He may have started his career as Richie Cunningham, the freckle-faced lead on the beloved 1970s sitcom Happy Days, but after teaming with low-budget exploitation master Roger Corman, Ron Howard has gone on to become one of the most celebrated directors of his generation. Though he has helmed some massive movies—both in terms of size and scope and reception—not to mention a wide variety, there’s one genre you won’t find him dabbling in: superheroes.

Stumping for his upcoming old timey whaling adventure, In the Heart of the Sea, Howard stopped by the Happy Sad Confused podcast. When the subject of why he hasn’t directed a comic book movie came up, he said:
I really feel like you shouldn’t make a movie as a kind of exercise. You have to be all the way in. I was never a comic book guy. I like the movies when I see them, especially the origin stories. I never felt like I could be on the set, at 3 o’clock in the morning, tired, with 10 important decisions to make, and know, intuitively, what the story needs. For me, I’d be copycatting and not inventing. I’ve never said yes to one.

Though Ron Howard may never sit in the big chair for a superhero movie, In the Heart of the Sea does have a number of ties to that realm. Both Chris Hemsworth and Tom Holland are card-carrying members of the Marvel Cinematic Universe—Hemsworth has played Thor in a number of movies, while Holland was recently cast to play the latest incarnation of Spider-Man to crawl across the silver screen. Then there’s Cillian Murphy, who played Batman villain Doctor Jonathan Crane, better known as Scarecrow, in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight movies. I don’t know that any of that will help them fight a giant whale in their latest film, but we’ll see.

That last sentence that Howard offered is also an interesting point. Though he’s never said yes, that does indicate that he’s been offered comic book movies before. Someone out there probably know which ones could have been his, but it’s in intriguing prospect to be sure. Howard has been directing notable movies for long enough that he could perhaps have even been in the running for the likes of the early Superman films (maybe the later sequels at least), or the Batman series that started in the 1980s. Who knows? We also just learned that he was offered, and turned down, the chance to direct one of the Star Wars prequels, so the what-ifs have been swirling lately.

Even without directing a superhero movie, Ron Howard has had what you might call a solid career. He’s helmed blockbusters like The Da Vinci Code and Apollo 13, and even earned an Academy Award for A Beautiful Mind. Sure, his filmography is conspicuously missing a bunch of dudes running around in tights, but Richie Cunningham has done alright for himself.

In the Heart of the Sea opens everywhere December 11.

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