‘Happy Days’: Henry Winkler’s ‘The Fonz’ Rhythm of Speech was Based on Another Actor

by Emily Morgan

Even if you haven’t seen an episode of “Happy Days,” you can immediately recognize one of its main characters: Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli. With his motorcycle jacket and greaser-like style, he was the epitome of cool. In addition to his style, fans remember the Fonz for his iconic voice. As it turns out, Fonzie, played by Henry Winkler, got some tips and tricks about how to bring his character to life from a fellow cool guy, Sylvester Stallone. 

Stallone starred alongside Winkler in the 1974 film, The Lords of Flatbush. While working on the movie, Winkler got the inspiration for his “Happy Days” character from his co-star. During an episode of “People T.V.’s Couch Surfing,” Winkler revealed how he used Stallone’s persona when he auditioned for the part. “I just changed my voice a bit, you know?” he said during the episode.

Years after “Happy Days” stopped taping, Winkler won a Primetime Emmy for “Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series” for his work on Barry,” and his old friend was there to congratulate him. To commend his former co-star, Stallone shared a story of their time on The Lords of Flatbush. “I vividly remember working with him on those cold streets in Brooklyn almost 47 years ago!!!” Stallone wrote. “He was a super talented class act then and even more of one now!!!”

Henry Winkler Looks To Old Pal To Get Tips For ‘Happy Days’ Character

The same year The Lords of Flatbush came out, Happy Days also started appearing on millions of T.V. screens, and Winkler soon became a household name. For over a decade, he played Fonzie and became a fixture in America’s pop culture. Even though Winkler was met with worldwide stardom, he never forgot the person who gave him so much inspiration during his audition. “Sometimes I would think, what would Sly do here?” he said.

Even though Winkler was working in Hollywood, his character also had its downfalls, such as typecasting. “It took me maybe eight years after the Fonz to really get a good acting role,” Winkler told NPR’s, Terry Gross.  Currently, Winkler stars alongside SNL veteran Bill Hader in the comedy series “Barry” as acting coach Gene Cousineau. Even though it’s been 40 years since they worked together, Stallone made sure to give him a shoutout for his award, calling him a “super-talented class act.”