Winkler is most famous for his role as Arthur "Fonzie"
Fonzarelli on the popular sitcom Happy Days (1974–1984). Winkler
gained national fame for his auto mechanic-greaser role as "The
Fonz", starting out as a minor character at the show's beginning
but having top billing by the time the show ended.
Winkler was born in Manhattan, New York, the son
of Ilse Anna Maria (née Hadra) and Harry Irving Winkler,
a lumber company executive. Winkler's Jewish parents emigrated
from Germany to the United States in 1939, before the beginning
of World War II. Winkler attended the McBurney School and received
his bachelor's degree from Emerson College in 1967 and his MFA from
the Yale School of Drama in 1970. In 1978, Emerson gave Winkler
an honorary doctorate of humane letters. Winkler has also received
a Doctor of Humane Letters from Austin College.
Winkler has been married to Stacey Weitzman since
May 5, 1978, and they have two children, Zoe and Max, and a stepson
Jed from Stacey's previous marriage with Howard Weitzman. His cousin,
Richard Belzer, is also an actor.
Winkler started acting by appearing in a number
of television commercials. In October 1973, he was cast for the
role of Fonzie in the TV show Happy Days. The show was first aired
in January 1974. During his decade on Happy Days, Winkler also starred
in a number of movies, including The Lords of Flatbush (1974), playing
a troubled Vietnam veteran in Heroes (1977), The One and Only (1978),
and a morgue attendant in Night Shift (1982), which was directed
by Happy Days co-star Ron Howard. Winkler was also one of the hosts
of the 1979 Music for UNICEF Concert.
For Happy Days, director/producer Garry Marshall
originally had in mind a completely opposite physical presence.
Marshall sought to cast an Italian model-type male in the role of
Fonzie, with intent of his being a stupid foil to the intended real
star, Ron Howard. However, when Winkler, a Buddhist Yale MFA student
interpreted the role in auditions, Marshall immediately snapped
him up, smelling success. Winkler's character, though remaining
very much a rough-hewn outsider, gradually became the focus of the
show as time passed (in particular after the departure of Ron Howard),
a testament to Winkler's acting and Marshall's foresight. One of
the auditioners whom Winkler beat out was Micky Dolenz, who had
co-starred in his own teen-oriented show, The Monkees, a few years
earlier. Another interesting note about the character was his early
appearance. ABC executives did not want to see the Fonz wearing
leather, thinking the character would appear to be a criminal. The
first 13 episodes show Winkler wearing two different kinds of windbreaker
jackets, one of which was green. As Winkler said in a TV Land interview
"It's hard to look cool in a green windbreaker". Marshall
argued with the executives about the jacket. In the end, a compromise
was made. Winkler could only wear the leather jacket in scenes with
his motorcycle, and from that point on, the Fonz was never without
After Happy Days, Winkler's acting career pretty
much ended as he began concentrating on producing and directing.
In 1979 Winkler appeared in the made for TV movie
An American Christmas Carol, which was a modern remake of the Charles
Dickens classic A Christmas Carol. An American Christmas Carol was
set in Concord, New Hampshire during the Great Depression. Winkler
played the role of Benedict Slade, the Ebenezer Scrooge equivalent
of that film. He produced several television shows including MacGyver,
So Weird and Mr. Sunshine, Sightings, and the game shows Wintuition
and The Hollywood Squares (the latter from 2002–2004 only). He also
directed several movies including the Billy Crystal movie Memories
of Me (1988) and Cop and a Half (1993) with Burt Reynolds.
As the 1990s continued, Winkler began a return to
acting. He is good friends with horror movie director Wes Craven
and played an uncredited role as a high school principal in Craven's
1996 movie Scream (1996). In 1998, Adam Sandler asked Winkler to
play a college football coach, a supporting role in The Waterboy
(1998). He would later appear in two other Sandler films, Little
Nicky (2000), and Click (2006, as the main character's father).
He has also played small roles in movies such as Down to You (2000),
Holes (2003), and I Could Never Be Your Woman (2007). During this
time, he also starred in the short-lived Fox sitcom Monty.
Winkler recently had a recurring role as incompetent
lawyer Barry Zuckerkorn in the Fox Television comedy, Arrested Development.
In one episode, his character hopped over a dead shark lying on
a pier, a reference to his role in the origin of the phrase "jumping
the shark". After that episode, Winkler in interviews stated
that he was the only person to have "jumped the shark"
When Winkler moved to CBS for one season to star
in 2005–06's Out of Practice, his role as the Bluth family lawyer
on Arrested Development was taken over by Happy Days co-star Scott
Baio in the fall of 2005, shortly before the acclaimed but Nielsen-challenged
show ceased production.
Winkler has guest starred on television series such
as South Park, The Practice, The Simpsons (playing a member of a
biker gang, he in one scene calls Marge "Mrs. S", a reference
to Fonzie calling "Happy Days" matriarch Marion Cunningham
"Mrs. C"), Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Third
Watch, Arrested Development, Crossing Jordan, Family Guy and King
of the Hill. The Weezer video for 1994's "Buddy Holly"
featured Henry Winkler as the Fonz and featured Weezer performing
in Arnold's restaurant.
Winkler's most recent appearances were on KTTV's
Good Day L.A.. One time when substituting for Steve Edwards, Winkler
reunited with fellow Happy Days cast member Marion Ross. Winkler
appeared in his first pantomime at the New Wimbledon Theatre, London
in 2006, playing Captain Hook in Peter Pan, replacing David Hasselhoff
who pulled out when he was offered a TV role by Simon Cowell. He
reprised the role in Woking, England for Christmas 2007. Winkler
made a cameo appearance in the band Say Anything's video for "Wow,
I Can Get Sexual Too". Winkler also has critically acclaimed
guest appearances on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.[citation
Since 2003, Winkler has collaborated with Lin Oliver
on a series of children's books about a 4th grade boy, Hank Zipzer,
who has dyslexia. Winkler also has the learning disability, and
said this was a painful part of his childhood. Winkler has published
14 books about his hero Zipzer, the "world's greatest underachiever."