‘Maverick’: ‘Bret Maverick’ Actor James Garner Once Detailed Dramatic Exit from Show After Suing Warner Brothers in 1999 Interview

by Keeli Parkey

The Western show “Maverick” starring James Garner during the late 1950s and early 1960s was a huge hit. The famous leading man played the show’s title character, Bret Maverick. Bret, along with his brother Bart, traveled the American West. They got into a lot of trouble. And they had some fun along the way – much to the delight of the show’s audiences.

However, behind the scenes of the popular show, things weren’t always so much fun. Garner shared some details of what happened behind the scenes of “Maverick” during an interview with the Archives of American Television. This interview reportedly took place in 1999.

In fact, the issues behind the scenes prompted the famous actor to take drastic steps to be able to leave the show. These steps included filing a lawsuit that would allow him to get out of his contract.

“What happened was there was a writers’ strike. I had a 52-week contract with Warner Brothers,” Garner shared during that 1999 interview. “And, not very much money – $1,250 a week as a matter of fact. And, of course, we didn’t get residuals in those days.

“The writers’ strike came along in about January, I don’t know. And, uh, Warner Brothers laid me off because they said they couldn’t get scripts.”

Frustration with Studio Leads ‘Maverick’ Star to File a Lawsuit

Getting laid off by the studio was very frustrating for the “Maverick” star. So, he reportedly shared that frustration with the studio.

“And, I said I don’t care whether you’ve got scripts or not. They had for public appearances, for movies, they had requests for all of these things that they could have used me in,” Garner recalled. “They said we don’t have writers for ‘Maverick’ and, therefore, they’re going to lay me off. I said you can’t do that, so I sued them for breach of contract.”

Turns out, ‘Maverick” star James Garner had a pretty good case to make.

“And, make a long story short, I won that lawsuit,” the actor said during the 1999 interview. “And, I got out of my contract with Warner Brothers. I remember my lawyer asked me what I wanted. He said, ‘Do you want a new contract, do you want a raise, or do you want out?’ I said, ‘I want out.'”

James Garner Wanted Said He Wanted Control of His Career

At the end of the day, James Garner wanted to be in charge of his career.

“I didn’t want to be under contract to a studio anymore, ’cause they’re making the decisions of my career. And, these are the people who don’t really care about my career,” he said. “I care about it, but they don’t. And, therefore, when they give me a picture that I didn’t think was good for me I’d have to do it. Or, they’d put me on layoff.”

The “Maverick” actor said it was important to him to be able to make his own decisions.

“I wanted to be in control of my career. I didn’t want somebody else making those decisions,” he added. “If I was going to be a success, I wanted to be my success. If I was going to be a failure, I wanted to be my failure, not somebody else’s because they made the wrong choices. So, I wanted out. And, that’s what happened. I went to court and I got out of the contract.”

You can listen to James Garner talk about leaving the television show “Maverick” below.