‘Happy Days’ Stars Henry Winkler and Ron Howard Weren’t Always the Best of Friends

HAPPY DAYS, Henry Winkler, Ron Howard, 1974-1980
Paramount/Everett Collection

While Henry Winkler and Ron Howard portrayed friends on Happy Days, it wasn’t always so happy off the set of the show. As Winkler’s character Fonzie rose in popularity, Howard felt a little left out as his character Richie Cunningham was supposed to be the main character of the show. Winkler is opening up about how the sitcom tested their friendship in his new memoir called Being Henry: The Fonz… and Beyond.

In the book, Winkler also opens up about how he learned a lot from Howard, who had been in the acting business for a while when he was cast on Happy Days. He was already known for playing Opie in The Andy Griffith Show as a kid. Winkler revealed, “I learned a lot from Ron. He was completely grounded by his parents, who never allowed any bad behavior. He was being a professional. This was his job, and I learned from watching him. I’m older — 10 years older — so I had the experience of theater and commercials on the East Coast on how to be a professional. I never doubted my responsibility for what I had to do, but I still had a lot to learn.”

HAPPY DAYS, Henry Winkler, Ron Howard, television, 1974-1984."

Everett Collection

When fans began to love his character of The Fonz and ABC decided to give him a raise and more screen time, he was worried that Howard might be upset at the news. He even turned down the idea that showrunners had to change the show’s title to Fonzie’s Happy Days. Winkler said that Howard did admit his jealousy at times but was never mad at Winkler in particular.

HAPPY DAYS, Henry Winkler, Ron Howard, television, 1974-1984.

Everett Collection

Winkler quoted Howard as saying, “You’re not letting this go to your head or change who you are. You’re a great team player. What you’ve created is incredible… for the show. But if I’m honest, I have to say it does hurt my feelings; more than that — it’s made me angry at times. Because you’re right — I was supposed to be the star of the show. But I was never angry at you, Henry.”

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 19: (L-R) Actor Henry Winkler, Filmmaker Ron Howard and actress Marion Ross are interviewed as they arrive at the 56th Annual ACE Eddie Awards held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 19, 2006 in Beverly Hills, California

Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

All’s well that ends well though because Howard and Winkler remain great friends to this day. Winkler is even the godparent to Howard’s daughter, actress Bryce Dallas Howard and when the kids were small the Howards asked Winkler to take the children if anything ever happened to them.

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