Ron Howard wanted to direct Cindy Williams and feels ‘a little sad’ that he never did

A black-and-white photo of a man holding a woman in front of a vintage car.
Ron Howard, left, and Cindy Williams starred in 1973’s “American Graffiti,” directed by George Lucas.
(Silver Screen Collection / Getty Images)

Director Ron Howard is lamenting a missed opportunity with his old friend Cindy Williams nearly a week after she died at age 75.

The Oscar-winning “A Beautiful Mind” filmmaker told the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday that his “American Graffiti” co-star’s death is going to “leave a little void” and shared he was hoping to collaborate with the “Laverne & Shirley” actor once more.

“I’d always hoped that a part would come along that I could cast her in and we can sort of complete this cycle of working together in our careers with me behind the camera, and the right role never came along,” he said in a phone interview. “I always assumed it would, and it makes me a little sad to know that we’ll never have that chance.”


Cindy Williams, who played upbeat Shirley Feeney to Penny Marshall’s wise-cracking Laverne DeFazio in the 1970s sitcom ‘Laverne & Shirley,’ has died.

Williams, who died in Los Angeles on Wednesday after a brief illness, first worked with Howard on George Lucas‘ “American Graffiti.” They portrayed teenage lovebirds in the 1973 film, and in the following years they both appeared on the TV series “Happy Days,” “Laverne & Shirley” and “Love, American Style.”

Those were the days before Howard, 68, turned his focus to behind-the-camera work.

Howard told The Times he would have liked to cast Williams in a role that highlighted her “complexity and range.”

Actor-director Ron Howard remembers his ‘American Graffiti’ and ‘Happy Days’ co-star Cindy Williams, who died Wednesday at age 75.

“I would have tried to find something, a character full of surprises where you kind of think she’s one thing and it turns out there’s more than you might have guessed,” he said. “I think she had the capacity to shift gears and tones on a dime. I was always looking for something where I had a character where I could take advantage of that.”

Like his fellow “Happy Days” cast member Henry Winkler and other Hollywood peers, Howard remembered Williams for her talent, honesty, graciousness and authenticity. He also praised Williams for her professionalism and work ethic.

“I saw in Cindy a first glimpse of this new generation of a woman asserting herself and her potential to have creative control over the work that she was doing,” he said. “She was quiet about it. She was polite about it. She was civil but committed to asserting herself in that way, and that was impressive to me.”

Cindy Williams will be missed by her Hollywood peers, including Michael McKean, Jason Alexander and Rosario Dawson. Here’s how they paid tribute social media.

Howard never got to reunite with Williams for one last project, but he said she leaves behind years’ worth of memorable performances.

“We as fans and those who worked with her know that she had many moments that will stand the test of time,” he said, “whether that’s in drama, or the brilliant physical comedies that she and Penny Marshall created together.”