“They [Warner Bros.] really stuck it to me. I was young and dumb. I said a couple things about being under contract that they didn’t like, like that I felt like a ham in a smokehouse. They were waiting to get back at me by laying me off. We went to court and got out of my contract. I didn’t want somebody in an office guiding my career. If I had a failure, I wanted it to be my failure. If I had a success, I wanted it to be my success.” – James Garner, who signed with Warner Bros. for $175 a week before he was cast as Maverick.
Garner again spoke about the lawsuit in 1994:
“I was making $500 a week [during Maverick], but it wasn’t the money that bothered me. The studio was taking the money I made on the outside – personal appearances, that sort of thing. I just bided my time until they made a mistake. And they did. A big one.
“They put me on suspension, claiming they had no scripts because of the writers’ strike. Hell, I knew they were getting bootleg scripts under the table. They had no right to suspend me, so I sued for breach of contract.”
Garner earned an estimated $90,000 for the three years he appeared on Maverick. Meanwhile, Warner Bros. made sure that Garner didn’t work for ten months during the studio’s lawsuit with the actor. Garner won and had a successful film career, though he worked for less money than many of his peers. Garner did, however, command big bucks when he returned to television for the Rockford Files in the 1970s.
Garner eventually returned to Warner Bros. in 1994 to appear in the film adaptation of Maverick, earning more than $90,000. No doubt, he had a laugh about that one, too.
Sources: IMDb/Bob Thomas