Maverick (film)

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Maverick movie.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Richard Donner[1]
Produced by Bruce Davey
Richard Donner
Written by William Goldman
Based on Maverick
by Roy Huggins
Music by Randy Newman
Cinematography Vilmos Zsigmond
Edited by Stuart Baird
Mike Kelly
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date
  • May 20, 1994 (1994-05-20)
Running time
127 minutes[2]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $75 million[3]
Box office $183 million[4]

Maverick is a 1994 American western comedy film directed by Richard Donner and written by William Goldman. Based on the 1950s television series of the same name created by Roy Huggins, the film stars Mel Gibson as Bret Maverick, a card player and con artist collecting money to enter a high-stakes poker game. He is joined in his adventure by Annabelle Bransford (Jodie Foster), another con artist, and lawman Marshall Zane Cooper (James Garner). The supporting cast features Graham Greene, James Coburn, Alfred Molina and a large number of cameo appearances by Western film actors, country music stars and other actors.

Released theatrically by Warner Bros. on May 20, 1994 the film was a critical and commercial success, grossing over $183 million worldwide. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Costume Design.


In the American Old West, gambler Bret Maverick (Mel Gibson) is on his way to a major five-card draw poker tournament being held on the paddle steamer Lauren Belle. Maverick wants to prove he is the best card player of his time. Short $3,000 of the $25,000 tournament entry fee, Maverick travels to the town of Crystal River, intending to collect on debts and win money at card games. At an impromptu poker game, he encounters the ill-tempered gambler Angel (Alfred Molina), the young con artist Annabelle Bransford (Jodie Foster), and lawman Marshal Zane Cooper (James Garner).

Maverick, Bransford and Cooper journey out of Crystal River together, overcoming runaway stagecoaches and aiding migrant evangelical settlers who have been waylaid by bandits. The settlers offer Maverick a percentage of the money they have collected to start a mission, but Maverick cannot bring himself to accept it. The trio are later cornered by a band of Indians led by Joseph (Graham Greene). His companions are unaware that Joseph and Maverick are good friends; Maverick "sacrifices" himself to allow his companions' escape. Joseph is indebted to Maverick; they scheme to swindle $1,000 from a Russian Archduke (Paul L. Smith) that Joseph owes to Maverick.

Angel receives a telegram instructing him to stop Maverick. He also learns that Maverick had conned him at their previous poker game. Angel and his mercenaries catch up to Maverick, but unable to find his money, leave him for dead. Maverick escapes, recovers the entry money hidden in his boot, and makes his way to the Lauren Belle. He reunites with Bransford and Cooper, and Bransford is still short $4,000 herself. Spotting the Archduke aboard, Maverick poses as a U.S. Marshal investigating the shooting of Indians for game, conning the Archduke of enough money to cover his and Bransford's entry.

Commodore Duvall (James Coburn) welcomes the twenty competitors to the tournament, with Cooper overseeing the security of the game and the prize money, and watching for any cheaters, whom are summarily thrown overboard when discovered. Eventually, only four players are left, Maverick, Bransford, Angel, and the Commodore. During the break before the final round, Maverick and Bransford have a tryst in his quarters. After Bransford leaves, Maverick finds he has been locked in as to attempt to make him forfeit the game, but manages to climb outside the steamer to make the game on time. Bransford is eliminated early, and as the match comes down to Maverick and Angel, Maverick notices the dealer dealing from the bottom of the deck. He calls this out, and with Angel and the Commodore all-in with strong hands, Maverick is able to pull one card to complete his royal flush. Angel and his men try to shoot and kill Maverick, but Cooper and Maverick shoot first, killing them.

