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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 4)

"I was starting over," says Selleck, slowly. "I was newly divorced or almost divorced, I can't remember. I was single. It was a pretty lonely, weird time and I'd also been around enough to look at a lot of other careers."

Selleck knew, he said, that his life was about to change and not always in the ways he'd want. He's the first to admit that he's a pretty cautious man, a wary man who guards his privacy, and with success, he says, comes a kind of loss.

"Up until then, you know, I got recognized occasionally from a commercial I did or something, [but] even that was changing because I [had done] a couple of bigger parts...I'd been on "Rockford Files" and I'd done "The Sacketts." But you know your life's going to change whether or not the show's a hit. You know you're going to be much more of a public person. That's something I've never thought of as a good thing about success."

For a guy who, unless it's a really short interview, a scheduled press junket or a sound bite supporting a specific project, doesn't court or routinely give sit-down interviews, the loss of privacy that the success of "Magnum, P.I." brought was a bigger issue than most people would guess.

"It's threatening. I mean, I could walk around Hawaii before the show took off and, apart from some occasional recognition, I had a pretty good life for that time. It was at least two or three months, I think. The actors strike was 10 weeks and I went over ahead of time because I had nowhere else to go. You know, my life had changed. Everything had changed. And the great sadness is that you work [so] hard when you're married or have a relationship and then you get the success you worked so hard for and there's nobody you can really share it with. So it was a kind of weird, melancholy time and I also knew my life was going to change. I'd been around enough to know that [and] I sensed the loss of privacy was probably not welcome."

The success of "Magnum, P.I." lasted from 1980 until 1988, with Selleck serving as an occasional producer or executive producer on episodes. During that time, Selleck was also able to make the occasional big-screen film or television movie, including the western The Shadow Riders, the adventure film High Road to China, the slightly sci-fi Runaway and the surprise hit comedy Three Men and a Baby.

For anyone who had questioned Selleck's ability to transition his pretty-boy face and his viewer loyalty from "Magnum, P.I." to the big screen, one had only to look at the box office success of High Road to China and Three Men and a Baby to know that Selleck had the chops and the fan base to carry off a big-budget film.

In 1987, Three Men and a Baby became the first motion picture ever to lead the box office for the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year weekends, and it ultimately became the No. 1 picture in the world. It also won the Favorite Comedy Motion Picture category at the People's Choice Awards in 1988 and spawned the sequel Three Men and a Little Lady, once again with Selleck opposite costars Ted Danson and Steve Guttenberg, in 1990.

But the even bigger global exposure that came with feature films also brought an additional loss of privacy and, with Selleck having married English actress Jillie Mack in 1987 and their having a daughter, Hannah, a year later, the concept of privacy and security was becoming a bigger and bigger issue. Especially after one particular incident in France.

Nearly two weeks have gone by since the initial interview in Los Angeles and Selleck is now in Halifax, Nova Scotia, thoroughly wrapped up in the filming and production of Jesse Stone: Thin Ice.

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