By Derek Lawrence
August 04, 2016 at 05:13 PM EDT
Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images

Throughout his illustrious career, Garry Marshall had an immense impact on the careers of many actors, especially Henry Winkler.

By casting Winkler as Arthur Fonzarelli on Happy Days, Marshall forever changed the actor’s life. His role in launching Winkler’s career and their decades-long friendship made Marshall’s recent death that much more painful for Winkler.

“First of all it’s difficult that this massive figure in my life is gone,” Winkler tells EW. “Because just a few months ago I had lunch with him in his office and this was kind of sudden. And it’s a strange way to put it, but I had the good fortune, the family called me in order to say goodbye. And that was so emotional, I can’t even tell you.”

Winkler adds: “He was my don, my teacher, he gave me my professional life.”

While Winkler’s career has spanned over 40 years, his most iconic role is the one Marshall gave him at the very beginning of his career. With only a few credits to his name, the young actor was cast in the minor role of Fonzarelli on the super producer’s new sitcom Happy Days. Thanks to their collaboration, “The Fonz” became a fan favorite during the show’s run from 1974 to 1984.

Winkler’s recent thoughts echo the tweets that he sent out when the news of Marshall’s death first emerged in July. He wrote, “Rest in Peace.. Thank you for my professional life. Thank you for your loyalty, friendship and generosity.” He then later added, “Larger than life, funnier than most, wise and the definition of friend.”

Winkler is just one of Marshall’s actors who have shown their love and admiration for him since his passing. Julia Roberts and Anne Hathaway, who also both saw their careers take off after working with the filmmaker, have shared their touching memories.

Marshall died on July 19 from complications of pneumonia following a stroke.

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