“Though I was still prone to stage fright, I jumped at the chance to work with the great English actor who’d created such unforgettable roles as Captain Bligh in Mutiny on the Bounty and Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
“One morning when we were still in rehearsals, Laughton said, ‘James, I’d like you to come up to the house and lunch with me.’
“I was sure he was going to can me, because I knew I wasn’t very good.
“After lunch, he said, ‘James, do you know what your problem is?’
“‘No, sir, I don’t.’
“‘You’re afraid to be bad, and therefore you don’t do anything. You stay in the middle of the road. You’re not dull, but you aren’t interesting, either.’
“It shook me to the core, but I knew he was right. I didn’t care if the audience liked me, I just didn’t want them to dislike me, and so I underplayed everything. I didn’t want to do anything that might alienate them. As a result, I was mediocre.”
James Garner and Jon Winokur, The Garner Files: A Memoir (Garner played the part of Maryk in a 1955 road-show production of The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial, directed by Laughton)