later with the film, Night Shift. Since then, Howard has directed a ton of really great films: Splash (1984), Cocoon (1985), Willow (1988), Parenthood (1989), Backdraft (1991), Apollo 13 (1995), A Beautiful Mind (2001) for which he won the Academy Award for Best Director, Cinderella Man (2005), The Da Vinci Code (2006) and Angels & Demons (2009). His most recent project, Rush, is a highly anticipated Formula One racing film.

In 1985, Howard teamed up with producer Brian Grazer to start Imagine Entertainment, the production company responsible for Friday Night Lights, Apollo 13, Felicity, Parenthood, and Arrested Development to name a few. (And in case you've been living under a rock, Howard is also the uncredited narrative voice in Arrested Development.)

Howard has been married since 1975 to high school sweetheart Cheryl Alley. They have four kids, each with a middle name that belies the place of their conception: Bryce Dallas Howard, Paige and Jocelyn Carlyle Howard, and Reed Cross Howard (weird one).

[Image via Getty]