Tom Hanks made quite the splash in his guest starring role on Happy Days.
So much so that he credits his appearance on the beloved sitcom with getting him his first leading film role, in Ron Howard’s 1984 hit … Splash.
Hanks guest starred in the 1982 episode “A Little Case of Revenge” as a former schoolmate of Henry Winkler’s Fonzie who’s been nursing a grudge against him since the third grade. Now a doctor, and a karate expert, Dr. Dwayne Twitchell (Hanks) exacts his revenge on Arthur Fonzarelli.
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“I kicked Fonzie,” Hanks recalled on SiriusXM’s The Jess Cagle Show. “I got dressed up in a judo karate outfit. And I think I’m legendarily the first guy to actually strike Fonzie. I kicked him through the stained glass window of Al’s Drive-in.”
While that may not have ingratiated Hanks to fans of The Fonz, it did catch the eye of some folks at Disney — former Happy Days star Ron Howard’s romantic comedy Splash would be the first film released under Disney’s new label Touchstone Pictures and they were in need of a leading man to fall in love with Daryl Hannah’s mermaid-in-human-disguise.
“Ron Howard had already left the show, and he was directing, and they had written this movie called Splash,” Hanks explained. “And it was at Disney, and no one wanted to work for Disney, and no one would take the job. And eventually they said, ‘Hey, this guy who kicked Fonzie through a plate-glass window might be good.’ And so I ended up auditioning for that.”
And the rest is history. Co-starring John Candy and Eugene Levy, Splash was a hit with audiences and critics alike, scored an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay, and established Hanks as a bona fide movie star.
Though Winkler and Hanks have yet to have a rematch.