During the closing ceremony to give Maverick his winnings of $500,000, Cooper says he will keep the money for himself and escapes. Later that night, the Commodore secretly meets with Cooper, telling him how the plan almost backfired, when Maverick appears, having tracked them here, and takes back his prize money. Some time later, Maverick is relaxing in a hot bath when Cooper finds him, revealing that Maverick is Cooper's son, and the two had planned this windfall long in advance. As both men enjoy the baths, Bransford arrives, having discovered the father-son relationship from earlier trysts, and walks away with the bag containing the prize money. After she leaves, Maverick reveals to Cooper that he allowed Bransford to take the money uncontested, since he took Cooper's advice and kept half the prize money in his boots. Maverick admits it will be fun retrieving the rest of the funds.


There are multiple cameo appearances in the film from Western actors, people who have formerly worked with Donner, Gibson, Foster, or Garner, and other celebrities including Danny Glover (uncredited), Hal Ketchum and Corey Feldman as bank robbers; Read Morgan and Steve Kahan as card dealers; Dub Taylor as a room clerk at the opening game;[5] Art LaFleur and Leo Gordon as poker players at Maverick's first game; Paul Brinegar as the stagecoach driver; Denver Pyle as a cheating old gambler;[5] Robert Fuller, Doug McClure, Henry Darrow, William Smith and Charles Dierkop as riverboat poker players; Dan Hedaya as Twitchy, another Riverboat poker player; William Marshall as a riverboat poker player defeated by Angel; Dennis Fimple as Stuttering, a player beaten by the Commodore; Bert Remsen as an elderly riverboat gambler beaten by Maverick;[5] and Margot Kidder as missionary Margaret Mary in an uncredited appearance.[6]

Leo Gordon had played a semi-regular supporting character in seasons one and two of the original Maverick TV show: gambler Big Mike McComb. Gordon also later wrote a few episodes of the show. Margot Kidder had been Garner's co-star in the short-lived western TV series Nichols. Danny Glover's cameo appearance references Donner's Lethal Weapon film series starring Glover and Gibson as cop partners. Their meeting in Maverick sees them share a moment of recognition,[7] and as he leaves, Glover says Roger Murtaugh's catchphrase: "I'm getting too old for this shit."

Country singers also cameo including Carlene Carter as a waitress, Waylon Jennings and Kathy Mattea as a gambling couple with concealed guns, Reba McEntire, Clint Black as a sweet-faced gambler thrown overboard for cheating, and Vince Gill and his then-wife Janis Gill as spectators.



In Five Screenplays with Essays, Goldman describes an earlier version of the script, in which Maverick explains he has a magic ability to call the card he needs out of the deck. Although he is not able to do so successfully, the old hermit he attempts to demonstrate it for tells him that he really does have the magic in him.[8] This scene was shot with Linda Hunt playing the hermit but it was felt it did not work in the context of the rest of the movie and was cut.[9]


Parts of the film were shot at Lake Powell and Warm Creek in Utah. Other filming locations include Lee's Ferry and Marble Canyon in Arizona, Lone Pine, Manzanar, Big Pine, and Yosemite National Park in California, and Columbia River Gorge in Oregon.[10]


The Portland was used in the film as the steamboat Lauren Belle in the film.

The steamboat used in the film—dubbed the Lauren Belle—was the Portland, the last remaining sternwheel tugboat in the US; at the time it belonged to the Oregon Maritime Museum in Portland. Over several weeks, the boat was decorated to alter its appearance to resemble a Mississippi-style gambling boat, including the addition of two decorative chimneys.[11] In August 1993, the production requested permission to film scenes of the riverboat along the Columbia River in Washington State. The artificial smoke released by the boat's chimney was considered to violate air-quality laws in Washington and Oregon and required approval for the scenes before their scheduled filming date in September 1993.[12] After filming concluded, the decorations were removed and the boat was returned to its original state.[11]


The soundtrack featured three chart singles: "Renegades, Rebels and Rogues" by Tracy Lawrence,[13] "A Good Run of Bad Luck" by Clint Black (which also appeared on his album No Time to Kill),[14] and "Something Already Gone" by Carlene Carter. Also included on the album was an all-star rendition of "Amazing Grace", from which all royalties were donated to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.[15]


