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Giovanni Bogani, cover photo Robert Wilson

January 7, 2019

Ron Howard: how I see the future

Interview with Ron Howard who, after Florence, is back from his “trip” to Mars

His latest project is devoted to Mars, the second season of a mini television series in six episodes produced by National Geographic. The Red Planet on which NASA’s InSight lander has recently touched down, thanks to a compass made in Florence.
He is Ron Howard, well-known to the Florentines who, two years ago, watched him shooting in Piazza della Signoria for several weeks with his baseball cap on. At five o’clock in the morning. Then, little by little, the piazza grew crowded with pigeons and drowsy extras. And he walked swiftly across the square, wearing loose-fitting electrician-style trousers. Actually, he looked more like a technician, a runner on the crew, than the film director. And instead, there he was, Ron Howard. The man who won two Academy Awards as Best Director and for Best Picture, A Beautiful Mind, starring Russell Crowe.

Ron Howard was in Florence to shoot Inferno, the film starring Tom Hanks, his longtime fellow adventurer. Inferno is the third film based on the bestselling novels by Dan Brown. Novels full of symbols, most of which associated with Florence and its works of art. While Inferno contains connections and references to Dante’s Divine Comedy and to the map of Dante’s Hell drawn by Botticelli, the Da Vinci Code, the first film of the trilogy, refers to the works by Leonardo da Vinci Next year, we will be celebrating the 500th anniversary of the great Florentine genius’s death, with an imposing number of exhibitions all over the world.

Ron Howard is very fond of Florence. “I had been there before”, he says, “but shooting a film is an extraordinary way to become fully aware of this wonderful city’s mix of beauty and mystery. In Florence, it is impossible to find an ugly spot to frame”.
The Inferno film was a great business for Florence in terms of visibility and image: it has done more for the city than any advertising campaign could have ever achieved. Which is probably the reason why Mayor Dario Nardella- who is a great Happy Days fan- presented him with the city’s keys. The second time we met with him, however, we did not talk about Florence, but of Mars. The red planet, the location- imaginary this time- of his latest documentary-fiction series Mars, which returns for season two all over the world.

Mr. Howard, you grew up in the sixties, at a time when there were a lot of science-fiction films set on Mars. How has your idea of the Red Planet changed or evolved since then?
When I was a child, I believed that Mars was populated by monsters and Martians! - he laughs. But I knew they were films, impossible things. And even when I started working on this series, I thought of mankind landing on Mars as an interesting idea, something that would have nourished the audience’s imagination, but I didn’t take it so seriously. Now I do! I realized that human landing on Mars is not only possible, but even something to be hoped for.

What made you change your mind?
I interviewed many scientists, and a few astronauts, whom I had met when I was shooting Apollo 13. The idea of a mission to Mars in my head has gone, little by little, from something that “could” happen to something that “should” happen. Mankind would greatly benefit from it.

Why is that?
Because Mars could be an amazing lifeboat for humanity.

With Mars, you created a new form of fiction, which blends interviews with scientists and world-famous experts with a fictional story. How did you work on this new format?
The real interviews reinforce the fictional parts, and the fictional parts allow the audience to “see”, in a compelling way, what the scientists say, intensifying the film’s emotional content. Which is what makes the series so unique and special. Each frame of the story is based on what the scientists explained to us.  

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