Maverick Star James Garner Dead at 86: Piers Morgan and More Stars Pay Tribute to the Late Actor

Noted thesp passed away Saturday in his home in Los Angeles

By Brandi Fowler Jul 20, 2014 5:30 PMTags
James GarnerGiulio Marcocchi/Sipa Press

Best known for his starring role on the popular TV series Maverick and the Rockford Files, James Garner has died at the age of 86.

The noted thesp passed away in his home in Los Angeles Saturday, his rep confirmed to E! News.

According to Variety, Garner kicked off his lengthy career in showbiz after his theater producer friend Paul Gregory gave him a gig cueing actor Lloyd Nolan during rehearsals of the Broadway-bound "The Caine Mutiny Court Martial." From there, he landed a nonspeaking role in the production where he studied the play's star, Henry Fonda, and went on to get a bigger role in a play called "Caine" in 1954.

The next year, he scored a screen test and a $200/week contract with Warner Bros. after impressing studio execs with his bit parts on the TV series "Cheyenne." Garner went on to act alongside Marlon Brando in "Sayonara," which led him to a supporting role in "Darby's Rangers." That supporting role became a starring role when lead actor Charlton Heston left the project.

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Garner's big break came when he starred as Bret Maverick in the 1950's TV series Maverick, which he acted in until 1960. The wise-cracking role gave him a Golden Globe for most promising male newcomer in 1958 and his first Emmy nomination in 1959.

The thesp went on to act in films like Boys' Night Out, The Great Escape, The Thrill of It All, Move Over Darling and Hour of the Gun, before starring in The Rockford Files from 1974-80. He won an Emmy for his role on the show in 1977.

Garner continued to work consistently throughout the years, acting in the likes of The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and in The Notebook, in which he played the older version Ryan Gosling. He also was honored with the screen Actor's Life Achievement Award in 2005.

Following his death, William Shatner, Piers Morgan and more celebs paid tribute to the late star.

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William Shatner: Sending thoughts and prayers to the family of James Garner this morning.

Donny Osmond: James Garner. RIP

John Stamos ‏James Garner falls under the heading of, "They don't make em like they used to" You were the fu**ing coolest. R.I.P my friend.

Josh Elliott : RIP James Garner, whose Jim Rockford was a perfect introduction (Really cool.) He'll be missed.

Tom Bergeron : Lucky 2 have met charmer James Garner at "8 Simple Rules" when I'd stopped by to say hi to @KaleyCuoco, @Amy_Davidson and @KateySagal. #RIP

LeAnn Rimes Cibrian : My heart is broken this morning R.I.P. Jim Garner He was a dear friend His humor, laughter and sweet soul will be forever missed #loveyoujim

Melissa Joan Hart ‏: RIP James Garner!

Piers Morgan: RIP James Garner - a wonderful actor. #GreatEscape #RockfordFiles #Maverick

Kaley Cuoco: Well I woke up with a broken heart today. The world has lost a legend. James Garner was a gift to our business and an example of honesty and pure class. It was an honor to have worked beside him and receive his bear hugs every day. I love you gramps.

Reese Witherspoon: Very privileged to work with this incredibly talented actor early in my career. He will be loved and missed forever #JamesGarner

-Additional reporting by Marcus Mulick