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by: Caroline Westbrook - Last updated: 2006-09-22

Henry Winkler as Captain Hook

Henry Winkler as Captain Hook

He played one of the coolest characters in US sitcom history, and now Henry Winkler, aka the Fonz, is to play one of the most famous villains in the world of panto.

The kosher star has signed up to appear as Captain Hook in Peter Pan, at the New Wimbledon Theatre in South West London this December. Father-of-three Winkler stepped into Hook's breeches after previous star David Hasselhoff pulled out of the production due to other commitments.

The 60-year-old, who shot to fame on the 70s sitcom Happy Days, and has never hidden his Jewish background, told BBC News he was "thrilled" to be appearing in the show.

"I'm honoured to be one of the first Americans invited to appear in panto," he said. "We don't have panto in America and it sounds unbelievably fun."

"I love the Peter Pan story and I love Captain Hook," he added, "He's a villain but hey, he had his hand bitten off by a crocodile – you have to feel some sympathy for the guy."

The show will mark Winkler's debut on the UK stage, and will see him starring alongside funnyman Bobby Davro.

New York born Winkler, whose parents left Germany before the start of World War II, has also appeared in many films during his acting career, including horror hit scream, Adam Sandler comedies The Waterboy and Little Nicky and the Disney adventure Holes. His latest role reunites him with Sandler in another comedy, Click, about a man who begins to run his life via a remote control. The film opens in the UK on September 29.

Winkler, who battled dyslexia as a child, is also the co-author of a series of children's books following the adventures of Hank Zipzer.

He has been married to his Jewish wife Stacey for 28 years, and has always been very open about his Jewish roots.

"We have to be positive, with a sense of humour and a sense of continuum," said Winkler in 2001. What I love the most about us, as landsmen, is our tenacity. For 5000 years, they have tried to eradicate us, and we're still here making unbelievable contributions to the world. It makes me so proud."