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Magnum Opus

In "Las Vegas" and the Jesse Stone series, Tom Selleck reminds us why he is one of America's best-loved actors.
Betsy Model
From the Print Edition:
Tom Selleck, Nov/Dec 2007

(continued from page 3)

It was, says Selleck now, insane. "They'd recast my role [on "Magnum, P.I."] and it was going on the air, so now I wasn't doing Raiders and there wasn't any "Magnum, P.I." either!"

Finally, says Selleck, CBS and Universal settled their differences, decided to film in Hawaii, and Selleck was back in again. For just a few weeks. "I went to Hawaii to start. I had a living allowance of $2,500 a month, had found a little house, a one-bedroom house but with a great view and I put down rent, last month's rent, security deposit and everything, all of which I didn't have except for that allowance. And then, before we started [filming], the actors went on strike."

Fortunately, his new landlady hadn't quite finished the remodeling and Selleck convinced her that he was handy enough to finish the work in return for rent consideration. Ironically, though, while Selleck was doing carpentry work on his rental, the cast and crew of Raiders of the Lost Ark came to Hawaii to film some of their final scenes.

"There they are, finishing Raiders of the Lost Ark in Hawaii, where I'm sitting around working as a handyman for $7 an hour with no "Magnum, P.I.," groans Selleck.

"I still have—I haven't framed it or anything—but I still have a letter from Steven [Spielberg] saying what a rotten deal I'd gotten and that I had a part out there [somewhere] and somewhere along the line we are going to work together."

"I haven't," Selleck says, grinning, "played that card yet."

In the long run, of course, it was all good; Selleck finally began filming "Magnum, P.I." and the show ultimately garnered the actor five Emmy nominations for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series—he won in 1984—and seven Golden Globe nominations for Best Performance by an Actor in a TV Series, one of which he took home in 1985.

It was a role that became, undisputedly, Selleck's. Magnum, as originally envisioned by the creators, was a dashing, virile, James Bond—like character; Selleck made him goofier, sillier, a little flawed but still noble. The kind of guy who, with a simple whine of "gee, guys," could convince his best friends to pull a con, give him access to exclusive clubs or fly him for free on their helicopters just because he was so damn...likable.

And if, at first glance, the character of Magnum—a buff, carefree, single guy living in Hawaii who gets to wear a uniform of tropical shirts over khaki shorts and can, in his off-hours, play beach volleyball, kayak the surf or indulge in a Mai Tai at sunset while viewing bikini-clad babes on the sand—could be confused with Tom Selleck, the actor, the truth is that on the surface they looked pretty much the same.

It's just that Tom Selleck wasn't feeling all that carefree. With all of the hoped-for success of Magnum, he says, things were great. But, sometimes, not so great, too, especially in the on-again, off-again beginning of the series.

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