A 1973 audition in Los Angeles forever changed the life of Yale School of Drama graduate Henry Winkler, when producer Garry Marshall and Tom Miller cast him in the role of Arthur Fonzarelli, a.k.a. “The Fonz,” in the TV series “Happy Days.” During his 10 years on the sitcom, he won two Golden Globe Awards, was nominated three times for an Emmy Award and was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Both his famous leather jacket and Fonzie’s lunch box became part of an exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum in 1980.
In recent years, Winkler has appeared in a number of series, including “Childrens Hospital,” “Royal Pains,” “New Girl,” “Parks and Recreation,” “Arrested Development” and “Out of Practice,” on the Network. For the last two years, he starred and co-executive produced the reality travel series “Better Late than Never,” with William Shatner, Terry Bradshaw, George Foreman and Jeff Dye.
He guest starred in the series “The Practice,” where he earned an Emmy Award nomination. Also, he guest starred in “Numb3rs,” on the Network, “The Bob Newhart Show,” “Third Watch,” “Crossing Jordan” and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” along with the television movie “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” He lent his voice to such shows as “All Hail King Julien,” “South Park,” “King of the Hill,” “Family Guy,” “The Simpsons” and “Clifford’s Puppy Days,” for which he received an Emmy Award.
On the big screen, Winkler starred in “Night Shift,” “Here Comes the Boom,” “The Waterboy,” “Click,” “The Lords of Flatbush,” “Heroes,” “Holes” and “Scream.”
Behind the scenes, he has made his mark as a producer and director. Winkler has executive produced or produced TV series and specials for 19 years, including “MacGyver,” on the Network, “So Weird,” “Mr. Sunshine,” “Sightings,” “A Family Again,” “All Kids Do It,” for which he won an Emmy Award, “Ryan’s Four,” “Scandal Sheet” and the documentary “Who Are the DeBolts and Where Did They Get 19 Kids?,” which won the Humanitas Prize.
Also, he directed several movies, including “Memories of Me,” starring Billy Crystal and the late Alan King, and “Cop and a Half,” starring Burt Reynolds. On stage, Winkler appeared on Broadway in “Neil Simon’s The Dinner Party,” with the late John Ritter, and “The Performers.”
Winkler has always been concerned about the quality of children’s television programming. As a result, he has produced countless worthwhile projects for a young audience, including “Happily Ever After” for PBS and its sequel, “Two Daddies to Love Me.” Additional specials include “Run, Don’t Walk,” and “All the Kids Do It,” which was about teenage drunk driving and directed by Winkler.
As an author, his first book, Niagara Falls or Does It? Hank Zipzer the World’s Greatest Under-Achiever, became a bestseller. The “Hank Zipzer” series were inspired by Winkler’s struggle throughout his education due to his learning challenges.
To date, he and his co-author, Lin Oliver, have written 34 children’s novels. All 34 are in bookstores across the United States and have been published around the world in seven languages, with more than 4 million copies sold.
Winkler has always believed in helping others and is especially passionate about helping children.
He has been a featured speaker at WE Day Celebrations promoting education and service for students. His work includes serving as honorary chairman of United Friends of the Children, being a founding Member of the Children’s Action Network and serving as the first national honorary chairman of the Epilepsy Foundation of America. Also, he serves as the national chairman of the annual Toys for Tots campaign, and he serves on the National Committee for Arts for the Handicapped, the Special Olympics and the Los Angeles Music Center’s Very Special Arts Festival for children who are physically challenged, as well as participating in numerous teenage alcohol and drug abuse programs.
Winkler has received a number of accolades from a variety of prestigious organizations, including B’nai B’rith, Peace Prize by the United Nations and Women in Film’s Norma Zarky Humanitarian Award, presented to both Henry and his wife, Stacey, for their tireless efforts and devotion to the “improvement of the human condition.”
Also, Winkler received the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Artes et Lettres, the French Government’s highest honor, for his contribution to the arts. He was one of 10 individuals honored by AARP with their 2010 Inspire Award. In 2011 he was awarded the Honorary Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) from the Queen of England in recognition of his service to children with dyslexia and special education needs.
Of all the titles he has received, the ones he relishes most are husband, father and grandfather. Winkler and his wife have three children, Jed, Zoe and Max, and five grandchildren. They reside in Los Angeles.