“I hear from his fans on a regular basis, and that helps,” the film producer recently told Closer Weekly. “And having a resurgence of television shows like ‘Maverick,’ ‘Brett Maverick,’ ‘The Rockford Files,’ and movies like ‘The Great Escape’ and ‘The Notebook’ -- those things keep his name relevant and seem to be procuring more fans now.”
“It is a challenge, but fans are helping me,” the 62-year-old continued. “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.”
Garner, who was best known for his portrayal as the gambler Bret Maverick in the ‘50s Western “Maverick,” as well as Jim Rockford in the ‘70s series “The Rockford Files,” passed away in 2014 at age 86 from natural causes.
The actor appeared in more than 50 films, the New York Times reported. Before his Hollywood fame, Garner served in the Army during the Korean War. The outlet shared said Garner was wounded in action twice, earning two Purple Hearts.
But one afternoon, the then-25-year-old saw a sign for an agent’s office and decided to pull in. He ultimately landed his first role -- a non-speaking part alongside Henry Fonda in the production of Herman Wouk’s “The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial.”
The New York Times shared that during those 415 performances, Garner learned to act from running lines with the stars, as well as watching them perform, especially Fonda.
“I swiped practically all my acting style from him,” he once remarked.
Gigi insisted Garner was nothing like the characters he portrayed on his hit television shows.
“The truth about my dad is that people think he’s like he was on TV, but there were many sides to his personality,” she explained. “He was funny and jovial; in fact, the funniest person I ever knew, so witty and so quick. At the same time, he was shy and introverted in some respects.”
Despite having a troubled childhood, Garner was determined to create a better life for himself.
“He had a very different mindset and went about things, even in the industry, much differently than other people did,” said Gigi. “He had a core sense of moral values... He was truly an exemplary human being. He marched on Washington with Martin Luther King when it was not a popular thing to do. He sued a major studio while being threatened, ‘You’ll never work in this town again.’ Over ‘Maverick,’ of course. He won that lawsuit. He also sued over ‘Rockford.’ My dad was very convinced in his beliefs and if he believed he was in the right, he was going to stand up for that.”
Gigi also shared that Garner never took his success in Hollywood for granted and was always eager to learn new skills along the way.
“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.”
According to the New York Times, Garner detailed the importance of putting aside one’s ego 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. “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.”
Garner even told the New York Times in 1984 that acting is like any other job.
“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.”
Today, Gigi hopes to shed light on the man and father Garner was, not just the Hollywood star.
“I don’t look at my dad as some TV star or movie star,” she said. “I look at him as, ‘Oh, it’s my dad.’ Just like you would look at your dad. But I do realize that I’m very lucky that I do get to see him any time I want to because he’s immortalized on film and TV. A lot of people don’t have the privilege.”