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Talking ‘Maverick' in New York

From the May 20, 1994, Deseret News

NEW YORK — Manhattan may seem like an odd gathering place to promote a Western movie, but it was convenient for Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, James Garner and director Richard Donner to come together and talk to the press about "Maverick."

And Gibson, Foster and Donner had plenty to say about Garner, who originated the character of "Maverick" in the iconic TV series that aired in the late 1950s.

"I guess the difference was, it went against the cliche and threw water in the whole face of the genre," Gibson said of the old TV show. "And Jimmy Garner had a special . . . well, there's something magnetic about what he does. He's a great guy and that's why it worked, because of him and because of the style."

There are some differences between Gibson's interpretation of Bret Maverick and the way Garner played him on television. "The one Garner did was really sleek and suave, and he didn't really care about getting a dirty shirt — but then again he never got one. And I just kind of borrowed from that."

Garner says he likes the "Maverick" movie but declines to get too analytical about the differences between the film and his old TV series. "You have to remember where we were, and the time (the 1950s). We were in the infancy of television. We couldn't stray too far from the average, straight Western.

"The only thing we had going for us was humor, wry humor, and we were a little larcenous, but not too much. And I was very young and just learning my craft, and I didn't know what I was doing, to be frank."

Donner says he had never watched the original television program (he was too busy working as a fledgling director on other '50s TV programs at the time). But he caught up with it on videotape after being asked to direct the film. "It was pretty obvious why it was such a success, and why Jim Garner was so good in it."

                                   

                                             Mel Gibson, left, James Garner, Jodie Foster, 'Maverick'

Gibson applauds Garner as a professional and says the original Maverick never offered him advice about the role he had created. "He didn't come around chiming in his two-cents worth. I kind of liked that." Gibson then adds with a chuckle, "Mainly, he liked to sit around and tell filthy stories."

There was quite a bit of adlibbing on the set and Foster says she enjoyed being able to play around with dialogue and bits of comic business.

Garner had a bit more trepidation initially, however. "I'm a very structured actor. I like to have my script before we ever start shooting. I like to be word-perfect if I can, and I like to do just what's there in the script.

"When I got on the set of this and saw what Mel and Dick were doing, I said, `This is crazy.' I talked to Dick about it the second week. I said, `We're having so much fun here, I hope the film isn't suffering.' And he said, `No, the film is great,' so I just joined in and enjoyed the experience."

In addition to Gibson and Donner re-teaming after making three "Lethal Weapon" movies together, "Maverick" was also a reunion of sorts for Garner and Foster. They made a picture together back in 1973, when Foster was only 10 years old.

Foster says that as a youngster she was impressed with Garner's likability. "I remember thinking, `I wish my mom would marry a guy like that.' "

And Garner was equally impressed with Foster. "She was a very impressive young lady. I fell in love with her then, she was just so beyond her years. A serious young girl but charming and sweet, and so talented.

"You take 10-year-old kids and they can't take direction very well. But you could tell her anything and she understood it. I've always admired her so much, and I just love her to death, and it was so wonderful to work with her again."

And what was that 19-year-old movie? "It was a thing called `One Little Indian' for Disney," Garner says.

"And I hope they burned that film."