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The Real Story Behind Hollywood Icons Henry Winkler and Tom Hanks’ Decades-Long Feud

The Real Story Behind Hollywood Icons Henry Winkler and Tom Hanks’ Decades-Long Feud September 9, 2021Leave a comment

Henry Winkler and Tom Hanks are two of Hollywood’s most iconic actors. Winkler is of course famous for his role as The Fonz in the sitcom “Happy Days,” and Hanks has a number of famous film roles under his belt. And the two actors have another thing in common: they are both known by their fans as the nicest man in Hollywood.

But even the most hardcore fans probably don’t know that these two have been caught in a seemingly endless feud that has lasted for multiple decades. But what drove a wedge between these two famous celebrities and which famous director has been caught in the middle?

Ron Howard Knows Hanks and Winkler Very Well

Flickr / Dick Thomas Johnson / CC 2.0

Director Ron Howard has had the privilege of working with tons of Hollywood giants, including Henry Winkler and Tom Hanks among others. But he actually has a lot of history with these gentlemen— history that spans several decades.

Howard’s Relationship With Hank Was a "Splash"

Buena Vista Distribution

Howard first met Hanks while directing the 1984 film “Splash.” Hanks played Allen Bauer, a New York City wholesale fruit and vegetable business owner who falls hopelessly in love with Madison the mermaid, played by Daryl Hannah. Of course, this was not the last time they worked together.

They Reunited for "Apollo 13"

Universal Pictures

In 1995, Howard and Hanks reunited for “Apollo 13.” Hanks played Jim Lovell, one of the astronauts who was aboard Apollo 13. The ship was famous for suffering a malfunction in space caused by the explosion of one of its oxygen tanks. Eventually, fate would unite the famous director and actor once again.

They Worked on "The Da Vinci Code"

Sony Pictures Releasing

In 2006, Howard directed the “Da Vinci Code,” a majorly successful box office hit that garnered over $750 million. This time, Hanks played Robert Langdon, a Harvard University professor. But this was only the beginning for these two industry giants.

"The Da Vinci Code" Spawned Two Sequels

Sony Pictures Releasing

"The Da Vinci Code” was such a hit that it spawned two sequels: “Angels and Demons” and “Inferno.” Hanks reprised his role in the films as well and it helped cement his relationship with Howard.

Howard and Hanks Are Very Like-Minded

Universal Pictures

During an interview with the South China Morning Post in 2016, Howard discussed why they worked on so many movies together. “We’re also very like-minded about the opportunities that a movie offers: the excitement, the sense of responsibility to the story and the audience. So we’re always on the same page– once we agree to do a movie together.”

They Don’t Always See Eye to Eye

YouTube / Today

While it might seem like Hanks has been in every film directed by Howard, the director explained: “But there have been times where we’ve discussed projects and we didn’t see it the same way and we didn’t pursue those. The ones we make together are the ones that we’re passionate about.”

Hanks Makes Fun of Howard

Wikimedia Commons / Dick Thomas Johnson / CC 2.5

Hanks is known for taking on dramatic roles so it may come as a surprise that he has a comedic side as well, particularly when he does impersonations of his dear friend, Howard. He has even done these impressions on “Saturday Night Live.” But how does the director feel about this?

Howard Laughs It Off

Public Domain

In 2020, Howard shared with The Guardian how he felt about Hanks’ impression of him. “I think his imitations are terrible! But they’re sort of infectious. I now find, when I’m directing him, I direct [Hanks] the way he portrays me on talk shows. But we have a lot of laughs about it.”

Howard and Winkler Go Way Back

CBS Television Distribution

Although Howard and Hanks have a strong friendship, Howard and Winkler go way back to the 1970s. In fact, they even worked together at one point. The only difference was that at that time, they were both young up and coming actors in a sitcom.

They Met on the "Happy Days" Set

CBS Television Distribution

At the time, Howard played the Fonz's red-haired sidekick, Richie Cunningham. In various episodes, Richie did everything he could to get a date. And he often relied on The Fonz for advice with women since he was such a ladies' man.

