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James Garner Interview - "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood"
by Rebecca Murray and Fred Topel

Sandra Bullock and James Garner star in "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood."
Copyright ©2002 Warner Bros. Pictures - All Rights Reserved.

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JAMES GARNER (Shep Walker)

Is there anything in the character you play that you identified with?
Oh yeah. His patience with his wife is very similar to mine. My wife's not that crazy. Crazy - but not that crazy. No, my wife is a little eccentric and I allow that. No doubt it about it - she's fun, yes she is, [and] I can associate with that.

What was appealing to you about this role?
It was a good script. It was a wonderful script and then you look at who is in it. You've got Ellen and you've got Sandra, and Ashley and Maggie and Shirley - I mean, these are wonderful actresses. I looked at the script and I said, “Yeah, this is a good script.” I knew Callie - when she wrote it - I knew she'd be a good director, and she is. She's a very good director.

What do you think about the distinction between girl movies and guy movies?
Not being a movie buff myself, I think that guys look at this and think, “Five women? I don't want to go see that.” Where woman say, “Oh boy, 'Steel Magnolias' all over again.” But I think that what's going to happen is the women are going to rave about it so much - I hope - that they take their husbands. The husbands are going to go back to their clubs, or wherever they go, and say, “Hey, that was a damned good movie. I enjoyed that.”

So you believe that's real - that people do make those distinctions?
It's a fact. They don't have to, but they do. I just think that if it's a good movie, anybody would enjoy it - male or female.

When you get sent a script, do you make that distinction about the roles you're going to take?
No, I just looked at the script and it's a very good script. These are wonderful people. They're all right in their roles and I just loved to go along to support them. It was a good role. There's two pretty good scenes in it for me, and that's all I need. I looked forward to it.

Did you feel like the lone wolf at a tea party?
No, I had Angus [MacFadyen] with me - but that was about it.

What was it like being 'married' to Ellen Burstyn?
Well, we didn't get that close (laughing). If you're speaking of her character, I imagine it'd be tough. He had to be a very patient, considerate man to do what he did.

What about Ellen Burstyn, the actress?
She's just great. I just think the world of her. [She's] such a talented actress and such a nice lady. I'm really proud of her. I feel like I discovered her in 1960.

In 1960 or 1961, I did a play called “John Loves Mary” in Summer Stock with her. Her name was Ellen McRae then. I came back to Hollywood touting her. I told Marty Ransohoff, “This is a great actress, you really need her.” As a matter of fact, there was a series that was going on that I said she'd be great in. But they didn't listen to me. What do I know? I'm an actor. But you know, I've watched her career and I've proved myself right - or she proved me right.

Do you still enjoy doing this? A lot of people retire when they reach a certain age.
People who retire die very quickly. If I didn't enjoy the work, I'd probably quit a little while ago. I enjoy it. I like to go to work every day.

How do you feel about what happened with “First Monday?” Do you think TV viewers don't want a drama series about the Supreme Court?
I think the people do. I don't think the network does. It's not the right demographics. That's all they know about is demographics. They don't have a feel for what the people want. I think I have more of a feel. I've been at this for 45-47 years and I can tell by the reaction of people that they liked the series. They really did but because they weren't 13 year-olds or 17 year-olds… But don't these people know that those people don't have any money unless the older folks give it to them? Stupid!

That's all they deal with is numbers because I don't think they have an opinion by themselves - so they go with the numbers.

Is there any talk of a "Maverick" sequel that would reunite you and Mel Gibson?
There was talk early - right after the movie - that they wanted to do a sequel. But Mel and I talked and we couldn't come up with somebody who could give us a good 'sting.' You really need a good sting in those things - the switch and doing somebody in. If we could have come up with that earlier…I'm getting a little too old to do it. But Mel owns it. He owns the right to do it, I'm pretty sure. He and Dick Donner maybe. I don't know if both of them own it, but I think it's Mel. But that would have been great to do “Maverick 2” because we had so much fun with Dick and Mel and Jodie. It was good fun, good people.

Did you have any idea that either "Rockford Files" or "Maverick" were going to endure?
“Rockford” I thought would. Now “Maverick,” I didn't have a clue. I was so new in the business and they put me up against Ed Sullivan, Steve Allen, and Jack Benny every other week. Now that's a tough pond to swim in - a lot of piranha out there. So I didn't know. I just felt they threw me to the wolves to see if I came out alive - and we did. After a couple of years I said, “Yeah, this will work.” But I was just too young to know then.

If you could go back and give that young James Garner a little advice, what would it be?
Pick another vocation. I don't know. I don't have any regrets about what I've done or what I didn't do. It's like losing a part, I always said, “Well, if I didn't get it, I wasn't supposed to.” I never felt bad about not doing it and I didn't feel bad about doing things. I might have done things for the wrong reasons, but I did it, and they didn't kill me.

What have you learned about women over all these years?
You never learn anything about women. Half the time you think you know them, you don't. I don't claim to know anything about women. All I know is that I love them.

Interview with Ashley Judd ->Page 1

Interview with Callie Khouri ->Page 2

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