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."
Eric Larnick: I don’t know how you find the time to do press when you’re prepping a Broadway run.
Henry Winkler: 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.
EL: When Happy Madison family tells you they want you to work on their next project, what do you anticipate?
HW: 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.
EL: What’s the reason you keep coming back to Sandler and crew?
HW: 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.
EL: Now would you ever be willing to try a training session of MMA?
HW: 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.
EL: Not even if you had Kevin James and Bas Rutten as your personal coaches?
HW: 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.”
EL: Looking back on another underrated collaboration with Ron Howard, what were your expectations of him as a director, going into “Night Shift"?
HW: 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.”