Henry Winkler Reveals What's on His Professional 'Bucket List'

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Henry Winkler

Happy Days fans will be, well, happy to know that stars Henry Winkler (Arthur "The Fonz" Fonzarelli) and Ron Howard (Richie Cunningham) are close friends to this day. "He was just at my house," Winkler told Parade in a recent interview. “He was at my table with his wife, his oldest daughter, Bryce Dallas Howard [Winkler’s goddaughter], her husband, their children, our daughter, Zoe Winkler, and their children. Bryce and Zoe, both lovely redheads, were born months apart, and are also very close. There was 50 years of history at that dinner table. It was amazing!”

Winkler’s friendship with Howard is one of many personal relationships he mined for his new memoir, Being Henry: The Fonz… and Beyond, an intimate portrayal of his remarkable decades-long career in TV, movies and the stage. (He also shares anecdotes about film legends Katharine Hepburn and Bette Davis, and comedy icons Adam Sandler, Bill Hader and Rob Reiner, to name a few.) But it’s his recollection of a difficult childhood marked by undiagnosed Dyslexia and clouded by parents, teachers and classmates who labeled him an underachiever that sets the book apart.

“It was overwhelming,” he said of writing the memoir. “My whole life I’ve spent talking myself out of stuff, and this was about finally saying, ‘Oh, just shut up and do it.’ So, I’m proud that it exists.”

Read on for more from Winkler, including the type of role he's looking for next, writing children's books and his holiday traditions.

Related: Ron Howard Takes a Look Back on 'American Graffiti' 50 Years Later

(L to R) Donny Most, Henry Winkler, Anson Williams, and Ron Howard in the iconic TV show, Happy Days<p>Photo credit: Courtesy ABC</p>
(L to R) Donny Most, Henry Winkler, Anson Williams, and Ron Howard in the iconic TV show, Happy Days

Photo credit: Courtesy ABC

What did your three grown kids (Max, Zoe, and Jed) think of the new book?

Max was the one who said, “You should write it, Dad.” Then he called me and he said, “I’m reading it and I’m loving it, Dad.” And I’m waiting by the phone for the other two children to read it [laughs].

In addition to writing a bestselling memoir, you’re the co-author (with Lin Oliver) of 38 children’s books, including the “Hank Books,” about a young boy whose Dyslexia is misunderstood as laziness. Talk about the importance of being such a positive role model to children around the world.

Oh, honestly, one of the greatest things in my life is the letters or the comments from young readers who say, “How do you know me so well?” They identify because it was really easy for me to remember what it was like to be 8 years old and failing at everything I tried. Thinking, How is it possible that I could fail at everything? I knew the words last night, and this morning in class, I know nothing.

As the mother of a 17-year-old son with autism, I had tears dripping down my face when I read two of the stories in your book.

Yes, I know which ones. There was a little girl about 7 or 8, at the LA Unified School's art festival for the physically and mentally challenged down at the Music Center in LA. And I’m walking through the crowd and behind me I hear the word, “Fonz.” I turned around, her mother was weeping. And I said, “What’s the matter?” And she said, “My daughter just spoke her first word.” It’s so big; it’s so big what you’re hearing that you can’t take it in right away.

And then the second story is about Adam, a 17-year-old whose father said, “Hey, my son would love to take a picture with you,” and I went, “Sure.” I put my arm around him, pulled him in, and we took a picture and his father was having a meltdown. I said, “What’s the matter?” And he replied, “My son is autistic, no one can touch him.”

Except for “The Fonz,” obviously.

Except for “The Fonz,” that’s right. Sometimes you don’t know when something’s going to touch you or others around you. You have no idea.

Actor, director, producer, and author Henry Winkler<p>Photo credit: Andrew Eccles</p>
Actor, director, producer, and author Henry Winkler

Photo credit: Andrew Eccles

After your role in the darker series Barry, what kind of role are you looking for next—perhaps something lighter?

The next thing that I might do, if it comes together, will be a serial comedy. I would love to do a talk show in the future. Going back to Broadway is also on my bucket list. I believe that each role is inside you. If it’s written well and it comes from the human condition then it should resonate with its audience.

Related: Henry Winkler Reveals the One Movie Role He Regrets Turning Down

Have you and Ron talked about working together? Has he tried to cast you in a movie? Is that something you’d like to do in the future?

[Jokingly] You know, I write him anonymously saying, “Don’t you think it would be a great idea to work with Henry Winkler again?” But I’ve not gotten an answer.

I know you're working on educating the public about a leading cause of blindness, Geographic atrophy, because your father-in-law, Ed, struggled with vision loss. What do you want our readers to know?

I watched my father-in-law’s eyesight deteriorate. The company Apellis came and asked me if I would be the spokesperson to ask people two questions: “Would you go to the eye doctor as quickly as you can and just make sure that your eyes are fine?” And “If you have a problem, will you go to [this website for Eyes on GA, which raises awareness of Geographic atrophy]?” I am proud to say that requests for information [on the site] have increased by 700%.

That’s great. And what do you hope readers will get out of your book?

You know what I want? I told my agent and my publisher, “I want them to laugh, and if there is one thing that I passed along that I have learned in my life that is useful, that will make me happy.”

What would you say is the overall message of Being Henry?

If you know what you want, pursue it without ambivalence, use your tenacity, get an air pump, blow it up and start walking and running forward. Because that’s how you get where you want to go.

The jacket for Henry Winkler's new book, Being Henry: The Fonz...and Beyond
The jacket for Henry Winkler's new book, Being Henry: The Fonz...and Beyond

I’m sure that people are starstruck meeting you. Is there someone you met lately that you were excited about?

You know who I loved meeting? Quinta Brunson, the woman who created the TV series Abbott Elementary.

My wife, Stacey, and I met [corporate lawyer and academic] Neal Katyal, who is the most eclectic collector of experiences. He argues in front of the Supreme Court, is a commentator on television, and is just an incredible fellow. Stacey and I were lucky enough to be at his house in Washington, D.C., on my book tour. Also along the way I watched Liz Cheney, and with an amazing respect for her power; I met her on the tour.

There are so many incredible people I have met: Robert De Niro is another one.

One of your movies, The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, is a Hallmark fan favorite. Do you ever watch it?

No, but everybody else seems to. It’s amazing how beloved it is. And you would think Hallmark would say, “Henry, this was such a good movie, want to make another?” But they haven’t called. I’m still waiting for the call.

Let’s talk about family traditions this time of year; Hanukkah, Christmas, your three grown children and your six grandkids.

When I was growing up, my parents were Holocaust survivors, so we never celebrated Christmas. The smell of pine was alien to my apartment. But now we have a tree. Stacey always loves the tree, so we light the menorah about 10 feet from the tree, and I don’t feel any less religious because we have this beautiful tree that makes the house so festive with the latkes, delicious food, and menorah lighting. We enjoy the holidays.

Max, Stacey, Jed, Zoe, and Henry Winkler<p>Photo credit: Courtesy of Henry Winkler</p>
Max, Stacey, Jed, Zoe, and Henry Winkler

Photo credit: Courtesy of Henry Winkler

Are there any other things that you and Stacey do this time of year?

Yes, we argue over how much to spend on gifts. That’s another tradition!

Last question. Are you “the nicest guy in Hollywood”?

You know what I am? I am a grateful guy, which makes me enjoy exactly what is in front of me. At this moment, it is our 4-year-old goldendoodle, Maisie, who is snuggling next to me.

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