The film has received generally favorable reviews.[7] The film garnered a 67% approval rating from 52 critics – an average rating of 6/10 – on the review-aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes, which said, "It isn't terribly deep, but it's witty and undeniably charming, and the cast is obviously having fun."[16]

James Berardinelli, from, gave the film three and a half stars out of four. He stated, "The strength of Maverick is the ease with which it switches from comedy to action, and back's refreshing to find something that satisfies expectations."[17] Reviewing it for the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert gave the film three stars out of a possible four, writing: "The first lighthearted, laugh-oriented family Western in a long time, and one of the nice things about it is, it doesn't feel the need to justify its existence. It acts like it's the most natural thing in the world to be a Western."[5]

Box office[edit]

The film earned $101,631,272 (55.5%) in North America and $81,400,000 (44.5%) elsewhere for a worldwide total of $183,031,272.[4] This gross made it the number 12 highest-grossing film in North America and the number 15 highest-grossing film worldwide of 1994. As of 2013, the film is the number 6 highest grossing Western film in North America.[4]

Pre-release tracking showed that the film would open strongly,.[7] During its opening weekend in North America, Maverick earned $17.2 million million from 2,537 theaters – an average of $6,798 per theater – ranking as the number 1 film of the weekend,[4] and took a total of $41.8 million over its first two weeks of release.[7]

The movie was a box office success as it grossed over $183 million worldwide.[18][19]


  1. ^ Hall, Carla (May 15, 1994). "SUMMER SNEAKS '94 : Was, Is and Always a Maverick : His signatures are Rockford and Maverick--can anybody in Hollywood do cool and canny better than James Garner?". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 23, 2010. 
  2. ^ "Maverick". British Board of Film Classification. May 26, 1994. Retrieved August 31, 2012. 
  3. ^ Box Office Information for Maverick. The Wrap. Retrieved April 4, 2013.
  4. ^ a b c d "Maverick". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 31, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c d Ebert, Roger (May 20, 1994). "Maverick". Chicago Sun-Times. Sun-Times Media Group. Retrieved September 3, 2012. 
  6. ^ Full Cast & Crew on IMDb (cited 9 April 2014)
  7. ^ a b c d Weinraub, Bernard (June 23, 1994). "At The `Maverick' Helm". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved September 2, 2012. 
  8. ^ Goldman, William (2000). William Goldman: Five Screenplays with Essays. Hal Leonard Corporation. pp. 474–479. ISBN 978-1-55783-362-4. 
  9. ^ Goldman, William, Which Lie Did I Tell?, Bloomsbury, 2000 p 68
  10. ^ D'Arc, James V. (2010). When Hollywood came to town: a history of moviemaking in Utah (1st ed.). Layton, Utah: Gibbs Smith. ISBN 9781423605874. 
  11. ^ a b "National Register of Historic Places Registration Form: Portland, Steam Tug" (pdf). National Park Service. June 25, 1997. Archived (PDF) from the original on February 2, 2013. Retrieved February 1, 2013. 
  12. ^ "'Maverick' Scene Hinges On Approval". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved October 24, 2010. 
  13. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2008). Hot Country Songs 1944 to 2008. Record Research, Inc. pp. 232–233. ISBN 0-89820-177-2. 
  14. ^ Whitburn, pp. 50-51
  15. ^ Maverick (CD booklet). Various artists. Atlantic Records. 1994. 82595. 
  16. ^ "Maverick (1994)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved September 2, 2012. 
  17. ^ "James Berardinelli review of Maverick". Retrieved February 12, 2010. 
  18. ^ Fox, David J. (May 23, 1994). "Maverick Wins Big Pot at Box Office : Movies: An estimated $17.2-million take for the weekend is the biggest opening this year". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 23, 2010. 
  19. ^ Fox, David J. (June 1, 1994). "Memorial Day Weekend Box Office : A Mighty Big Take at the Cash Register". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 23, 2010. 

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