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James Garner Confessed His True Feelings About Steve McQueen

Hollywood feuds are in no short supply – and really, that’s nothing new. Tinsel Town’s most prolific leading men and women have been duking it out with other stars since the dawn of cinema. Rivalries, jealousy, back-stabbing and name-calling seem to be par for the course, and the tabloids have succeeded in building an entire industry out of that fact.

Although legendary actor James Garner was always regarded as one of the most laid-back, easy-going, and likable guys in Hollywood, he too occasionally got caught up in high-profile show-biz beefs. For the most part, he got along quite well with the vast majority of his co-stars and colleagues, but when it came to Steve McQueen, he wasn’t afraid to let his true feelings about the so-called “King of Cool” be known.

Keep watching to see what James Garner really thought about Steve McQueen. Even though both men were some of the biggest stars of their day and shared a great deal of on-screen chemistry, when the cameras weren’t rolling, they weren’t exactly best buds.

Facts Verse Presents: James Garner Confessed His True Feelings About Steve McQueen

Garner Described McQueen as a “Stubborn Little Cuss”

Garner and McQueen shared the screen in 1963s The Great Escape. On-set they seemed to form a close, albeit unlikely, friendship, but beyond surface-level pleasantries, the two stars frequently didn’t see eye to eye. And really, that’s putting it lightly.

McQueen often inflamed and enraged his co-stars with his off-the-wall antics both on and off camera. When asked to sum up his thoughts about McQueen, Garner didn’t mince words. In a couple of beautifully merciless phrases, he successfully put the man in his place.

In The Great Escape, Garner played Flight Lieutenant Bob Hendley opposite McQueen’s Captain Virgil Hilts. In his 2011 memoir, Garner was quoted as saying that “like Marlon Brando”, McQueen could be a “pain in the ass” on set.

He went on to say, however, that unlike Brando, Steve wasn’t an actor. Rather, he referred to him as merely a movie star and “poser who cultivated the image of a mucho man”.

If that wasn’t cutting enough, Garner continued to tear McQueen to shreds by saying that even though he had a distinct persona that he’d bring to every role that everyone seemed to love, you could always see him acting.

“That’s the kiss of death” Garner brutally declared.

It wasn’t only McQueen’s talent – or lack thereof – that was an issue to Garner. James also felt as if McQueen’s behavior on set was entirely unacceptable. Throughout his career, Steve would often cause disruptions, and during the filming of The Great Escape, he almost walked off while throwing a tantrum over his role.

Evidently, this volatile situation deteriorated to the point that the film’s director, John Sturges, told Garner that they were considering restructuring the movie so that he would end up being it’s main star instead.

Garner, while flattered, didn’t see how that was going to work, so he sat down with McQueen to try and figure out what the real problem was.

Steve told James that he didn’t like the part because he wasn’t the hero and found a lot of the things that the script had him doing to be corny.

Sturges ended up adding in a few motorcycle stunt scenes to pacify McQueen and even changed his character to that of a guy who goes off into the countryside to do some reconnaissance only to unselfishly allow himself to be recaptured so that he can share the intel he had gathered with others.

So, at the end of the day, all of McQueen’s kicking and screaming ended up paying off for him. Still, this didn’t sit right with Garner, and he never let him live it down.

McQueen Suspected Garner Of Having An Affair With His Wife

James Garner died of a heart attack caused by coronary artery disease on July 19, 2014. He was 86 when he passed away, and reportedly he had been in poor health since having a stroke in 2008.

Three years before his death, Garner recounted his storied career in his memoir The Garner Files.

In that book, Garner spoke frankly about several of his former co-stars and contemporaries. Amongst some of the more stunning revelations that he shared included his assertion that movie mogul Jack Warner was among the rudest men he had ever met and that actor Charlton Heston’s acting was “stiff as a board”.

When discussing his relationship with Steve McQueen, he likewise didn’t sugarcoat his feelings. Not only did he discuss McQueen’s unbecoming on-set behavior and childlike temperament, but he also recounted how at one point, Steve even became convinced that he was having an affair with his first wife.

In his memoir, Garner said that he didn’t believe that McQueen was a bad guy, but he did find him to be quite insecure. The Cash McCall actor further noted how Steve’s wife Nellie had told him at one point that her husband was always envious of tall, dark men and that he had become convinced that she was having an affair with him.

