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Ron Howard Nearly Walked Off “Happy Days” When Producers Floated a New Title Showcasing Henry Winkler's Fonzie

For his part, Winkler also wasn't on board with the change — even during a peak moment in his career when creator Garry Marshall had to take the actor aside to demand he keep his ego in check

<p>Gilbert Flores/Variety via Getty Images; Amanda Edwards/Getty Images</p> Ron Howard (left) and Henry Winkler

Gilbert Flores/Variety via Getty Images; Amanda Edwards/Getty Images

Ron Howard (left) and Henry Winkler

Ron Howard had a mind to quit when producers considered changing the name of Happy Days.

The Happy Days alum, 69, revealed he nearly left the iconic 70s sitcom when network executives at ABC approached the actor about changing the name of the show to Fonzie’s Happy Days when his costar Henry Winkler's fame began to rise.

"I said, 'If you do that, it is an insult to everybody I’m working with. Why fix something that isn’t broken? We are really good. I live in the family and that’s why I’m successful. I’m asking you, if you never listen to me again, leave it alone,'" Winkler, 78, said in a joint interview with Howard, 69, for The New York Times.

<p>ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty</p> Ron Howard and Henry Winkler on 'Happy Days'

ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty

Ron Howard and Henry Winkler on 'Happy Days'

Related: Henry Winkler Struggled with Lines as the Fonz, Felt 'So F---ing' Angry After Dyslexia Diagnosis (Exclusive)

Though he acknowledged that he "contractually" was obligated to stay on the show, Howard told the network execs he "would leave."

"But I told them if you really want to change the name of the show to that, I would rather go back to USC and film school and what I was doing before the show launched," he recalled.

Happy Days ran for 11 seasons on ABC from 1974 to 1984. Set in 1950s and '60s Milwaukee, it followed the Cunningham family: father Howard, mother Marion, son Richie (Howard) and daughter Joanie, as well as Richie's friends Potsie and Ralph and, of course, local bad boy, Arthur "Fonzie" Fonzarelli (Winkler).

The cast of 'Happy Days'
The cast of 'Happy Days'

Though Winkler wasn't on board with the name change, his popularity did result in a bit of an ego. He told the outlet that the show's creator Garry Marshall was "generous" but "took no bad behavior" when it came to actors stepping out.

"One time, when he was announcing the guest cast, I said, 'Garry, we have to hurry up because I’m flying to Arkansas,'" he recalled. "He nodded, put down the microphone, grabbed me by my shirt, put me against the wall and said, 'Don’t ever do that again, because they have every right to be recognized like you.' He kept us in line."

Related: Henry Winkler's 'Happy Days' Fame Stunned His Wife When 'the Entire Theater Came Over' on First Movie Date (Exclusive)

Howard previously confessed he felt that he was treated with "disrespect" on Happy Days when Winkler's character became more popular.

"It was a really interesting kind of paradoxical situation because the show began and the Richie Cunningham character was the undeniable lead of the show," Howard said while appearing on The Graham Norton Show in November 2021, adding that Winkler was "remarkable" as "The Fonz" from the start.

But as Winkler's star continued to rise throughout the show's duration, Howard said the show's "executives, studio heads, network heads" changed their attitude toward him.

Henry Winkler and Ron Howard
Henry Winkler and Ron Howard

Related: Henry Winkler Reveals He Rode Fonzie's Iconic Motorcycle Only Once — and Crashed It

"When we would go out of the road to promote the show, it was just insane, focused on Fonzy, clearly that was very exciting," Howard recalled. "Except the executives, studio heads, network heads, you know, they started treating me with a lot of disrespect from a business standpoint [and] in terms of interaction."

He continued, "The press kept saying 'What's it like? Do you feel like you've become a secondhand citizen on your own show?'"

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But despite any issues between Howard and the network, he said the tension never had a negative effect on his relationship with Winkler. He revealed that their friendship "endures to this day" and Winkler is the "godfather of all four of my kids."

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