About Marlee Matlin & Henry Winkler
“If you will it, it is not a dream.”
– Henry Winkler
“I saw you before I went on stage and you signed ‘I love you.’”
–12-year-old Marlee Matlin to Winkler
When 12-year-old Marlee Matlin met Henry Winkler, one of the most recognized actors in the world, they instantly struck a special bond. Matlin was attending the Center on Deafness, a community theater where she began acting at seven years old. Winkler and his wife visited the Center after he received fan mail from the students. There they saw Matlin perform on stage and were blown away by her talent. Backstage, Winkler enthusiastically told Matlin to follow her dream of becoming a professional actress.
Although her parents never discouraged Matlin from acting, they were convinced Hollywood would never accept a profoundly deaf actress. Concerned for her future, they asked Winkler not to encourage her. Winkler refused. His passion for supporting others was the result of a lifetime struggle with undiagnosed dyslexia; told he was both “lazy and stupid” as a child, he was in fact neither. A champion for children of all abilities, he mentored Matlin’s subsequent breakout career from theater to film.
At age 21, Matlin became the youngest recipient of the Best Actress Oscar—one of only four actresses to receive that honor for a film debut. Oscar in tow, Matlin found her way to Winkler’s front door and asked if she could stay for a week until she found a place to settle. Two years later, she was still living with the Winklers, who consider her their adopted daughter to this day.