“Hillbilly Elegy” director Ron Howard admits he was “surprised” by JD Vance’s embrace of Donald Trump and the GOP’s conservative ideology during his recent successful campaign for Ohio senator.
“To be honest, I was surprised,” Howard said Variety at the Academy’s Governors Awards Saturday in Los Angeles. “When I met JD, we didn’t talk about politics because I wasn’t interested in that in his life. I was interested in his childhood and navigating the specifics of his family and his culture, so we focused on that in our conversation. To me he came across as a very moderate centre-right man.
Howard directed the film adaptation of Vance’s best-selling memoir “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis”, released as a Netflix movie in 2020. Vance’s book chronicles his family’s struggles with poverty and drug addiction while growing up in Middletown, Ohio . Vance later earned a degree from Yale Law School and, after working at a corporate law firm, served as a director for Republican incumbent Peter Thiel’s venture capital firm. Earlier this month, he defeated Democrat Tim Ryan in a race for the U.S. Senate after the seat was vacated by Republican Rob Portman.
Howard’s Netflix movie earned Glenn Close Oscar and SAG Award nominations for her work as Vance’s grandmother. Amy Adams was also nominated for a SAG Award for her portrayal of Vance’s mother.
Howard said that in the brief conversations they had about politics, Vance said he “didn’t care about Trump.
“He didn’t like him at all, as he tweeted,” he said. “I haven’t spoken to him in a few years. I hope he now has the job that I believe will apply his common sense to the questions that lie ahead.”
In fact, Howard said that while making the movie, Vance didn’t even show much interest in running for elected office. “He apparently wasn’t interested in running for office, but I think his interest was renewed,” Howard said. “At the time I was working with him he was focusing on starting his family and he was becoming a businessman and I asked him about it, he said, ‘Maybe someone in the future.’ One day came a little sooner than any of us expected.”
Howard and producing partner Brian Grazer attended the Governors Awards to support their rescue drama ‘Thirteen Lives’ on Amazon Prime Video.