Henry Winkler Turned Down John Travolta’s ‘Grease’ Role: “I Didn’t Want to Be Typecast!”
Nearly 40 years after Grease hit theaters and captured the nation, Henry Winkler has revealed he turned down John Travolta‘s iconic role of Danny Zuko in the movie! During a new interview for AARP The Magazine‘s December 2017/January 2018 issue, the 72-year-old actor admitted he passed on playing bad boy Danny because he “didn’t want to be typecast” in the part.
“I turned down the lead role in Grease. [I] didn’t want to be typecast. But you’re typecast anyway. And it’s not now that I’m like, ‘Oh, I should’ve done the role.’ It’s that I turned it down intellectually instead of instinctually. Listen to your gut — it knows everything. Your head knows only some things. So I went home and had an orange juice. [John] Travolta went home and bought a plane,” he joked. During that time, Henry was, of course, starring as biker and ladies’ man Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli on the beloved TV show Happy Days. Since John’s Grease character, Danny, was so similar to “The Fonz,” Henry declined to star in the movie.
Henry (left) in Happy Days and John (right) in Grease. (Photo Credit: Getty Images, R/R)
During a February 2016 Vanity Fair article, the Grease filmmakers additionally confessed Elvis Presley was in the running to play another character, Teen Angel. Sadly, the “King of Rock and Roll” passed away in 1977 while the movie was being filmed and the role instead went to teen idol Frankie Avalon. Though the part of Danny’s love-interest, Sandy Olsson, was ultimately given to Olivia Newton-John, other actresses including the late Carrie Fisher, Susan Dey, Deborah Raffin, and Marie Osmond were considered for the now-famous part.
While we can’t really imagine Grease without John today, it would have been cool to see Henry in the flick! During his sit-down with AARP, the actor — who is now appearing in NBC’s Better Late Than Never and HBO’s upcoming Barry as well as executive producing CBS’ MacGyver remake — also opened up about battling dyslexia throughout his showbiz career. “I was dyslexic and didn’t know it until I was 31. Couldn’t do math, spell or tell left from right — left was the elbow that stuck out the window while I drove. I was told I should write books for children about it. I thought, I can’t — I feel stupid. Then I thought, OK, I’m gonna try,” he shared. “My fourth-grade teacher, Miss Adolf, was very mean, and I portray her that way in Hank Zipzer, the World’s Greatest Underachiever, my series of 29 books about a learning-challenged kid. My music teacher, Mr. Rock, told me, ‘You’re gonna be OK.’ I’ve held on to that buoy for 50 years.”