The Fonz Was an Icon

CBS Television Distribution

The Fonz, sometimes referred to as Fonzie, was a greaser who wore a leather jacket and loved motorcycles almost as much as he loved women. But how did Howard feel about Winkler playing The Fonz when they initially met?

Howard Was Starstruck by Winkler

CBS Television Distribution

In 2019, Howard told Closer Weekly that he was starstruck by Winkler. “It was exciting for me to work with Henry because he was really a trained actor who attended Yale Drama School; just a trained New York actor. And, I’d grown up sort of through the Hollywood television system. So for me to work with this guy who was so thoughtful, so creative and yet so hilarious was really an opportunity for me to learn and grow and we just clicked, you know?”

They Were Like Brothers

CBS Television Distribution

In the same interview, Winkler shared Howard’s sentiment. “I think people gravitate to the Fonzie/Richie relationship because Ron and I are ten years apart. He was 18 and I was 27. We had a connection that you cannot describe in real life, and it was similar off-camera. He gave me my first mitt; I’d never played baseball before. He’s my brother.”

Howard Was a Little Jealous

CBS Television Distribution

Despite their mutual admiration for one another, Howard admitted he was jealous of Winkler. In 2019, during an interview on “Inside the Actors Studio,” the director confessed that he was upset that The Fonz was more popular than Richie.

The Fonz Took the Lead

CBS Television Distribution

The Fonz was originally intended to be a secondary character on the sitcom, but the audience loved him so much that he quickly took center stage. Despite this, Howard put his feelings of jealousy aside when he realized Winkler was just doing what the studio wanted him to do.

They Cleared the Air


During the interview, Winkler shared, “The fourth year, we went to a dude ranch and did a two-parter – riding wild bulls. I had to sit on a bull. Ron Howard drove me home in his VW, and I said, ‘Ron, tell me now. How are you feeling? We haven’t talked about this.’ He said, ‘You didn’t do one thing other than be good at what you’re doing. My feelings were hurt, but it’s good for the show.’”

Winkler is the Godfather to Howard’s Daughter

Twitter / hwinkler4real

Years later, Howard’s bond with Winkler became so strong that he asked the "Happy Days" actor to be the godfather to his daughter, Bryce Dallas Howard. And Winkler was more than happy to accept that honor, which he still celebrates wholeheartedly.

The Mystery Remained


It seemed like Howard and Winkler were able to move past their differences. But there was still one mystery that no fan has been able to figure out so far. How did Winkler and Hanks wind up at odds with one another?

Celebrity Feuds Are Nothing New

Flickr / John Bauld / CC 2.0

Celebrity feuds are actually quite common in Hollywood. As a matter of fact, some actors resort to all sorts of actions from passive-aggressive jabs on social media to full on name-calling and in some cases physical attacks. But as far as anyone knew, none of this had happened between the “Happy Days” and “Turner and Hooch” actors.

"Turner and Hooch" Was the Turning Point

Buena Vista Pictures Distribution

The 1989 comedy “Turner and Hooch” starred Hanks as a cop who was forced to partner up with a French Mastiff to solve the unexplained murder of his owner. But how was Winkler involved in this project?

Winkler Was Supposed to Direct

Warner Bros. Television Distribution

Winkler was supposed to direct “Turner and Hooch.” But while everything seemed to be going as planned, something happened that left the director shaken. Two weeks into production, Winkler was let go from the project.

Hanks May Be to Blame

Buena Vista Pictures Distribution

It’s not clear why Winkler was let go from “Turner and Hooch” but an interview he did with People magazine in 1993 seems to suggest that it was Hank’s fault. “Let’s just say… I got along better with Hooch than I did with Turner,” he explained.

