Clint Howard has had two major problems during his lengthy entertainment career. One, he’s been forever in the shadow of his older brother Ron Howard, whose career has been infinitely more successful, from Ron’s early child actor days to his current work as an Academy Award-winning director. Two, he looks like Clint Howard. These two things are probably related.
However, despite these problems, Clint Howard has been in hundreds of films and TV appearances. Sure, most of the movies and shows were B-movies or other crap, but while most child actors’ crash and burn around puberty, Clint has
managed to become one of America’s most resilient character actors. Plus, unlike Ron, who gets balder and weirder looking every year, Clint has actually been growing into his face and kind of getting handsomer! Suck on that, Opie!
At any rate, no matter what he’s in or how bad it is, over the last 40 years Clint Howard has made one indelible genre appearance after another. Here are the some of his performances that nerds love bestest.
10) Cthulu, The Haunted World of SuperBeasto
Rob Zombie’s animated 2008 tribute to gonzo Mexican cinema may have gotten mixed reviews, but the one thing it got right was the fabulous casting of Howard as the voice of H.P. Lovecraft’s high priest of the old ones.
9) Stalin, Fist of the North Star
This 1995 live-action adaptation of the popular Japanese manga series attempted to bring the head-exploding world of Hokuto no Ken to the big screen with a ridiculously low budget; alas, had it come out only a few years later, it could have made use of crappy but dirt-cheap CG special effects. While it doesn’t come close to being as entertaining as the anime adaptation, it does boast a great supporting cast of genre actors including Melvin Van Peebles, Malcom McDowell, Big Van Vader, that kid who played Rufio in Hook, Chris Penn and Clint Howard.
Howard plays bad guy Stalin — not the Stalin, just a Stalin — and seems to be having a lot of fun with the role, which has him shooting unarmed people, putting little girls in guillotines and laughing maniacally. And Howard’s performance seems almost Shakespearian compared to the unenthusiastic woodenness of the film’s two leads.
8) Emmanuel Grayson, Fringe (“The Road Not Taken”)
Howard had a great turn in the first season of Fringe as Grayson, a conspiracy theorist who also happens to be obsessed with all things Star Trek, to the point that he believes he is Mr. Spock. This is pretty damned awesome, considering Howard’s own history with Trek — not to mention who is revealed to be William Bell in the show’s very next episode.
7) Dr. Mangler, Bloodrayne: The Third Reich
Like so many genre actors before him, Howard took an easy paycheck and plane ticket to Eastern Europe to work with Razzie Award-darling and nerd bully Uwe Boll. Howard plays Dr Mangler (subtle!), a Nazi who plans to revive Hitler by turning him into a vampire, as Nazis are wont to do. It’s all somehow loosely based on a videogame and will likely be disappointing to fans, but hey, we can’t begrudge a guy for wanting to pay his rent.
6) Ice Cream Man, Ice Cream Man
Admittedly, this 1995 low-budget feature is not exactly high art. Still, playing the title character in an ironic horror movie is an accomplishment unto itself and something not every actor gets to do. Take that, Tom Hanks! Ice Cream Man has gone on to have a second life as a “so bad it’s good” cult movie experience, which is always a welcome thing in this age. A great drinking game can also be had spotting all the different shots of Converse shoes, who obviously, if inexplicably, were a sponsor.
5) Stanley Coopersmith, Evilspeak
While 1981’s Evilspeak isn’t necessarily considered a classic, it is one of those great horror must-rents from the dawn of video stores. The plot revolves around Stanley (played by Howard), a picked-on geek at a tough military academy who uses his computer to exact demonic revenge with the help of his phone-cradle modem. The ending involves man-eating boars and a flying Clint Howard with a broad sword, and thus it needs to be seen. And Howard so credibly plays Stanley that you’ll find yourself rooting for him as he slices through his tormentors.
4) Dr. Mimmer, Space Rangers
One way to earn a decent amount of nerd cred is to be on a short-lived network sci-fi series, even if it’s one few remember. Space Rangers was CBS’s attempt to replicate some of the popularity of Star Trek” The Next Generation in 1993.
Essentially a space western, Space Rangers dealt with the crew of Slingship 337 as they tried to protect colonists from the “wilds” of the new frontier, and typical “wilds” problems such as aliens and malfunctioning tech. Howard played Dr. Mimmer; guest stars oddly included Buddy Hackett and Pat Morita. Like a lot of TV sci-fi and more importantly, all TV sci-fi westerns, Space Rangers was doomed before it even aired. It was yanked after four episodes despite having some nice production and a fun, tongue-in-cheek vibe.
3) Roo, Disney’s Winnie the Pooh
You didn’t read that incorrectly; Clint Howard was the voice of the cuter, pouch-riding half of the marsupial team in the classic Disney cartoons (Roo first shows up at 3:25 in this video, if you want to hear him). Two things: 1) This is the sort of acting credit that could get you seriously laid in college… if you didn’t look like Clint Howard. 2) Whatever you say about Clint Howard, name a single other actor on this planet whose range included a baby kangaroo and a post-apocalyptic villain named Stalin. You can’t.
2) Eaglebauer, Rock n’ Roll High School
Howard gets to shine in this fun Roger Corman-produced film from 1979 that introduced the punk rock anthems of the Ramones to many impressionable young minds.
As Eaglebauer, the business-minded young entrepreneur, Howard has an office in the men’s room (complete with secretary) and actually instructs dopey jock Tom Roberts (Vince Van Patten) on how to get laid. It’s a tour de force performance in a hell of a fun film
1) Balok, Star Trek (“The Corbomite Maneuver”)
Clint’s most memorable nerd role is also one of his earliest — as a young child, he played the young-looking, oddly dubbed alien Balok, who tested Kirk and the Enterprise crew in the seminal episode “The Corbomite Maneuver.” Howard returned to other Trek series on two more occasions (specifically, as the 21st-century bum Grady in Deep Space 9 and the Ferengi Muk in Enterprise) but was cool enough to play Balok again during Comedy Central’s Roast of William Shatner (where he was still oddly dubbed). And that’s why he’ll always be Balok to us, the drunkest alien child in the galaxy!