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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 8)

The eight-year success of "Magnum," of course, is also history. The show's triumph was in large part connected to the character that Selleck created, and the sense, shared by many viewers, that the personality of Thomas Magnum contained more than a little of the personality of Thomas Selleck.

"I think a lot of Magnum was me," he says. "I'm not him and he's not me, but when you do a series for that long, when you become so tired that what you are going with is your gut, it's inevitable. Magnum's choices were probably filtered through my values." And what are those values? He ponders. "Boy, that's hard," he says. "I guess consistency. Some kind of attempt to do the right thing."

Selleck's character, his insistence on values, and his concern for what he believes to be right came to the fore several years ago when a homosexual organization that specialized in dragging people out of the closet declared on a poster that he was gay. A tabloid newspaper picked up the report. Selleck was furious, and fought back.

"The gay thing was a big risk, actually," he says, "but it couldn't have turned out any better. Someone told me you're really not successful in this business until you start hearing rumors about yourself. If people who are gay find me attractive and want me to be gay, there's nothing I can do about it. But I'm not gay, and I knew there was a political element in it because of my conservatism.

"I got a lot of advice not to react, people telling me that reacting would only lend credence to the whole thing. But I thought, I'm married, and what does this say to my wife and my child about the way I live my life? It's not being antigay to say you're not gay. I said that no one has lived on the face of this earth who can truthfully say I'm gay. I don't feel the need to comment publicly on gays or the gay movement, but I felt I had to do something about it for me to remain reasonably sane. If you're gay, you're gay, and if you're not, you're not. I did the right thing. And I got an apology from the tabloid inside of a week."

* * *

The age of 50--"the 50s are pretty scary," he says--is often a time for pondering the time remaining in one's life. Selleck says he has been doing a lot of that lately. "For one," he says, "I've answered the question once and for all about whether work is going to go away. It's not. I'll work at one level or another. But basically, I don't like the business of acting, of getting jobs--I don't like a lot of things about this business. I want to keep the ranch going, pulling weeds, tending the animals. The ranch is a pretty funky place. It's not an elaborate estate, but hopefully the kind of place where you can get dirty and then sit down in the living room. We like that. We're comfortable with that."

Life on the ranch, he says, "doesn't mean I'll care less about acting. But I want to do the right thing with Jillie and Hannah. I'm just getting very comfortable at not projecting too far ahead. It drives people crazy, but I am pretty good at taking things as they come. Mainly because you could never have predicted the path my life would take. And the path hasn't been so bad."

Selleck is, he says, "a lot happier" than he has ever been. "It sounds like I was a troubled, unhappy person. I wasn't. It's just that things are a lot more in balance.

"And when I look back, some of my fondest memories are reserved for the struggle, the tough times. Looking back, I'm real happy with the last three years. And believe me, a lot of things in the last three years have been conflicted and angry and hurt. But that's life--and I've really learned to develop an appetite for it. You realize that getting there wasn't such a big deal, because there's always somewhere else to go. The goals aren't that important. To me, the ride is more important than the goal. And right now, I'm real happy with the ride."

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