Hanks Was Considered a Good Guy

Facebook / Humans of New York

Hanks is generally known for being a good guy in Hollywood. He once gifted the White House press corp. an espresso machine. He made friends with a New York City taxi driver and even returned a Fordham University student’s lost ID through Twitter. But rumor has it that Hanks did a not-so-nice thing to Winkler that might explain the feud.

The Question of Winkler’s Dismissal Resurfaced

YouTube/Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen

In 2019, while promoting the sitcom “Barry” on “Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen,” the question of who was responsible for Winkler’s dismissal from “Turner and Hooch” reared its ugly little head again.

A Viewer Asked About the Feud

YouTube/Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen

When a viewer called in, they asked Winkler about his reported feud with Hanks. And the actor behaved as though he hadn’t understood the question. But that was a lie. Left with no other choice, he decided to confront the inquiry head on.

Winkler Told His Side of the Story

Twitter / hwinkler4real

Winkler explained: “I was directing that movie [Turner and Hooch] for 13 days and then I was called into [producer] Jeff Katzenberg’s office and he said, ‘You have everything with you? Go home.’” But how was Hanks tied to this decision?

He Got Along Great With the Dog

YouTube/Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen

Winkler told Cohen how he felt about the dog. “I got along great, great with that dog. Love that dog.” But The Fonz actor didn’t mention Hanks and many viewers felt that this hinted that he did not get along very well with him, even though the two actors are both known as some of the nicest men in Hollywood.

Winkler Wasn’t Moved by Hanks’ Speech

Flickr / Angela George / CC 3.0

Then, during the 2020 Golden Globe Awards, something happened that fueled the rumors of a feud even further. During Hanks’ speech for the Cecil B. DeMille Award, the cameras panned on Winkler, who was in the audience. And it was obvious from his facial expression that he was not a fan.

Winkler Denied a Feud With Hanks

YouTube / NBC

Despite how he looked during the Golden Globes, Winkler told TMZ a few weeks later that there was no feud. “I don’t have a feud with Tom Hanks. What everybody says and what is true are two different things.”

The Media Got It Wrong Before

Facebook / John Travolta

Winkler told TMZ that Hanks wasn’t the only actor that the press falsely claimed he had a feud with. “There used to be a tremendous feud between John Travolta and me. And there was no feud. It’s created, and it’s wonderful.”

Winkler Was Almost Cast in "Grease"

Paramount Pictures

Winkler was offered the role of Danny Zuko in “Grease,” but he was afraid of being typecast as a rebellious greaser. So, the role was eventually offered to John Travolta. So, given that it was Winkler’s choice, there was no real reason behind the reported feud with Travolta.

Winkler Was Just Having Some Fun

YouTube/Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen

Winkler knew that fans and the press fed off of drama, so the comments he made to Andy Cohen and People magazine that indicated a feud were not what they seemed to be. Winkler claimed he just said those things as a joke. But would he ever consider working with Hanks again?

He Was Open to Working With Hanks

Flickr / Paula R. Lively / CC 2.0

He shared with TMZ that he had run into Hanks at the Screen Actors Guild Awards and expressed the following about the encounter: “It was beautiful.” Winkler further added that he wouldn’t rule out the possibility of working on a future project with him.

He May Have Already Worked With Hanks

Hallmark Channel

Winkler claimed that he posed with Hanks in front of the cameras while they were attending a Burno Mars concert. But despite his words, there are as of yet no photos circulating on social media to corroborate the "Happy Days" actor’s claims.

Winkler Worked With Hanks’ Wife

YouTube / Conan

While Winkler hasn’t worked with Hanks since his minor directing stint on “Turner and Hooch,” he has worked with his wife. It turns out that Rita Wilson was on two episodes of “Happy Days.” In one episode she played Roxanne in season 10. A year later, she played a different character named Barbara.

Hanks Also Appeared on "Happy Days"

CBS Television Distribution

Wilson wasn’t the only one who guest-starred on “Happy Days.” In an interesting twist of fate, Hanks guest-starred in the episode titled “A Little Case of Revenge” during season 10. And in that episode, Hanks and Winkler were enemies.

