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Arts & Life

Henry Winkler On Garry Marshall: 'He Was An Unstoppable Creator'

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Among the actors Garry Marshall helped turn into household names - Henry Winkler. We heard him for a moment there in his role as the legendary Fonz, and Henry Winkler is on the line with us now. And I want to welcome you to the program and say, we're so sorry for your loss.

HENRY WINKLER: Thank you so much. Thank you. I'm very happy to be here to talk about one Garry Marshall.

CORNISH: You know, today - last night, you tweeted about Garry Marshall. You said, thank you for my professional life. Thank you for your loyalty, friendship and generosity. What do you remember about your first meetings with him?

WINKLER: First meeting with him - Paramount Studios - I went in and auditioned. I had six lines. I did the audition. I was called back, but this time, I had a unibrow that they plucked. My hair was combed into a DA. They put on a leather jacket, a white T-shirt, and I auditioned again. And this time, I landed this small role on "Happy Days."

CORNISH: And when Garry Marshall spoke to NPR's Scott Simon back in 2012, he talked about you being a breakout star there. Let's listen to a bit of that.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

GARRY MARSHALL: He wasn't at all like Fonzie - Henry Winkler - but he could act. And he just made guttural sounds and ho-ho (ph) and hey. And a lot of them Henry made up himself - whoa-ing (ph) and hey-ing (ph).

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "HAPPY DAYS")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) One burger, one Coke.

WINKLER: (As Fonzie) Hey.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) What's hey?

WINKLER: (As Fonzie) Hey.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) Oh, I'm sorry. Too much ice in the Coke and not enough ketchup on the hamburger. I'll be right back.

CORNISH: Henry Winkler, what's it like hearing his voice again? What does it remind you of how he approached his work?

WINKLER: Garry was one of the three geniuses, maybe, that I've worked with in my life. He would say, I'm allergic to 134 things. I do have pasta with ketchup. I - he would solve problems by tilting his head. And so many solutions came off the top of it that you then had a problem and you didn't know which one to pick because they were all unbelievable.

He was fierce. He was fiercely loyal to his family. If you were part of his family, he was fiercely loyal to you. He was wise. He would always take your phone call. If you had a problem, no matter what it was, you went to Garry. He said - one of the biggest lessons I have learned from him is knew who he was. He said everybody does important television. I do recess. And the world has thoroughly enjoyed his recess.

CORNISH: It's interesting hearing you using - mimicking his the famous Bronx accent. You know, "Happy Days" was set in Middle America. Marshall grew up in New York. And it seems like a lot of his work is about innocence.

WINKLER: He - his heart was gigantic. I can't even tell you how many people in this industry, in this world were touched by this man, effortlessly. You know, I wasn't kidding in my tweet. I'm here on the phone with you all these years later - 40 years later - because he introduced me to the world, having given me the part of Arthur Fonzarelli.

CORNISH: And how will you remember him? What do you think his legacy will be?

WINKLER: His legacy will be he is larger - he was larger than life. He was loving. I learned how to be an executive producer from him. People have learned how to live their life from him. And he was an unstoppable creator.

CORNISH: Actor Henry Winkler - he spoke to us about his friend Garry Marshall. Marshall died yesterday at a hospital in Burbank. He was 81. Henry Winkler, thank you.

WINKLER: What a pleasure. I'm so sorry it was this occasion. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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