Happy Days Star Ron Howard Faced Major 'Disrespect' Behind The Scenes

With its iconic theme song, '50s nostalgia, and classic sitcom shenanigans, there was a lot to love about "Happy Days," which ran for 11 seasons from 1974 to 1984. The show followed high school student Richie Cunningham (played by Ron Howard) and his friends Ralph Malph, Potsie Weber, and Arthur "Fonzie" Fonzarelli. Originally billed as the star, Ron Howard's Richie Cunningham eventually took a backseat to lovable bad boy Fonzie... By the end of the show's 10-year run, "The Fonz" and his trademark leather jacket were the real stars. The red-headed Richie Cunningham was a distant memory.

In the decades since "Happy Days" went off the air, Ron Howard has spoken openly about the disrespect he faced behind the scenes. As the "Apollo 13" director explained on "The Graham Norton Show," he left film school to accept the lead role in "Happy Days." Eventually, Howard noticed that Henry Winkler (aka Fonzie) was the network's priority. "When we would go out of the road to promote the show, it was just insane, focused on Fonzie, clearly that was very exciting," Howard recalled, adding, "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."

Eventually, creators proposed renaming the show to "Fonzie's Happy Days," and Ron Howard decided it was time to move on. "More than anything, it reminded me ... to pursue my own dream," he said (via Television Academy Foundation). Howard put acting on the back burner and focused on his real passion: filmmaking.

The on-set drama didn't affect Ron Howard's friendship with Henry Winkler

Although Ron Howard was disappointed with executives' new direction for "Happy Days," he never blamed his co-star, Henry Winkler. In fact, he understood Fonzie's appeal. "Just with a few lines [Winkler] just had this remarkable character. Now, it was amazing to be around it," he told Graham Norton. The two actors have remained close friends for the past 50 years.

"I had Ron Howard, who is my brother today, who I love with every fiber of my being. [My wife] Stacey and I are the godparents of his children," Henry Winkler said in a conversation with The Television Academy Foundation, adding that their on-set chemistry was "uncanny." According to Winkler, "[When Howard left the show] I thought my life was over ... There was an unspoken connection between Ron and me." That connection persists today, and their families have even spent time together.

Ron Howard's daughter, director and actor Bryce Dallas Howard, feels lucky to have grown up with a man like Winkler as her godfather — that being said, she's yet to watch a single "Happy Days" episode (via The View).

Ron Howard calls the shots now

After exiting "Happy Days," Ron Howard began a successful career as a director and producer. He won an Academy Award for "A Beautiful Mind," and is the brain behind beloved films like "Apollo 13" and "Splash." He even passed down the directing gene (and industry connections) to his daughter, Bryce. Most importantly, he's committed to creating a respectful workplace environment, something he didn't always experience on the set of "Happy Days." "I've found that I've always had an ability to create an environment where people could flourish," Howard told The Harvard Business Review, adding, "Being good at your job isn't enough; you also need to be good for the company and its culture." Part of that means hiring a passionate cast and crew.

In 1982, shortly after leaving "Happy Days," Ron Howard cast Henry Winkler in "Night Shift," one of his first feature films. In 2008, the dynamic duo teamed up yet again to star in a campaign ad for presidential candidate Barack Obama (and you can still watch the ad on YouTube). Although egos could have easily gotten in the way, friendship is more important than fame for these "Happy Days" costars.