Henry Winkler has more than 150 acting roles in his career, but no matter what generation you are from, he will always be first and foremost a stranger from “Happy Days”. This is not only his most iconic role, it is one of the most iconic roles in the history of television, but it has caused Winkler a number of problems in his career, including forcing him to abandon the lead role in the film “Grease”, which made John Travolta a star.
In a recent appearance on CNN, Henry Winkler reflected on his career. It turns out that after he became Arthur Fotherelli, also known as Fonz, Winkler had serious problems finding a job because he was so closely associated with the character. Winkler explained…
It was so bad that not only could I not find a job, but I was sitting at my desk at Paramount and literally thinking, “Will I ever find something as influential as Fonz?” How will I know? Will anyone ever ask me? I don’t get any offers.”
If you look at Henry Winkler’s filmography, you can see how bad he had it during the decade when “Happy Days” was on the air, and in the following years he did almost nothing, and most of what he did was appear as The Fonz. on various shows that originated from Happy Days. The only role of any size he had outside was his starring role alongside a young Michael Keaton in “Night Shift,” a film directed by Winkler’s “Happy Days” co-star Ron Howard.
Fonzie became such an elemental force that he almost changed his name.
Happy days to be about him. No wonder it was hard for people in Hollywood to see him in another role. However, CNN interviewer Chris Wallace noted that there was another important role that Winkler was offered, but he declined…
You’re being offered a role. You were offered the lead role in Grease instead of John Travolta, before John Travolta, and you refused. Are you a damn fool?
“Grease” was released in 1978, just in the midst of showing “Happy Days” on television. It is quite obvious why Henry Winkler was offered the role of Danny Zuko. The biker in the leather jacket looked so much like Fonz that it was obvious that Winkler could play this role. And that’s why the actor refused.
Most actors hate being typical. One of the great features of acting is the ability to play a variety of roles. Winkler didn’t want to play a role similar to Fonzie because he didn’t want to be typical. Unfortunately, Winkler agrees that he was a damned fool to turn down the role because he didn’t realize at the time that the type-casting ship had already sailed. Winkler said…
Yes. I only realized years later. I thought I was playing Fonz, I don’t want to do it again. I will cement, it has already happened. I’m already typed. I should have just shut up and had a good time making this movie. Now I go home, say no, and drink a diet Coke. John Travolta returns home, makes a movie and buys a plane.
Hollywood is full of “what if?” stories that come from actors who refuse roles. Will Smith could play in The Matrix. Mel Gibson was almost James Bond. In the end, these careers turned out well, and although Henry Winkler never became a major movie star after “Happy Days”, he built a successful career both in front of the camera and behind it, which he can certainly be proud of.