’Maverick Star James Garner ‘Learned to Be a Race Car Driver’ in Classic Movie

by Josh Lanier

The daughter of James Garner is on a mission to keep her dad’s name alive. The beloved star of Maverick, The Rockford Files, and scores of movies died in 2014. As streaming services resurrect those old shows for new audiences, Gigi Garner wants to let these new fans know what her dad was really like.

“It is a challenge, but fans are helping me,” Gigi Garner told Closer Weekly. “And I try to give them a taste of who he really was as a person on my social media platforms, such as Twitter and the official James Garner Facebook page. I want people to get to know my dad as the considerate, loving, kind, generous person that he was and not just some figure from television or film.”

And a lot of that is revealing who James Garner was off-camera. She wants fans to know him for more than just his movie roles. He was — for lack of a better word — a maverick in the movie industry at the time.

For instance, most stars of his caliber would pass off difficult jobs to a stunt double or a stand-in, but not James Garner. He enjoyed that part of the job.

“When he did Grand Prix, he got to do all the driving,” she said. “He actually learned to be a race driver and even did his own stunts, like when he caught on fire and things like that. For him, it wasn’t about the money or the awards. He loved to work; that was his thing. Whatever it was, he was the first one there in the morning.”

Garner died in 2014 after he suffered a heart attack.

James Garner Didn’t Think About Acting

Though he pushed himself to learn new skills to better understand a role, Garner didn’t overthink acting. For him, it was work, and he wanted to do the best job he could.

“I was never really enamored of the business, never even wanted to be an actor, really,” he admitted. “It’s always been a means to an end, which is to make a living,” he told the New York Times in 1984, according to Fox News.

Garner fell into acting after receiving the Purple Heart during the Korean War. A friend talked him into giving Hollywood a try, Closer Weekly reported. He brought that workman-like attitude with him to the stage and screen. He expounded on his approach in his memoir The Garner Files.

“I’m from the Spencer Tracy school: Be on time, know your words, hit your marks, and tell the truth,” he wrote, according to Fox News. “I don’t have any theories about acting, and I don’t think about how to do it, except that an actor shouldn’t take himself too seriously, and shouldn’t try to make acting something it isn’t. Acting is just common sense. It isn’t hard if you put yourself aside and just do what the writer wrote.”