‘Maverick’ and ‘The Rockford Files’ Star James Garner Fought Both Shows in Court

by Keeli Parkey

The television shows “Maverick” and “The Rockford Files” made James Garner a star and a household name. However, things behind the scenes weren’t always that great. This resulted in court battles between the actor and the studios of both shows.

First up was a lawsuit against “Maverick” early in his career. Garner appeared on the show from 1957 until 1962. According to a 2014 article in The Hollywood Reporter by attorney Neville Johnson, Garner sued this show in 1960.

What reportedly prompted this lawsuit was a writers’ strike. Because of this strike, Garner was suspended by Warner Bros., the studio behind “Maverick,” from working on the show. Getting suspended led the leading man to go to battle with the studio. In doing so, he said his contract with Warner Bros. was void.

This issue ended up in a trial, which James Garner won. The decision was appealed, according to Johnson. But, once again, Garner won. This ruling “remains good precedent today,” Johnson wrote in 2014.

‘Maverick’ Star James Garner Also Fought Universal in Courtroom

Flash forward several years to 1980. James Garner is the star of “The Rockford Files.” He appeared on this show from 1974 until 1980. And as the show’s star, he was known to do the majority of his own stunts.

Because of this work, Garner said he sustained multiple injuries and became sick. He said these injuries and illness kept him from working. However Universal, the studio behind “The Rockford Files,” disagreed.

So, they sued the actor. They argued that he actually wasn’t injured, but had gone on strike. What prompted the strike, according to the studio, was that Garner was not accepting that “The Rockford Files” was $9 million in debt. Garner responded by arguing that the studio was actually “creatively accounting.”

This court battle reportedly lasted nine years. Eventually, the star of “Maverick” and “The Rockford Files” chose to settle for a “confidential” amount. However, the article suspects that the amount was $14 million.

Because of his court battles, James Garner did face criticism. He was even referred to as a “crybaby” by one Hollywood executive.

Attorney Says James Garner’s Court Battles Left ‘Legacy’

According to Neville Johnson, what James Garner did with his lawsuits was set precedents that helped other actors stand up to Hollywood studios.

“As we honor James Garner as a great actor, talent should also tip their hats to him for having the courage to take a risk to see that those fortunate enough to be in productions that achieve real profits get paid them,” Johnson wrote. “Mr. Garner’s legacy is on film and in the lawbooks.”

Johnson penned his article shortly after Garner passed away on July 19, 2014. The star was 86 at the time of his death.