Henry Winkler, the Tom Hanks of television and one of the most beloved men in the industry (despite his apparent feud with Hanks), has been in Hollywood for a very long time. He starred in Happy Days, after all, over 46 years ago, and in the intervening years, Winkler has been featured in numerous television shows and movies, and he’s worked with hundreds of people in the industry.
One might think, then, that Henry Winkler is friends with half the people in Hollywood, especially given his reputation as one of the nicest guys on the planet. That’s not exactly so, however, as Winkler explained to Michael Rosenbaum in an episode of his Inside of You podcast. Winkler explained that, in Hollywood, most friendships are based on “need.” For example, he spoke of two unnamed executives — one the head of a studio, and the other the head of a massive agency — who were inseparable best friends, but as soon as the industry changed, their relationship fell apart. “Their friendship was as best as their need was, and as soon as the need was over,” so was their friendship. “A genuine friendship in this industry is based on a need, a need of each other. It’s a reality.”
There are exceptions, Henry Winkler continued. Some people he has remained good friends with outside of that need. He explained that he does have a number of “friends for life” that aren’t entirely dependent on need. He cites Ron Howard, Adam Sandler, Jason Bateman, and Marion Ross. He also hopes that his Barry co-star, Bill Hader, will fall into that category after Barry is over.
Winkler, in fact, speaks glowingly of Hader. “I have great talks with Bill. I do great work with Bill. He guides me. He writes for me … he’s so complex. He’s such a great creator. And goofy, and he seems like such a wonderful Dad. I’m crazy about him.”
Unrelated, but Winkler also says that he often sends hand-written letters to people whose work he admires, and he cited, most recently, Michelle Williams and Sam Rockwell for their work in Fosse/Verdon. That dovetailed into a story about Winkler meeting Christopher Walken for the first time when Walken was a professional dancer and Winkler was working as an usher at the Yale Repertory theater. That is to say, it’s a fascinating interview for anyone who is interested in Henry Winkler.