Henry Winkler Explains How Adam Sandler Saved His Career


The Waterboy co-stars Adam Sandler and Henry Winkler reunited on Jimmy Kimmel Live! Monday night. During their segment together, Winkler revealed that Sandler saved his career by offering him a role in the raunchy comedy.

Winkler, who recently revealed himself to be Sylvester Stallone’s savior during the Rocky star’s early days, was promoting his memoir Being Henry: The Fonz…and Beyond. The legendary Happy Days actor, who played Arthur “The Fonze” Fonzarelli over eleven seasons, recalled that his career was utterly stalled when Sandler offered him the part of kind-hearted Coach Klein in The Waterboy.

“The Waterboy was a very important reemergence for me,” Winkler confessed, looking earnestly between Sandler and Kimmel. “You know, when I finished [playing] the Fonze, I could not get hired really as an actor. And this was a very important [role].”

Frank Coraci’s movie starred Sandler as a bullied water boy working for a small-town football team. When fired, he channels his rage into becoming the star tackle for a lame-duck rival team, overseen by Klein (Winkler). When it was released 25 years ago, in November 1998, The Waterboy was astonishingly lucrative. It grossed $161 million ($358.6 million adjusted for inflation) worldwide, marking the first bonafide hit for Sandler as a leading man.

After The Waterboy’s release, Winkler’s career soared. He further endeared himself to younger audiences with a role on the cult sitcom Arrested Development, and re-teamed with Sandler for Click and You Don’t Mess with the Zohan. Most recently, Winkler won an Emmy for his turn as self-obsessed acting coach Gene Cousineau on HBO’s Barry. He also appeared in a memorable role in Black Adam.

On Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Winkler reflected on how much fun he had filming The Waterboy with Sandler and his gang. He recalled “hurtling down the highway in Florida” in the middle of the night after a crew member hauled him out of bed for an impromptu bass fishing expedition.

“I learned also to smoke a cigar because of you,” Winkler proudly told Sandler, which sent the SNL veteran into babbling convulsions of anxiety.

“Oh don’t say that!” bellowed Sandler, who was appearing to promote his Netflix children’s film Leo. “Nobody learned nothin’ from that!”

Ever the nice guy, Winkler brought it back around to what a pleasure it was to work with the comedian. “When you do a movie with Adam,” he told the crowd, “he wants you to be the most comfortable you can be.”

Being Henry: The Fonz…and Beyond is available now. Leo is currently streaming on Netflix.

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