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A Star Returns

After years of battling rumors and bad scripts, Tom Selleck, the former Star of Magnum, P.I., is poised for a comeback.
Mervyn Rothstein
From the Print Edition:
Tom Selleck, Winter 95/96

(continued from page 1)

In a way, his decision to take a career break started with Columbus--Christopher Columbus. Selleck had returned after four months in Japan filming Mr. Baseball, a difficult and postponed shoot that would lead to a not very successful movie.

"I hadn't really gotten off the roller coaster since 'Magnum' ended in '88," he says. "I had been trying to cement my place in the movie business. And then my agent called and said I'd been offered a job in Spain, a cameo role as King Ferdinand in Christopher Columbus: The Discovery. He said that Marlon Brando was doing the movie, so I thought, if Brando's doing it, I wanted to do it. I wrestled with it a bit, but not as much as I should have.

"And then, just about the time I was supposed to go over there, Hannah came down with viral pneumonia. The poor thing had a mask on and she was on an IV. That was pretty rough. I delayed my leaving, and the day she was getting out of the hospital was the day I traveled to Spain. But I should have stayed home. I went to Spain really very torn, feeling responsible, because the media had somehow found out about it and were probing around the hospital, and that's pretty tough to deal with."

When Selleck got to Spain, he found even more problems. "The script had been completely changed," he says. "Instead of having six scenes, five of them with Brando, I had something like five scenes, only one with Brando, and he was only lurking in the background. I said to myself, 'This isn't right; they're in breach of contract. This is wrong, and I'm getting out of here.' So I packed. But I talked to my lawyer in L.A., and he said that while they were in breach, they had 24 hours to cure it, and he said I couldn't get on a plane, that they would sue me, because they had financed the movie on my name and Marlon's. I was in this movie for a cup of coffee, maybe three minutes, and I hadn't even allowed them to bill my name above the title, and I had to sit on it and stay there."

When Selleck returned to California after filming, his daughter was fine. "But I didn't feel that going to Spain was the right decision as a father. I should have listened to something inside me. I should have said no to the movie. I hadn't spent enough time at home."

As he is speaking, the door to the suite opens, and, as if on cue, his wife and daughter enter. Jillie is petite, small-boned, with a very British face and smile, and Hannah, thin and blonde, looks very much the seven-year-old she is, with a little bit of both parents in her appearance. Hannah runs over and plants a kiss on her daddy's cheek. He hugs and kisses her in return, and she sits next to him.

"We just came up to say hello," Jillie says. "We're going to go out. We might go to the Statue of Liberty." But Hannah firmly shakes her head no. She wants to stay with her dad.

"Come on, baby," Selleck says to her. "You're going to go with your mom." He turns to his wife. "I have to talk about her some more." He pauses as Jillie and Hannah give him a kiss and leave. Where was he? Ah yes, Christopher Columbus, and the reasons he stayed away from movies for three long years.

"That movie really caused me to reassess things," he says. "When I've talked about this before I've talked in terms of the reviews of the movie, which were pretty bad and very disturbing. But that was six months later, and that wasn't the real key to me reassessing what my priorities were. The real reason was my daughter and not being there for her. I know if she had still been in the hospital I wouldn't have gone; they would have had to come and arrest me to get me out of there. But leaving even when she was discharged certainly was not right."

So he decided to take a year off.

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