That’s a truth widely acknowledged among members of the media who have covered the two legendary actors, and while Winkler doesn’t always want to accept it – “Oh, I don’t know about that!” – he’s certainly floored by the praise.
“I am friendly and I'm grateful. I am grateful that I walk on this Earth. And it makes me happy. And I love meeting people that I go to the movies [to see] or I watch on TV. You know, it makes me happy. It really does.”
Fox News recently spoke with Winkler, 74, at the PaleyLive LA event celebrating the career of the esteemed performer, most notably, the 45th anniversary of the beloved TV show “Happy Days.” Winkler broke out as Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli in the famed 1970s sitcom, which he never fathomed would become a hit.
“No. You know what? You never know,” Winkler said of the show’s decade-long run, which lasted from 1974 through 1984. “You get on the train and you just keep your head down and do your work and hopefully, you get better and better and better.”
“You don't know where that train is going,” he added. “You think you're going on a short ride to New Jersey and you wind up in L.A. It's amazing. You know, July 24th, I'm in the new Wes Anderson movie along with a star-studded lineup. Who knew?”
Last year, it was reported that Winkler would be joining the ensemble cast of Bill Murray, Adrien Brody, Jeffrey Wright and a boat of others in Anderson’s period piece “The French Dispatch,” a film set during the 1950s at the Paris bureau of an American Newspaper.
Winkler simply said he was happy to be a part of Anderson’s first live-action film since “The Grand Budapest Hotel” in 2014, for which Anderson garnered three Oscar nominations for producing, directing and screenplay.
In reflecting on his meteoric rise in Hollywood since he created the magnetic “Fonz” character, Winkler dished on the ultra-competitive landscape that is showbiz and said despite his success, Garry Marshall, the show’s creator, in no way would allow anyone to get out of line. He said Marshall promoted a family dynamic within the cast.
“Never. Not on the set,” Winkler said when asked if he experienced any resentment of any kind while working as Fonzarelli. “I never felt it.”
“We were as a family and as a unit,” Winkler said, adding that Marshall had once admonished him on the set for interrupting him as he was acknowledging the guest cast following a day of taping.
“First of all, Garry Marshall – rest his soul – would never stand for gumph. He would never stand for bad behavior,” Winkler explained. “I once interrupted him when he was introducing the guest cast at the end of the show. He put the microphone down and took me aside and told me never to do that again. And I never did.”
Though many on the outside might look at Winkler and marvel at the storied career he’s worked hard to build and maintain, the “Barry” co-star assured us “not so many years” have been as successful for him as one might believe.
“It just seems that way,” he said. “There were years when there was very little water in the trough.”
Winkler added that in order to keep his dream alive while work was scarce, he developed his skill in other areas of writing and film production.
“I'll tell you what you do,” Winkler said leaning in, as if he were preparing to dole out top secret information. “If you believe in yourself and you don't want to be a flash in the pan, then you figure out, 'What else can I do?' So I started producing. I tried directing. I write children's books. And here I am doing 'Barry.' And we start again April 1st, shooting the third season.”
Winkler couldn’t contain his excitement in announcing the Bill Hader-helmed “Barry” would begin filming its upcoming season soon and became even more electric when we mentioned his status as an avid fly-fisherman.
“I love it so much. I can't tell you,” he gushed. “Fly-fishing is like a washing machine for your brain. No matter what bothers you, you cannot concentrate on anything but you, the fly resting on the water and the fish that comes to take it.”
We transitioned the response into asking the all-time good guy, who has been married to Stacey Weitzman for 42 years, how he manages to keep so many close friends in such a cutthroat business.
“Well, sometimes you have to work at it. You know, it depends on the person,” he said. “But if you want to be friends with someone, then pick up the phone. Don't wait for someone else to call you.”
“There are people I've called in 1984 and I'm still waiting for the phone to ring,” Winkler quipped. “You know, you kinda take them off your call list after a while and some people, I'm friends with for 40 years.”
So, if anyone in Hollywood missed a phone call from Winkler back in 1984 and is wondering why you haven't heard from the man since, ring him back — he’s still waiting for your call.