Did anybody catch Ron Howard talking about DVC on Leno last night? It was very odd.
First of all, the guy was so nervous he was talking in endless sentences, very fast and stuttery, telling long boring stories, all while hanging half off his chair. It was very clear that he was trying desperately hard to be light and gay, but his body-language had terrible stress written all over it.
I've seen Ron Howard promoting his movies before, obviously, and I've never seen him this out of sorts. It reminded me of an interview I saw with Tom Hanks last week. Although, Tom is a better actor than Ron, he still couldn't quite hide a studied, tense air of, "If I act like the whole thing is just a silly movie, maybe people won't think I know I made something blasphemous."
Leno pressed Howard a few times about the controversy in the project, and it was clear that there was a script in play in Howard's responses. (paraphrasing the words here for the sense they communicated.) "No, no, there was no real controversy....Everybody is just so excited to see it! The book has lots of fans. LOTS of fans!So, no, there was no real controversy! It's just fun and fluff! Everybody loves this book! LOTS OF FANS! And no REAL controversy! Only have had two wackos ever protest it. Everybody knows this is just good fun! Everything is happy happy. NOPE, NO REAL CONTROVERSY THAT I've SEEN! Just a fun, happy, fun movie!"
At one point when Leno was really pressing the point that some people would find the movie offensive, Ron kind of blew out through his mouth and nose, "Well, what am I a creative woos?" But the audience barely laughed. It was like Chicken Little asking, "What am I a scrawny little bird or something?"
It was strangely painful watching an otherwise nice guy with a guilty conscience basically hoping if he pretends it all isn't bothering him that he will convince all of us and himself too. It was icky and shameful and way too intimate for late-night.
As I was shaking my head watching him crossing and uncrossing his legs, and leaning half-over Leno's desk, I was thnking, "Either a) he believes that he really hasn't done anything to dishonor Christ and attack Christianity, and he is just having a really stressful bad day that is affecting him physically; or b) he knows he has blasphemed Christ, and attacked Christianity, but did it more for the money and not out of hate and so is trying desperately to distance himself from the message of his own work; or else c) He has an axe to grind against Christianity.
I am thinking that b) is the most likely here.
My sense is that Howard is not obtuse enough for a). He knows that the movie is denying Christ's divinity, and appreciates that making that case is a long, long dark way from Main Street, Mayberry.
I also didn't detect evidence of c). We have seen people who really have an axe to grind against the Church so often, and when they get a forum they manifest glee, not nervousness. An example is the Iraqi guy from Lost (can't recall the name now, sorry), who spent his recent fifteen minutes of fame over his role in ABC's Ten Commandments basically accusing Moses of having been a blood-thirsty terrorist. This guy's hatred of Christianity kept gushing out of his mouth in every interview. I kept waiting for him to curl his mustache and laugh evilly. He really had an agenda. This wasn't my sense with Ron Howard last night.
Nope, my sense was that Howard was projecting nothing so much as a guilty conscience. Which is, actually a good thing. It could be a moment of grace for him.
Howard wanted a huge money making blockbuster movie more than anything to move him closer to the Spielberg-type A-list Director gold standard. Howard has had critical success, but not huge box-office success. This also explains why Christians like Tom Hanks are acting in the film and are among those marketing the film. It's just money.
And, of course, people who do things they wouldn't normally do, just because there is a lot of money involved tend to be filled with a sense of loathesomeness and shame. Both of these things cause inordinate stress, which makes people act out, laugh too hard, speak too loudly, act defensive, and crave many, many voices to tell them, "You're okay. You didn't do anything wrong."
And so the folks who are making and selling this movie are needing the movie to open HUGELY so that the hordes of folks who stream through the theaters will be one big affirming chorus for them, of "See, we didn't do anything wrong!!! Could all these people be wrong?!! See?!!"
But then, there will eventually be a quiet Monday morning. Gotta dread that coming.
Let's pray for them.