A Little Case of Revenge

CBS Television Distribution

In the “Happy Days” episode “A Little Case of Revenge,” Hanks played Doctor Dwayne Twitchell, a black belt karate guru who’s looking for revenge against The Fonz. To that end, Twitchell challenges him to a fight in the middle of the diner.

Hanks Never Confirmed the Feud

Flickr / Angela George / CC 3.0

Although fans have heard an awful lot from Winkler, Hanks has never discussed the reported feud between them in any of his interviews. But there is a mutual friend of theirs that seemingly confirmed that the two men don’t like each other at all.

Howard Got Candid

Flickr / John Bauld / CC 2.0

While promoting his “Rebuilding Paradise” documentary in 2020, Ron Howard was asked by The Guardian about the feud between Hanks and Winkler. The director didn’t shy away from the question. In fact, he was completely upfront about the situation.

Both Actors Confided in Him

Wikimedia Commons / Georges Biard / CC 3.0

Howard was forced to do something he didn’t want to do which was listen to both of his friends complain about one another. “It was disappointing. I’m friends with them both and both men felt compelled to come to talk to me about it,” the director told The Guardian.

Hanks and Winkler Had Different Working Styles

Wikimedia Commons / David Shankbone / CC 3.0

“It was just one of those unfortunate things where they really had a working style that did not fit. I know it was painful for both of them and I was able to lend an ear, if not offer any solutions,” Howard added.

They’re Both Invited to Howard’s Birthday Parties

YouTube/The Late Late Show with James Corden

Howard’s comments suggested that there was in fact a rift between Hanks and Winkler, but that hasn’t stopped him from inviting him to his special events. “They’ve both been invited to my birthday parties. It’s been a lot of years – two men with a lot of water under the bridge,” he shared.

A Journalist Weighed in on the Feud

YouTube / 5x15 Stories

On the heels of Howard’s revelation, a journalist named Hadley Freeman tweeted a link to an article in September 2020 about an interview she did with Howard that referenced the feud between Hanks and Winkler.

She Buried the Lede


Freeman wrote, “I buried the lede. My interview with Ron Howard includes exclusive and explosive details about the Henry Winkler versus Tom Hanks fall-out on Turner and Hooch, aka Hoochgate! At last, my encyclopedic knowledge of so-so ’80s comedies comes into its own!”

Freeman’s Confession Left Fans Shaken


Freeman’s interview left many readers rattled. They just couldn’t believe that these iconic actors had been at odds with one another since the 1980s. But one fan was in total denial about the entire thing and couldn't even imagine Hanks acting petty.

One Fan Was in Denial

Flickr / watchwithkristin / CC 2.0

“I refuse to believe this on the grounds that Tom Hanks is made from pure joy and I won’t listen to anything that says otherwise,” one Twitter user tweeted in October 2020. And... they do have a point. Hanks is the equivalent of a human cupcake.

Water Under the Bridge

Public Domain

Another Twitter user referenced Howard’s "water under the bridge" comment. “Sounds like the beef has been squashed. This was very upsetting to me until I got to that part. I too would prefer they address this together and fawn over each other and explain how it was this ridiculous misunderstanding. But for now, I will take comfort in knowing they can put aside their differences for the sake of celebrating their mutual friend’s birthday,” they wrote.

Reconciliation on Reality TV

Flickr / John Bauld / CC 2.0; Flickr / Super Festivals / CC 2.0

One woman came up with a brilliant way to get the two actors to patch things up. “Who is going to make their televised reconciliation a reality? This is the feel good moment America needs. Dolly Parton should host and Ron Howard narrate of course,” she wrote.

An Onscreen Reconciliation May Have to Wait

Wikimedia Commons / Georges Biard / CC 4.0

While Howard would like to get his two friends to patch things up on reality TV, he’s too busy focusing on his “Rebuilding Paradise” documentary. So, helping Winkler get over being replaced as director with Roger Spottiswoode in “Turner and Hooch” will have to wait for now.