How ‘Happy Days’ Icon Henry Winkler Got Cast by Adam Sandler for ‘The Waterboy’

by Matthew Memrick
(Photo By Getty Images)

Adam Sandler’s one name check of “Happy Days” icon Henry Winkler in a song led to his coaching role in the classic film hit “Waterboy.” 

The 1998 film is a cult classic for many football players and fans. The 75-year-old actor, who played Coach Klein, played one of the more memorable roles in the star-studded film. 

Wait, you didn’t think Winkler got the job for his Arthur “Fonz” Fonzarelli role?

In a PeopleTV interview from a few years ago, Winkler revealed that he heard his name in Sandler’s classic Saturday Night Live “The Chanukah Song.” The comedian performed the song on the show on Dec. 3, 1994. Boy, time sure has flown.

Henry Winkler called Sandler and expressed his appreciation. Four years later, Winkler was in his first of many Sandler films. The movie came from another Sandler SNL character called “Canteen Boy.”

Winkler also starred in Sandler’s “Click,” “Little Nicky,” and “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan” films. Winkler played Sandler’s father in “Click.”

“This is one of his favorite movies, I think, that he’s ever made,” Henry Winkler said of Sandler. “It is also one of his most popular. So many college football players have told me that as they’re going to the game on the bus, the coach plays ‘The Waterboy’ for them.”

“The Waterboy” earned $39.4 million in its opening weekend before making $186 million worldwide. 

Waterboy 2 For Sandler, Winkler?

Frequent Sandler movie star Kevin James said last year it was time for a “Waterboy” sequel.

James told Movie Web that he would “wanna see more of that (kind of film).” 

Would the 55-year-old Sandler be making hard hits running all over the football field again? Probably not.

Sandler, himself, has been hesitant about bringing back any of his old roles. “Billy Madison” and “Happy Gilmore” are often talked about with the former SNL star.

“I don’t think about it, but those two [films] – I loved doing them,” Sandler said. “They’re big ideas. Going back to school was fun for Billy, and then Happy Gilmore playing golf – there’s something there. I don’t know. We’ll see. I doubt it, though.”

Maybe Henry Winkler could reprise his role as Coach Klein but as an assistant to Sandler’s “Waterboy” on the sideline. You never know. 

Henry Winkler The Director

The actor tried his hand at directing in 1984 with a CBS Schoolbreak Special. Notably, that short TV show featured then-teen heartthrob Baio.

Henry Winkler won a 1985 Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Children’s Special and nominated his directorial work on the show for another Daytime Emmy.

He worked on and off with a few television shows. Winkler tried his luck with actor Billy Crystal’s 1988 film “Memories of Me” and legendary actor Burt Reynolds in the 1993 “Cop and a Half” flick.

But he credits his past directors, Mitch Hurwitz and Garry Marshall, for helping him learn the directing ropes if you will. He called the men “directorial geniuses.”

Mitch Hurwitz guided Winkler in his “Arrested Development” work, and Marshall put Henry Winkler in all the suitable scenes for “Happy Days.”