Henry Winkler revealed how The Fonz saved Rocky
Winkler helped newcomer Sylvester Stallone keep the rights to his boxing script.
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Before Happy Days, Henry Winkler strutted his stuff in a leather jacket in the coming-of-age film The Lords of Flatbush (technically released four months after the premiere of Happy Days but filmed before). His costar was another actor on the verge of superstardom — Sylvester Stallone.
The two hit it off, unlike a third future household name, Richard Gere, who left the film after clashing with Stallone. Winkler talked to Vulture for their virtual entertainment festival about how Stallone was writing what would become his most famous role. Stallone was so intent on finishing the script, "He painted his windows black so he wouldn't know if it was day or night," Winkler remembers.
Fast forward to when Winkler was living in Los Angeles, taking over TV airwaves as Arthur "Fonzie" Fonzarelli in Happy Days. Stallone moved to Hollywood (with help from Winkler, who came to the rescue after Stallone, his wife and his dog were stranded on Sunset Boulevard) in hopes of turning the script he'd worked so hard on into a movie.
"He gave me a script," Winkler says, "And I took that script that he wrote to ABC." The studio wanted to move forward, even giving Winkler money to produce it. "But then they said, 'We're gonna change the writer.' That's what Hollywood does."
Winkler broke the news to his friend "Sly," who begged him not to let that happen. In an unprecedented move, Winkler offered to give the money back to ABC if they relinquished rights to the project. The studio initially balked at the idea, but Winkler used his clout as one of the most popular characters on television to convince them.
As he puts it, "Now, because I was the Fonz, I had a little bit of play room, and I convinced them to give me back the script." We can't help but wonder if he snapped his fingers right before they changed their minds!
Winkler caps the story off by saying, "I gave the script back to Sly and it went on to become Rocky."
Turns out we can thank Henry Winkler and the literal power of the Fonz for one of the greatest boxing movies ever made.