James Garner is pretty much the embodiment of the phrase “beloved actor.” The star of “Maverick” and “The Rockford Files” has earned his good-guy image over a career that spans more than half a century.
He’s also not afraid to speak his mind, apparently. Garner’s memoir “The Garner Files” (written with Jon Winokur) hit shelves Tuesday (Nov. 1), and it’s full of amusing anecdotes, occasionally less-than-kind assessments of some of his fellow actors and candid evaluation of his own work as an actor.
“Something funny happens when you get older,” the 83-year-old Garner writes at the beginning of his story. “You don’t hold back so much.”
A few of our favorite stories from “The Garner Files”:
– Garner’s first acting job didn’t really involve much acting. After serving in the Korean War, Garner returned to the U.S. — where an old acquaintance who was by then a producer cast him as a juror in a stage production of “The Caine Mutiny Court Marshal.” He had zero lines, but Garner writes that he learned to act by watching Henry Fonda as Greenwald, the Navy lawyer who questions Capt. Queeg during the trial.
– He once did cocaine with John Belushi (oh, to be a fly on that wall). Garner also says he’s smoked a fair amount of marijuana. (Suddenly, Jim Rockford’s laid-back attitude takes on a new light.)
– Garner’s two most recognizable characters were good with their fists, and apparently he is too. He describes getting upset with Tony Franciosa (his co-star in the 1966 movie “A Man Could Get Killed”) because Franciosa was actually punching stuntmen during a fight scene. “He kept doing it despite my warnings to stop,” Garner writes, “… so I had to pop him one.”
– He’s rough on some of his other former co-stars as well. Garner calls Steve McQueen “an insecure poseur and not much of an actor” and their fellow “Great Escape” co-star Charles Bronson “bitter and belligerent.”
– The only two movies Garner has made that he considers great are “The Americanization of Emily” and “The Notebook.” He also likes “Murphy’s Romance,” for which he earned an Oscar nomination, but doesn’t put it on the level of the other two.