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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 2)

"I love Hawaii. When I was in the [California] National Guard and in the infantry, I went there one summer for summer camp. That was a great gig. You know, we had two weeks where we were training in the hills that was pretty miserable, but I remember visiting [a friend] at the Outrigger Canoe Club and playing a little beach volleyball with him and I thought, 'God I'm in the wrong business! If I could be making a living at something else, I'd live here. Nah, that'll never happen' and I end up going there! And it was that life at the Outrigger Canoe Club and the fact that most of my friends were outside the business [that] was really good for me. They didn't cut me any slack and they kidded me a lot. I wasn't the best volleyball player at the club. I was good but not anywhere near the best. They are really, really good players, so most volleyball games were a loss. A," Selleck says with a grin, "humiliating loss."

For a brief period it looked as if "Magnum, P.I." and Selleck's shot at staying in Hawaii might also be a loss—a debate about filming caused multiple delays—and then, simultaneously, another opportunity came and went too: a role, the lead role, in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

According to Selleck, he's awful when auditioning for an acting role—nerves, mostly—but, perhaps because he felt that the "Magnum, P.I." pilot was really going to fly, he must have relaxed enough to read well; Steven Spielberg and George Lucas offered him the role of Indiana Jones.

One of the rumors that's too often repeated, says Selleck, and the one that in some respects annoys him the most, is that he turned down the role of Indiana Jones. It's simply not true, the actor says.

No actor in his right mind would turn down that role, Selleck insists, unless maybe he'd already made a television show pilot in good faith and, although still technically in limbo, had a resulting case of a disease not often seen or diagnosed in Hollywood: ethics.

"Before I ever did the test, I said to them, 'I have this pilot,' and they [Spielberg and Lucas] said," Selleck mimics a gasp, "'You're telling us that? No one does that! No one tells us when they have a pilot!'"

It was the right thing to do, Selleck said, and the honest thing, but their response was more than he could have hoped for. "I was philosophic going in and [told them] that 'I don't know, the show hasn't sold yet, but I think it's going to,' and they said, 'We'll test you anyway. We're not real worried about it.'"

"Well, they weren't real worried about talking CBS into letting me do the movie [and] basically said they had cards to play with the network," continues Selleck, and, after reading a portion of the Raiders of the Lost Ark script, he knew he wanted the role. Badly. CBS, however, had other ideas and nixed the thought of Selleck taking on both roles. Reluctantly, Selleck agreed and told Spielberg the news.

Then, says Selleck, it all went sour. In the weeks after Selleck said he couldn't take on a commitment for Raiders, "Magnum, P.I." got sidelined yet again while CBS and Universal Studios, which had shot "Hawaii Five-0" in Hawaii for 12 years, argued about where the new Hawaii-themed show was going to film, in L.A. or in Hawaii. While the debate raged between the production companies, "Magnum, P.I." was taken out of the scheduled lineup, leaving Selleck with nada.

To make money, Selleck said yes to a television movie, Concrete Cowboys, opposite Jerry Reed, during which time CBS put "Magnum, P.I." back on the schedule for production, this time recast with someone else as Magnum.

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