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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 3)

There were money concerns as well. "I live a pretty simple life," he says. "I've been poor. I've been middle class. I've been rich. By most standards it's better to have more money. You live better, of course. But, and I don't know how to explain this to most people, your nut just gets bigger. I don't know what really rich means. Really rich people, I guess, don't worry about that. I had established enough of a lifestyle; it wasn't a globe-trotting lifestyle, but it was a comfortable one, and it was expensive. And I had no money coming in. There were times when I was worried about where to get money for a payment, where I would get the cash for this and that."

He laughs uneasily. "And this was at a time when my family business with my brothers--a real estate development company--needed a certain amount of cash, because we were in a pretty big recession. Our company's doing just fine now, but that required cash, my lifestyle required cash and there was nothing coming in. There were a lot of film offers that were quite tempting for the money, but I was just trying to keep my eye on the fact that if something was not good, I was not going to do it.

"Number one, I didn't want to leave home. I liked being there. My daughter had started in a prekindergarten class. It was a 45-minute drive, so we would fight the traffic every morning to take her to school, and it was great. I was doing all the things I think a parent should do, if they can afford to. It was very hard to leave this situation unless [an offer] was good, and nothing good came along. Meanwhile, everybody was writing that I was going to do a television series, but I'm not. If I did, Hannah would be asleep in the morning when I left for work, and asleep in the evening when I came home. And I don't need to do that. At least not yet."

During those years, Selleck also tried to sell a movie idea to Universal Pictures--a feature in which he would have again played the role of Magnum, but with a switch. In the movie, Magnum would be in the Navy (which he returned to at the end of the series). Selleck's close friend, novelist Tom Clancy, would have written the story. But much to the actor's disappointment, the movie never happened.

"Universal was interested," Selleck says. "I went to them after Mr. Baseball because I heard about all the movies that were being developed based on television series, such as The Fugitive and Maverick. I thought a "Magnum" movie would be a kind of slam dunk, because the show is still seen in 90 countries--we have a huge audience. At first I thought they weren't talking to me because they thought I would hold them up pricewise. So I said I would be fair with them. I thought it was a no-brainer, a no-downside movie.

"But they wanted to know how we could create a perception that this is a big movie. So I mulled it over and called Tom Clancy, who is a friend and was a real fan of the show. Magnum's going back to being a Navy Seal was right up Tom's alley. I asked him what he thought would be a hot global issue a year from then--this was a couple of years ago--and he said nuclear proliferation in North Korea," Selleck says. So I went back and asked Universal if having Tom Clancy would create enough of a perception that it's a big movie, and they said yes. And what happened then, in my opinion, was a lot of foot-dragging. What they would have had a year ago was a very timely movie that would have dealt with how the North Koreans got their plutonium, in a very credible Clancyesque way. That's a pretty good movie."

Selleck believes that Universal "thought that things weren't going too well for me--or at least that's how it appeared--and that a much safer bet would be to get me to make four 'Magnums' a year for television. That would reinvigorate the franchise, they thought. But I won't do that, particularly now. The only way they're going to get hold of this Magnum character is to make a feature film."

Selleck stands and, as if to signal intermission, walks into the next room. "Would you like a cigar?" he asks. He was just in Washington, D.C., he says, as part of the promotional tour for his TV movie, and he picked up some pre-Castro Havanas. He has smoked cigars on and off for many years, and on a regular basis for the past five or six.

"Most of the time I smoke Havanas," he says. "Hoyo de Monterrey double coronas, Punch double coronas. I haven't had a Ramon Allones Gigantes. Those are really coveted because they're so hard to get. Cohiba Robusto is the only Cohiba I like. I find the others overrated; they're all overpriced." But he adds, "I have enough Havana cigars. It's kind of neat being a celebrity--a lot of people find out that you like cigars and give them to you. To me, Cuban cigars won't be as much fun when they're not contraband."

Selleck has also been enjoying more and more non-Cuban cigars. "The domestic cigars keep getting better and better," he says. "I'm smoking a lot of La Gloria Cubanas from Miami--when I can get them. The La Gloria Cubana Wavell is a sensational smoke. But because they're so highly rated in Cigar Aficionado, they have become almost impossible to get. I also love Davidoffs. I know they're expensive, but Davidoff Special R's are just excellent. The Special T's are very good, and they're a classic shape. Their Double R's are also consistently high in quality. The Davidoffs are just made so well. And I'm finding that with almost all of the Havana cigars there are a lot of inconsistencies. You're going to get some duds in every box, which is sad. I know the problems, without getting into the politics of Castro; there are huge problems with supply and demand, and the large demand affects the quality control."

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