After detailing his conversation with Nellie, James wrote that he always thought of McQueen as a delinquent younger brother and that, inversely, Steve viewed him as an older brother. But despite their bond, McQueen received a fair bit of criticism in Garner’s scathing memoir.

In case it wasn’t already obvious, Garner never slept with McQueen’s wife. That assertion was completely baseless and was a prime example of what Gerner had to routinely put up with while maintaining his friendship with The Cincinnati Kid star.

Garner Dished On Charles Bronson

Another fellow Great Escape cast member James Garner took issue with was Charles Bronson.

In The Garner Files, James referred to Bronson as ‘bitter’ and ‘belligerent’. While he described McQueen as one of his friends, he didn’t hold the same chummy feelings for Bronson. In fact, he reserved much stronger words to describe his thoughts on him.

Garner wrote that Bronson was infamous for using and abusing people. In addition to calling him a bitter and belligerent SOB, Garner felt like Bronson was always walking around with a chip on his shoulder. Whenever he was on set, tensions flared, and nobody around him felt comfortable.

In his memoir, Garner described a particularly unsettling experience that he had with Bronson at a poker game that he held at his house about a year after The Great Escape was shot.

Evidently, Bronson attempted to withdraw a bet when it was already too late. Since Bronson was playing against what Garner referred to as a ‘street kid’ who was working as a Hollywood extra, Garner forced Bronson to pay him what he was owed because he knew that the money meant a lot to him.

Bronson then apparently lost his cool and threw a tantrum. He and Garner butted heads, and things almost got out of hand, but fortunately, it didn’t ‘come to blows’.

While the situation didn’t lead to violence, Garner said that Bronson swore to never work with again. A few years later, however, James and his wife Lois Clarke ran into Bronson and his wife at the time Jill Ireland at a restaurant.

As if nothing had happened, the four decided to have dinner together. But deep down inside, Garner knew that Bronson still had a grudge, and he freely admitted to holding one as well.

The Garner Files Other Revelations

James Garner didn’t hold anything back in his 2011 memoir. Not only did we learn about his true feelings on Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson, but we also received a number of other fascinating insights into his personal life and decades-spanning career.

For one thing, we found out that despite his squeaky-clean image, Garner had a history of drug use. James admitted in his memoir to smoking pot throughout the majority of his adult life. He also revealed that he once did lines with comedian John Belushi.

Another revelation that might surprise some has to do with Garner’s political leanings. In his book, he labeled himself as a ‘bleeding-heart liberal’ and noted that he considered Adlai Stevenson to be the most intelligent person to have ever run for the office of US President, with Barack Obama coming in at a close second.

As far as his film career is concerned, Garner only rated two of his movies as being excellent. He gave high praise to The Notebook and The Americanization of Emily. Of the latter, he expressed delight over how audiences have seemed to have warmed up to it over the years, turning the anti-war drama into a cult favorite and minor classic.

Two of his films that he thought were only “pretty good’ were Murphy’s Romance and Grand Prix. But as far as the rest of his filmography, he only considered those films to be average at best and plain terrible at their worst.

The last insight that we wanted to share with you before wrapping this video up has to do with how Garner got his start acting in the first place.

As the story goes, while he was working at a Shell gas station, Garner met a soda jerker who told him that he had the right look to become a big Hollywood star. After serving in the Army in Korea, Garner came back to the states to discover that said soda jerk was now working as a stage producer. Since they had history, the producer decided to give Garner a non-speaking role in a stage production of The Caine Mutiny Court Martial. While working on that production, James learned how to act by observing Henry Fonda perform night after night.

So, yes, as unlikely as it might sound, James Garner owed his entire career to a random gas station clerk from his hometown!

James Garner might be gone, but he won’t soon be forgotten – and neither will the things that he had to say about Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson.

On that note, we’ll go ahead and toss the mic over to you to let your voice be heard. You’ve listened to what we’ve had to share about James Garner’s relationships with his co-stars, now we’d love to hear what you have to add to the conversation.

Did you know that, despite claiming to be friends, James Garner and Steve McQueen had a contentious relationship and that they didn’t have very nice things to say about each other? Let us know in the comments down below.

And as always, thanks for watching!

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