Ron Howard Scouts Middletown For 'Hillbilly Elegy' Movie

Oct 2, 2018

Oscar-winning director Ron Howard visited Middletown Tuesday while preparing to make a film  adaptation of Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, the best-selling book by Middletown native J.D. Vance.

Howard -- whose credits range from Andy Griffith and Happy Days to A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13 and The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – is directing the film about Vance growing up in the Rust Belt.

Heather Gibson, owner of the Triple Moon Coffee Company, 1100 Central Ave., in downtown Middletown, posted a photo on Facebook of her with Howard and store manager Renae Theiss.  She said Howard, who won two Academy Awards for A Beautiful Mind in 2002, was looking for potential sites for Hillbilly Elegy, according to the Journal-News serving Middletown and Hamilton.

Credit Courtesy HarperCollins

For lunch, Howard ordered a Bad Hunter, Gibson wrote on her Triple Moon Coffee Company Facebook page. The Bad Hunter is a vegetarian wrap, according to Ed Richter's Journal-News story.

Howard will direct from a script by Vanessa Taylor, who was nominated for an Oscar this year with Guillermo del Toro for The Shape of Water.  She was also a writer-producer on HBO's Game of Thrones, Jennifer Garner's ABC Alias action series and WB's Everwood drama.

The book by Vance, a 2003 Middletown High School graduate, recounts growing up poor among working-class "hillbillies" in the steel town. After high school he enlisted in the U.S. Marines and served in Iraq. Vance returned to Ohio and studied political science and philosophy at Ohio State University, and later earned his law degree from Yale in 2003.

Vance lives in Columbus, Ohio, where he runs Our Ohio Renewal, a nonprofit dealing with "the state's opiod crisis and bringing high-quality employment and educational opportunities to Ohioans," according to his biography. Now a CNN contributor, Vance has appeared on ABC, CBS and  Fox News.