Henry Winkler on ‘SNL’, ‘The French Dispatch’ and refusing Danny Zuko role in ‘Grease’

Since the turn of the century, Henry Winkler has shown the public that he is more than just a jukebox, a motorcycle, a leather jacket wearing a cool dude.

The Fonz, as he was once better known, has established himself as a comedy powerhouse, a family artist and now as a children’s author. At 75, Winkler is enjoying some of his best professional years, with a hit TV show in Barry, a new book on the shelves (Alien Superstar) and is now part of one of the strongest ensemble distributions seen in 2021, in The French dispatch.

“What an incredible thing that I’ve been asked, in my life, to be in a Wes Anderson movie,” Winkler said. News week, from the start.

With a cast list that includes Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Léa Seydoux and many more recognizable names, Winkler says it was a dream to be involved in the small role he plays. As Uncle Joe, he forms a double act with Bob Balaban, and with typically great exuberance, describes the direction he received from Wes Anderson.

“You stay there for hours with joy. And all of a sudden Wes said ‘Henry’. I thought, ‘he’s going to give me direction. I’m going to have direction, from Wes Anderson.'”

Winkler remembers how he came to attention for his director: “‘Yes sir.'”

Mimicking Anderson, “‘Could you move … a millimeter to your left?’

“‘I can and I will.’ and oh my god. I did, “Winkler says with a laugh.” I can honestly say I did it. “

The French dispatch is an anthology tale divided into three distinct parts. Winkler stars in the first of three, “The Concrete Masterpiece” alongside “fierce, sweet, intelligent, unpredictable” Benicio del Toro and “charming, charming” Léa Seydoux.

Winkler confirms that if the opportunity arose to work with Anderson again, he wouldn’t need to be asked twice, he would “leave right away without packing.”

Henry Winkler (middle right) shoots a crowded stage alongside Tilda Swinton, Lois Smith, Adrien Brody and Bob Balaban in “The French Dispatch” by Wes Anderson.
20th century workshops

This fear of missing out on opportunities leads to talk about one of Winkler’s biggest career regrets: the time he turned down the role of Danny Zuko in Fat.

We offered him the part after playing Fonzie, and thought, “I don’t want to do this again.

“I went home and drank orange juice. John Travolta said yes [to the role], and he went home and bought a plane. “

Thinking further, Winkler said, “I was stupid. I was stupid. I didn’t see the big picture. I thought I was going to be labeled. And, I was labeled, nothing was stopping. that. I haven’t worked for eight years after The Fonz, really. “

Instead, Winkler decided to remove the label his famous role had given him and ended up “reinventing” himself as a producer. He produced the hit TV show Mac Gyver for seven years but admits, “I was if I had to do it again. I would shut up and mind my own business.

Back as Gene Cousineau in ‘Barry’

Since those Happy Days of the 70s and 80s, Winkler continued his character work, playing a sports trainer, lawyer and doctor as The water boy, Development stopped, and Parks and recreation, respectively.

This work with the new wave of comedians led him to the popular HBO series Barry, alongside Bill Hader.

“There are no words. One day I got a call and they’re like you’re on our shortlist and they’d like to meet you for a new show with Bill Hader. Bill Hader? Oh, I got it. watch every week, for eight years now Saturday Night Live. “After making sure the shortlist didn’t include Dustin Hoffman (” because he’s going to get it. “) Winkler says the rest is history.

Bill Hader, Henry Winkler Alec Berg
Bill Hader, Henry Winkler and Alec Berg attend the 2018 “Barry” California launch.
FilmMagic / FilmMagic

Returning as Gene Cousineau, Winkler is currently filming season 3 of the series and he confirms that season 4 is written and ready to shoot next year. The third season “will be released around March” while the fourth season “might even start filming then too”.

Winkler is full of praise for the creative duo behind the murderous comedy-drama, “Bill [Hader] and Alec Berg – the other producer, creator, screenwriter, director – they form a bubble of magnificence that I can live in. “

Missing your ‘SNL’ opportunity

Mentioning that he was a fan of Hader’s work on SNL This might come as a surprise considering that Winkler, who has held a prominent place in the entertainment industry for five decades, has never hosted the show.

“I was asked when I was younger, and it wasn’t my time. I didn’t know how to do that. I really would have been out of my element,” Winkler said.

Although he was never hosted, he has made an appearance in Studio 8H before, appearing as the Fonz interviewed by “Baba Wawa”. With a nod to SNL Boss Lorne Michaels, Winkler confirms he’s ready to host now, if the call ever comes.

“Now I could host. I am relaxed enough to try. But again, you have to ask yourself. “

“Alien Superstar: Hollywood vs. Galaxy”

While Winkler is known to many for his television and film work, he has a legion of fans for his work as an author of children’s books.

Despite being dyslexic – he was diagnosed at the age of 31 – Winkler and his partner Lin Oliver have published 37 children’s novels. His latest is the end of a trilogy, Alien Superstar: Hollywood vs. Galaxy.

“We’ve written so many children’s novels and we’ve been to so many classrooms, and found out that kids, they’re obsessed with celebrity, and they’re obsessed with outer space, come to Earth and gets a job in a sitcom on Universal, because he already has the costume. “

Winkler knows how to count The French dispatch co-stars Timothée Chalamet as a fan of his work. When Chalamet was young, Winkler visited his school to read his latest Hank Zipzer: the world’s biggest underachiever book to children.

“What about a connection?” Winkler guesses.

The French Connection hits theaters in the United States on Friday, October 22, 2021.

Henri Rouilleur
Henry Winkler pictured in Los Angeles, California in October 2021.
Images RB / Bauer-Griffin / GC

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