‘Happy Days’ Star Worked with Sylvester Stallone in Early Days, Talked Talent Underneath His Persona

by Chris Haney

Before he made Rocky Balboa and Rambo famous, action hero Sylvester Stallone once worked with Happy Days star Henry Winkler at the beginning of their budding acting careers.

Previous to his numerous big-budget action films, Stallone appeared alongside Winkler in 1974’s The Lords of Flatbush. Set in Brooklyn in 1958, the movie follows four teenage greasers in leather jackets. The four teens run around their Flatbush neighborhood chasing girls, stealing cars, and playing pool together.

It’s a far cry from what Stallone would become as an action hero by the next decade. However, Winkler’s part in the movie is what helped him land his Happy Days character Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli. He already had the leather jacket and slicked-back hair down pat. After the show’s 11-year run, “The Fonz” became one of the most beloved characters in television history.

In a 2010 interview, a reporter brought up The Lords of Flatbush. He asked if Winkler knew how big of a star Stallone would be in the coming years. The Happy Days star spoke about Stallone’s talent, which was often overshadowed by his tough guy persona.

“Sly Stallone hid in this big, over the top persona of a street-tough. But underneath was an articulate, dedicated, very funny, successful writer,” Winkler recalled in the interview.

Indeed Stallone would go on to have huge success just a few years later with a film he wrote and starred in: Rocky. The 1977 movie earned Stallone an Oscar nomination for Original Screenplay, and took home the award for Best Picture. Yet when Winkler knew him, Stallone was still just a struggling actor and writer in a small New York City apartment.

“When we were doing the movie, I had the opportunity to walk him home to his apartment. It was in a walk-up building with no elevator on Lexington Ave,” Winkler said of Stallone. “He shared it with his wife, Sasha, and their bull mastiff. He painted the windows black so that he would not be disturbed by time while he wrote.”

‘Happy Days’ Star Henry Winkler Couldn’t Be Further From His Fonzie Character

Henry Winkler may have played high school dropout Fonzie in all 255 episodes of Happy Days. But he couldn’t have been further from the character in real life. It goes to show just how talented Winkler is at his craft that he could put on the facade of “The Fonz” and it be so believable.

Prior to earning the role on Happy Days, Winkler was far from a dropout. He went to college and even earned a masters while studying drama at Emerson College and Yale University. During a 2011 interview, Winkler talked about the drastic difference between Fonzie and himself.

“What is interesting is that I went to college and studied drama,” Winkler explained. “I went to drama school and got a master’s degree. So I really wanted to be prepared. I really love my job. I am filled with gratitude that I get to do my job. The Fonz was as far from me as you could possibly be.”

“I’m playing this tough Italian; I’m a short Jew. He rode a motorcycle, and I had trouble with a two-wheeler,” he hilariously added. “So that’s my job, is to create these people and make them come so to life that I’m having fun and you’re having fun watching.”