Henry Winkler says he’s a 'damn fool' for turning down iconic role in 'Grease'

It wasn’t always the happiest of days for The Fonz.

Henry Winkler sat down with CNN’s Chris Wallace and revealed he’s a “damn fool” for passing on the iconic lead role of Danny Zuko in “Grease.”

After a decade of playing the legendary character of Arthur Fonzarelli on “Happy Days” from 1974 to 1984, Winkler wasn’t getting many offers for other impactful roles.

Then, while working on “Happy Days,” Winkler was offered the lead role in “Grease” over John Travolta but turned it down out of fear of being typecast.

“I am a damn fool,” the 77-year-old actor said. “I only realized years afterwards. I thought, I’ve played the Fonz, I don’t want to do it again.”

Winkler as The Fonz
Passing up the role of Danny Zuko is something that has stuck with Winkler for years.
Disney General Entertainment Con

Passing up the role of the 1950s greaser has weighed heavy on Winkler’s mind.

“I go home … and I have a diet Coke. John Travolta, who has done the movie, goes home and buys a plane.”

“Grease” became the highest-grossing musical film ever at the time of its release, and in 1979 was the second-best-selling album in the US.

During the film’s run in theaters, it generated over $396 million worldwide and cemented Travolta as a leading man and heartthrob in Hollywood.

Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta as Sandy Olsson and Danny Zuko in "Grease."
Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta as Sandy Olsson and Danny Zuko in “Grease.”

Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta as Sandy Olsson and Danny Zuko in "Grease" dancing.
Following his role in “Saturday Night Fever,” Travolta’s career skyrocketed after starring in “Grease.”

Winkler, who won two Golden Globes for his role as The Fonz, has appeared in many other roles including “The Waterboy,” “Holes,” and “Arrested Development.”

Most recently, in 2019 and 2020, Winkler was nominated as Best Supporting Actor in a Television Series for his role as Gene Cousineau in Bill Hader’s HBO hit “Barry.”

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