Is Henry Winkler the sweetest man in Hollywood? After speaking with us, we’d have to say so. The iconic “Happy Days” star took time out of his busy schedule — preparing for a run on Broadway in the porn-industry-set comedy “The Performers” — to talk with us about his role in the new Kevin James comedy “Here Comes the Boom.” In the movie, James stars as Mr. Voss, a science teacher at a struggling high school who needs to raise money fast when budget cuts are threatening to can the music program and its beloved teacher Marty (naturally played by Winkler). The only way to earn the money they need is for Voss to compete in the dangerous sport of Mixed Martial Arts. But now that we’ve spoken to the Fonz, we’d be willing to fight in the octagon for his honor too.
During our chat with Winkler, the actor shared his thoughts on a variety of subjects including his long relationships with Adam Sandler and Ron Howard, displayed a hilarious impression of UFC champ Bas Rutten (that print fails to convey) and even found time to reveal a few more spoilers for the upcoming “Arrested Development” revival.
I don’t know how you find the time to do press when you’re prepping a Broadway run.
Part of the job of being an actor is to do the piece and the other half, it’s really old school, is to sell the piece. Because the fact is, I’m really proud of this movie. We had a wonderful time making it. We waited an awfully long time for it to come out. I’ve seen it now with audiences and I just wrote a tweet: “In one day, ‘Here Comes the Boom’ will make the entire family cheer. I promise.” And I literally could not write that if I did not believe I could keep my word.
It definitely seems like you’re part of the Happy Madison family now.
Well, it’s lovely, isn’t it? This is my fifth film for them.
When they tell you they want you to work on their next project, what do you anticipate?
I don’t anticipate, I just show up. I was at Adam Sandler’s Hollywood Star ceremony and he asked me to speak, I was very honored. Kevin James also spoke. I really haven’t spent time with him ever, I met him once before, we shook hands. That afternoon, we go home, the ceremony is finished. I have a sandwich at home. I get a phone call. “Hi, it’s Kevin James.” “Hi Kevin, how are you?” “Good, good, good. Hey, didn’t we have fun today at that ceremony?” He said, “Would you like to be in my movie?” I said, “Yeah, okay, I’d like to do that.”
Didn’t read a script. My instinct, which is what I work off anyway, just went off and said, “Say Yes.’” And we were off to the races.
What’s the reason you keep coming back to Sandler and crew?
First of all, straight up: because they ask me. Let’s not pussyfoot around. Second of all, because I truly love these people. Adam could be my son. He is filled with heart. He is filled with goodness. And the people that he has around him are the same.
How do you look back now on “The Waterboy”?
Oh my God. Do you know that people still talk to me about “The Waterboy” as if it came out yesterday? All over the world, people talk to me, and in the same way that another generation puts their thumb up for The Fonz, there is a whole generation that comes up and goes “Gaaatorade.” It’s a very nice thing.
I wanted to talk about “Click” for a moment: the scene where it’s the last time that Adam sees you alive, some of my closest friends — adult men — are willing to admit that they cried like a baby watching that.
There are two things about that scene. One, it was an honor that he asked me to play his dad because Adam Sandler is enormously close to his parents. His dad died pretty soon after his wedding and he was devastated. And that I was asked to play his dad, I knew instinctively that it was really thought out. Then, I get talked to about that scene everywhere. And I have taken my quarter trick from the movie and I carry it with me. And when I do book signings for my children’s books, I do the quarter trick, all over the world. And the look on the children’s faces when I get it right, it’s just more adorable than I can stand in my body.
Now would you ever be willing to try a training session of MMA?
Okay, and I’m going to answer you, candidly, straight out. This is what I have learned from the movie: stay out of the cage. Those men, to a person, are Zen gentlemen. But they are the largest men you have ever met in your life. You could buy a condominium in one of them. And then, when they get in that ring, they will kick your head off your shoulders.
Not even if you had Kevin James and Bas Rutten as your personal coaches?
Bas Rutten literally comes from another planet. I sat next to him for months, watching offside and watching Kevin fight. And he said, “They’re coming around, you’ve got to put your arm around! I feel like I have to hit somebody! I have to hit something! Oh, he makes me mad, he makes me mad!” I said, “Bas, is it all right if you keep your mind and you don’t hit me?” “No, no, no. I won’t hit you. I have to hit something.” “Okay, Bas.”
Impressive Bas Rutten impression, I must say.
Thank you! Sitting next to him was not all for naught.
Now of course, I have to ask about the new season of “Arrested Development.”
I just finished shooting my part in the upcoming episodes. Mitch Hurwitz is one of the three or four geniuses that I have worked with over my career. I’m not kidding, it’s as funny as you want it to be.
The talk of a revival has been going on for years and the fan base never gave up hope that it would come back.
I’ll tell you exactly why. Mitch was worried. How do you bring all those people forward six years in a two hour movie? And he couldn’t solve that problem for himself. So, he made the deal with Netflix to make ten episodes. Each episode is a character. Each episode is a member of the family and each episode brings you forward. So now everybody will be up to date and then out of that will come the movie. But Mitch is there every day and watches the comedy like a mother hen. I would say point-one percent is ad-libbed. The rest of it is written by Mitch and his incredible team. And then, I think even Michael Cera, this go-around, has spent a lot of time in the writer’s room.
Did you always have faith that it would come back?
Mitch and I talked a lot about it. I never knew because it is such a fragile decision, you know? And I ended every conversation with him over the years, “You will know in your stomach when it is right. You’re being pulled in every direction to do it, to do it this way, to do it that way. And only you will know when it is right.”
Looking back on another underrated collaboration with Ron Howard, what were your expectations of him as a director, going into “Night Shift”?
He said, “Henry, you can play either part.” And I thought, “Well, I’ve played The Fonz for a long time. I’m going to play Richie.” He was so young and it was his first movie for a major studio. He is like my brother, and he said to me, “Do you think that the crew will take me seriously because I’m so young?” When we got on the set, you would ask him a question about something in the scene, and he would take his moment and he’d run the film in his head to see if it fit with what he wanted.
And while we waited, the entire crew and the actors stopped, leaned forward in order to wait for what Ron Howard was going to say. He is an inwardly powerful human being. At 18, when I met him, he had that power. Without ever saying a word, without ever wielding it, without ever showing it off, he just exists that way. So, I knew I was in great hands. He is living his dream. As I am right now living that phrase, “Be very careful what you wish for.”
Click here for “Here Comes the Boom” showtimes.
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<strong>This video is NSFW. </strong>
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