As huge as Winkler’s character Fonzie became, when Happy Days debuted he was only supposed to be a minor character. Yet he became a fan favorite quickly and soon became a larger part of the hit sitcom. Five years after the show came out, Winkler was one of the biggest stars on television. Arthur Fonzarelli was everywhere, and you couldn’t escape it. Full on Fonzie-mania had swept the nation.
Yet Winkler somehow kept his composure through it all. The Happy Days star stayed grounded and didn’t let stardom get to him. During the 1979 interview with famed Hollywood reporter Bobbie Wygant, Winkler shared how appreciative he is of his career.
“It is still such a charge for me. Everybody dreams about being in Hollywood, working in Hollywood, and I’m there. Not only am I there, but I’m there triple time. I’m there and all this wonderfulness is happening to me. It’s just great, so no I don’t feel that imprisoned by it,” Winkler explained.
In addition, Winkler knows how important Fonzie was to the rest of his work. The character propelled him to fame and opened up more opportunities along the way.
“In fact, I’ve said this before, if I win an award – let’s say for one of the two movies at this moment – I would have to thanks Arthur Fonzarelli. So that the work that I’ve done is now breeding new work. So that’s exciting ’cause I’d like to work until I’m dead. Until I’m in a box pushing daisies,” he joked.
‘Happy Days’ Star Henry Winkler Reveals What He Changed About Himself in Fonzie Audition
During a separate interview years later, Henry Winkler revealed details about his auditions for Happy Days in the early 1970s.
In 2017, Winkler joined the BUILD Series and spoke about his early acting career. Everyone remembers the actor’s famous cool guy greaser role. However, the confidence Fonzie portrayed on the sitcom did not translate to Winkler’s personal life.
As a child growing up in New York City, Winkler’s parents and teachers often called him stupid. Therefore Winkler had no “sense of self” as he said. The actor opened up about the stigma of being stupid, and how he carried that with him for years. Additionally, it even started to affect his auditions. Yet going into his Happy Days audition, the actor made some changes. He altered his voice and his body language.
“I’m 27 years old when I audition and I’m nervous, but I changed my voice and I changed my body. And then all of a sudden I just like read this script and I just made it up,” Winkler said in his Fonzie voice. “And then I was finished and I threw the script up in the air, and I sauntered out of the room. Then they called me two weeks later, on my birthday October 30, 1973, and they said, ‘Would you like to play this part?’”
“But I had to change my voice,” he added. “When I would play a character as Henry, using Henry’s voice trying to access Henry, I was so closed off emotionally. So scared and lacking in confidence that I wish I could do some of those roles again because I never really gave them justice.”