×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Henry Winkler Recalls ‘Happy’ Decades With Ron Howard

Ask Henry Winkler about his longstanding personal and professional relationship with Ron Howard, and the adjectives roll out: “an amazing fellow,” “incredibly perceptive” and finally, “I love him.”

The effusiveness is no Hollywood puffery: Winkler and Howard forged an instant friendship while co-starring in the ABC sitcom “Happy Days” from 1974 to 1980 that has lasted for more than 40 years. Though Howard was 10 years younger than Winkler. who played the Fonz, at the time, he was immediately struck by his confidence and innate selflessness as a creative collaborator.

“I knew that wherever my imagination went, he would be there,” Winkler says. “We could memorize a scene, rehearse it, shoot it and improvise it in 20 minutes. As an actor, you felt safe with Ron.”

As Winkler notes, those qualities also defined Howard as a filmmaker. Both Howard and Winkler began their first forays behind the camera — Howard as director on “Grand Theft Auto,” and Winkler as producer and narrator of the Oscar- and Emmy-winning documentary “Who Are the DeBolts? And Where Did They Get Nineteen Kids?” — while working on “Happy Days” in 1977.

“We chatted about it while we were waiting for a scene. He said, ‘Do you think I could be a good director?’” says Winkler. “I said, ‘Ron, you could probably be a great brain surgeon, if you put your mind to it.’ (He had) confidence and humanity and will and perception, because telling a story is knowing the human condition.”

Winkler witnessed Howard’s innate talents firsthand as star of his first studio feature, “Night Shift,” in 1982. (Winkler earned a Golden Globe nomination).

“You’d ask him, ‘I gotta do this, I want to go here’,” Winkler says. “And he would roll the entire film in his head, and think if your idea fit into his vision. And if I was anywhere in its Zip Code, he would say, ‘Yes, we could do that.’ Or, ‘You know, let’s try it this way, and we’ll come back to that.’ There’s not an actor on earth that he can’t talk to or help along to get where he wants to go.”

Since that collaboration, both men have enjoyed diverse careers, with Winkler finding success as a producer, director and the author of 31 novels for children (the popular and endearing Hank Zipser series) in addition to acting. But the bond between them remains as strong as it did on the set of “Happy Days,” and is now linked by family: Winkler is the godfather of Howard’s daughter, actress Bryce Dallas Howard. And even in this regard, their relationship is marked by respect and humanity.

As Winkler remembers, “Early on, he said to us, ‘God forbid, if anything happens to us, would you take all of our children. You can even bar mitzvah them.’ I thought that was one of the great compliments of my life.”

More Film

  • DF-10689_R2_CROP – Sophie Turner and Jessica

    'X-Men: Dark Phoenix' Set for June 6 China Release

    “X-Men: Dark Phoenix” will officially swoop into Chinese theaters June 6, a day before its U.S. release, 20th Century Fox said Thursday. The studio had put out a trailer last fall that touted a Feb. 14 release date for the new X-Men installment, but said a day later that the premiere had been pushed back [...]

  • 'The Apollo' Review: A Legendary Theater

    Tribeca Film Review: 'The Apollo'

    You should never take for granted a documentary that fills in the basics with flair and feeling. Especially when the basics consist of great big gobs of some of the most revolutionary and exhilarating popular art ever created in this country. Roger Ross Williams’ documentary “The Apollo,” which kicked off the Tribeca Film Festival on [...]

  • Playwright Mark Medoff author of "Children

    Mark Medoff, 'Children of a Lesser God' Playwright, Dies at 79

    Mark Medoff, the playwright who wrote Tony Award-winning play “Children of a Lesser God,” died Tuesday in Las Cruces, N.M. He was 79. His daughter Jessica Medoff Bunchman posted news of his death on Facebook, and the Las Cruces Sun-News attributed the cause to cancer. “Children of a Lesser God” starred John Rubinstein and Phyllis Frelich [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Interscope Films Relaunches With Full Slate at Tribeca (EXCLUSIVE)

    The Interscope record label’s interest in film/music crossover isn’t exactly a secret: With hit companion albums for “A Star Is Born,” “Black Panther” and “La La Land,” they’ve seemed to own the soundtrack space at times in recent years. And the company hasn’t completely made a secret of its desire to move into film production. [...]

  • Avengers: Endgame

    'Avengers: Endgame': Fans and Theaters Assemble for Biggest Marvel Movie Ever

    For San Diego resident Shawn Richter, “Avengers: Endgame” is more than the conclusion to a monumental period in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As the West Coast branch chair of Avengers Initiative, a cosplay charity that raises money for causes like the Ronald McDonald House Children’s Charities, the comics of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby are [...]

  • Jillian Bell appears in Brittany Runs

    Amazon's 'Brittany Runs a Marathon' Sets Summer Release

    “Brittany Runs a Marathon” will be rushing to theaters on Aug. 23. Amazon Studios dated the comedy on Wednesday. The pic, starring Jillian Bell (“Rough Night,” “22 Jump Street”), won the audience award at the Sundance Film Festival. The flick follows the titutal Brittany, who decides to run around New York City in order to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content