When the directors cast Henry Winkler to portray Fonzie on “Happy Days,” he had no idea that one characteristic would be a factor in deciding his fate.
Hollywood star and The Monkees band member Micky Dolenz also auditioned for the part. After the directors saw Dolenze standing next to his castmembers, they decided to go in a different direction.
Marshall had planned for the cast members to be eye-to-eye with one another. After they decided Dolenz wasn’t a good fit, they went with a much shorter Winkler.
Later, Dolenz admitted that they had it right when they chose Winkler to portray Fonzie.
Crafting the Character Of Fonzie
Even though The Fonz wasn’t the main character, he quickly became a breakout star that fans couldn’t get enough of.
Surprisingly, the network put a lot of thought into how Fonzie would be portrayed on-screen. The network was afraid fans would see him as another stereotypical character.
To keep Fonzie from looking like a “hoodlum,” executives said he couldn’t wear his leather jacket unless his motorcycle was nearby.
“[Producer Garry Marshall] went back and said to the writers, ‘Never write a scene without his motorcycle again,'” Winkler recalled. “So I always stood next to my motorcycle — inside, outside, in my apartment, in Arnold’s. It didn’t matter where, I was always with my motorcycle. And that’s how I got out of the golf jacket and into leather.”
Executives also ensured that fans never saw Fonzie with a pack of cigarettes rolled in his sleeve while combed his hair— since Winkler’s character was always against smoking.
“Happy Days” ratings went through ups and downs, but fans fondly remember it for its simpler times and idealized vision of life.