The Fretts on Film Interview: Henry Winkler (The Outtakes)
Not for nothing did Henry Winkler earn the reputation as one of the nicest guys in show biz. He brings that affability to his role as a music teacher in Kevin James‘ new UFC-themed comedy, Here Comes the Boom, opening Friday. You can read my interview with Winkler in today’s New York Daily News. Here, we go a few extra rounds.
Did you know you’d be the heart of Here Comes the Boom when you signed on?
I had no idea. I am at Adam Sandler’s star ceremony on Hollywood Boulevard. It’s in the morning. I’m speaking, and Kevin James is speaking. Kevin and I shake hands—I’ve met him two times before, and only to shake his hand. So we really don’t know each other. And we go home. I’m having a sandwich. The phone rings. It’s Kevin James. “Hi Kev, how are ya? Did you have a good time this morning?” “Yeah, it was very nice. Listen, would you be in my movie?” Are you kidding me! I said “Yes I would!” Didn’t read the script, didn’t know a thing about it. I just said yes.
Why’d you say yes?
Because, first of all, Kevin is an adorable human being. It’s through Adam’s company. And Adam could be my son. Meanwhile, when I did “Click,” his Dad has passed away not too long before that movie. And I thought it was like an honor because he was amazingly close to his Dad and he is to his Mom. So there was a wonderful connection there. And it just felt like the right thing to do. And let’s just say, I’m so happy I was smart enough to say yes.
So you first got involved with Adam through The Waterboy, right?
Yes, then I did 3 other films with him.
So what did you think when you first signed up for that film? Did you think you were kind of getting into this repertory company that he has?
It was great. I didn’t know that it was going to lead to all of these other movies. But Adam is brilliant. As goofy as he plays in the film,s so he is the opposite. He is shy, he is in charge of every detail of every movie he makes. I think that Adam bought the company that cuts the trailers, in order to make sure that the trailer is perfect the way he wants it before it goes out into the world. And Kevin is very good friends with Adam, has made a few movies with Adam, and is building his production company with Adam as a template.
Well, he’s a smart guy too. He’s definitely managed his career very well.
And he is enormously generous. Because he let me bring my imagination full blown every day. And a lot of it is in the movie. I cannot tell you the details, but I just said whatever came to my mind. And the days that I made Kevin James laugh, was a great day.
So you and Kevin both cut your teeth in sitcoms. Doing comedy for the big screen—is it a different type of timing than sitcoms?
No. Comedy is comedy is comedy. You rehearse it for a week in television. You get to do it instantaneously on the spot in a movie. So you have to be totally open and just be in the moment—there is no time for real reflection in the movie. You just have to be there and go. I also had to learn how to play guitar.
I was going to ask! Did you learn that for the movie?
Yes. A young man, Daniel, came to my house every day for about 6 weeks. Sony sent me a guitar, and I would practice with him for an hour/hour-and-a-half, and if you watch closely, you see that I don’t play one note that is correct. I’m not kidding. It was sad. It looks good. Doesn’t it?
It fooled me!
There you go!
We’re you familiar with the UFC before you did this movie?
Never. It was a channel I went by. But let me just say, meeting those men, they are really Zen gentlemen outside the ring. And I use those words advisedly. And then, in the ring, they will eat your heart without cooking it. Oh my God! They were so big, you could buy a condominium in one of them.
So it seems to an outside observer that you’ve had kind of a seamless career, but was there ever a tough time after Happy Days?
How about like 9 years? And that’s when I started to produce because I thought, ‘Oh my god, you can’t wait by the phone. This is insane.’ And there is such a thing as type casting, and even recently, people have said, ‘Ohh, we love him, but he’s the Fonz.’ So it follows you. Not that I wouldn’t change a hair on his head because I don’t know that I would be doing this conversation if it wasn’t for him that was the foundation for the rest of my life.
Well, it seems like your old pal Ron Howard has played a big part in these transitions in your career, whether it was casting you in Arrested Development or Night Shift, helping to launch you movie career.
How about Night Shift! That’s still one of my all-time favorite movies I was in.
It still holds up—it’s a great movie.
Ron is like family.
You’re his daughter’s godfather, right? So almost literally, you guys are related.
He said to me, ‘Look, if God forbid anything happens to us, will you take all of them? You can Bar Mitzvah them if you want.’ That’s trust. That’s my Ron.
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