Going by the latest reports from Celebrity Net Worth, Henry Winkler is worth the jaw dropping sum of $30 million. Considering he’s been working since 1972, it’s hardly surprising he’s not short of a dime or two… but $30 million adds up to a lot more than that. So, how exactly did someone labelled a “dumb dog" by their father make such a fortune?
Winkler was born on October 30, 1945, in Manhattan to parents Ilse Anna Marie, a homemaker, and Harry Irving Winkler, a lumber import-export company president. As a child, Winkler struggled with his studies, something he’s since attributed to undiagnosed dyslexia.
Although he had to attend summer school in order to graduate high school, he overcame his educational difficulties enough to earn both a BA from Emerson College, and, in 1970, an MFA from the Yale School of Drama.
For the next few years, Winkler earned his keep by taking on work in commercials – in one year alone, he managed to pull in over 30 jobs, the earnings from which meant he could practice his art by performing for free at the Manhattan Theater Club. In 1973, Winkler landed his first credited TV role as Steve Waldman on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
Various other small gigs followed, and by 1974 (the year everything changed for the young actor), he’d featured on Nightmare, The Bob Newhart Show, Rhoda, and Paul Sand in Friends and Lovers.
At the start of 1974, Henry Winkler was still an unknown name. By the end of the decade, he was one of the biggest stars on TV. The reason? Happy Days… or more specifically, “The Fonz”. Although originally conceived as the foil to the show’s intended star, Ron Howard, the Fonz (and with him, Winkler) quickly developed into the show’s main focus, remaining a firm fan favorite all the way up until the show’s end in 1984.
1974 -1984 may have been the time of the Fonz, but it was also the period Winkler made the successful transition into film. After making his debut in Crazy Joe (1974), Winkler cemented his new leading man status with starring roles in The Lords of Flatbush (1974), Heroes (1977), The One and Only (1978), Night Shift (1982), and An American Christmas Carol (1979).
In 1977, he showed us his talents behind the camera when he executive produced (not to mention narrated) the documentary, Who Are the DeBolts? And Where Did They Get Nineteen Kids?: the film proved as much of a success with critics as it did with audiences, earning an Academy Award for Best Feature-length Documentary and the Directors Guild of America Award.
A Move into Production
Winkler’s success with the award-winning Who Are the DeBolts? And Where Did They Get Nineteen Kids? was no fluke. When Happy Days ended in 1984, Winkler launched the production company, Fair Dinkum Productions. Through the company’s activities, Winkler had a hand in some of the biggest and most successful shows of the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s, including MacGyver, So Weird, Mr. Sunshine, Sightings, the made-for-television film Scandal Sheet, and the game shows Wintuition and Hollywood Squares.
At around the same time, Winkler moved into directing, with some of his most successful projects including the Billy Crystal movie Memories of Me (1988) and Cop and a Half (1993) with Burt Reynolds.
A Return to Acting
After spending the bulk of the mid- to late- the 1980s behind the camera, Winkler made a return to our screens in the 1991 film, Absolute Strangers. 3 years later, his uncredited but scene-stealing appearance in Scream propelled him back into the limelight in a major way.
In 1998, he appeared in The Waterboy, a film that divided the critics but at least served to introduce Winkler to Adam Sandler: the pair’s unlikely friendship would see Winkler appear in several of Sandler’s follow up projects (including Little Nicky (2000), Click (2006), and You Don't Mess with the Zohan (2008)), bringing in the big bucks and introducing him to a whole new audience in the process.
Since his return to acting, Winkler has remained an almost permanent fixture on our screens, with some of his most notable work including Arrested Development (2003 -2019). Children’s Hospital (2010-2016), Parks and Recreation (2013 -2015), Better Late Than Never (on which he also served as executive producer, 2016 -2018), and Guardians of the Galaxy (2019).
Hank Zipzer and the Road to Riches
Winkler’s dyslexia may have been a hindrance at school, but several decades later, it’s proving to be one of the secrets to his continued success (not to mention huge fortune). In 2003, Winkler introduced us to his literary creation, the dyslexic fourth grader Hank Zipzer.
So far, Hank has appeared in 18 hugely successful children’s books, as well as an equally successful TV adaptation and TV movie (in which Winkler himself appeared as the voice of Mr. Rock). Since 2008, Winkler’s been busy introducing Hank to each new generation of school kids with his incredibly popular annual tour – something that’s no doubt keeping the unit sales of the series on an ever-upwards trajectory.
Pantomime may not be much of a “thing” in the States, but in the UK, it’s huge. In 2006, Winkler made his first panto appearance as Captain Hook at the New Wimbledon Theatre’s production of Peter Pan. He proved such a success in the role, he was invited to reprise it in Woking in 2007, Milton Keynes in 2008/2009, and again at the Liverpool Empire in 2013.
At the age of 74, Winkler has enjoyed a long, hugely successful career that’s spanned pretty much every avenue of entertainment you can think of. Whether he’s donning the cap of actor, comedian, director, producer, or author, he seems to have the Midas touch when it comes to making a success of any project he turns his hand to…. something that more than explains that $30 million-dollar fortune.
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Written by Allen Lee
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