James Garner admitted feud with Great Escape co-star Charles Bronson: ‘Pain in the a**!’

The Great Escape Trailer – (1963)

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The final instalment of Channel 5’s three-part documentary ‘The Great Escape’ airs tonight at 9pm. The programme details real-life events which inspired the famous Hollywood film, after 76 men tunnelled out of a prisoner of war camp as part of a mission to cause massive disruption in the heart of the Third Reich. Tonight’s episode details the respective routes taken by the escapees and the events which followed the 77th man being spotted by a sentry.


The World War 2 escape was immortalised 19 years later when it was turned into a film, featuring a star studded Hollywood cast. 

Steve McQueen led a massive ensemble cast which also included acting icon Mr Garner, legendary British actor, director Richard Attenborough and one of Hollywood’s most successful box office stars, Mr Bronson.

‘The Great Escape’ is one of the most iconic films in history and propelled the careers of much of its cast to stratospheric heights, yet behind the scenes there was tension on set between two of its biggest stars.

In Mr Garner’s 2011 memoir, ‘The Garner Files’, the actor is candid about his acting colleagues and takes aim at Mr Bronson in particular.

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He claimed: “Charles Bronson was a pain in the a**. 

“He used and abused people, and I didn’t like it.”

Mr Garner accused his co-star of being “bitter and belligerent”.

He then recalled an argument he had with his castmate over a game of poker, when the ‘Maverick’ actor insisted Mr Bronson pay a young extra the money that he owed him.

Mr Garner claimed: “After that, Charlie went around swearing he’d never work with me again. 

“Throughout my life, there have been a few guys who didn’t like me because I was outspoken.

“Hell, I never thought I was outspoken, I just told the truth.”

In his memoir, Mr Garner gave high praise to Clint Eastwood, who he’d known since their early days in television together, while he called Marlon Brando the greatest movie actor of all time. 

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However, he was also critical of another ‘Great Escape’ co-star’s acting ‒ the enigmatic Mr McQueen.

Mr McQueen earned legendary status for his performance as Vigil Hilts, an American Air Force pilot who arrives at the maximum security POW camp with 17 escape attempts under his belt.

However, Mr Garner said: “He didn’t like anything. 

“Like Brando, he could be a pain in the a** on the set. 

“Unlike Brando, he wasn’t an actor.

“He was a movie star, a poser who cultivated the image of a macho man. 

“Steve wasn’t a bad guy. I think he was just insecure.”

Mr Garner continued: “You could always see him acting. 

“That’s the kiss of death as far as I’m concerned.”

‘The Garner Files’ was written by James Garner and published by Simon & Schuster. You can find it here.

Watch the documentary ‘The Great Escape’ on Channel 5 at 9pm.

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