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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 5)

It's late August and, like the rest of the eastern seaboard, Halifax's weather is fluctuating wildly between thunderstorms and bright, crisp summer days and between stifling humidity and the occasional breezy morning. The film crew, led by Selleck, co-executive producer Michael Brandman and director Robert Harmon, are working day and night so they can stay on schedule and "can" the film in the production's allotted time frame and in Selleck's scheduled break from the set of "Las Vegas."

This is the fifth Jesse Stone movie that Selleck's filmed in Halifax in as many years and it's obvious that he's become pretty comfortable being in the seaside town just as the town's come to accept him and the inevitable hubbub that occurs when a film crew descends.

If there's one thing missing, Selleck and some of his guy friends grumble, it's a place to smoke a cigar.

"I don't crave fact, it's very uncomfortable smoking a cigar in an uncomfortable situation where you might think you're bothering someone. Now, Jillie doesn't mind. I mean, I don't smoke in the house very much, but she doesn't really care if I do. We've got high ceilings, an old Spanish house.

"Now Halifax," Selleck sighs, "is turning the way of the authoritarian mandate controlling smoking, which I don't really approve of, and it's getting very hard to find a place to smoke in. There used to be restaurants and smoking clubs. You know, it's moved beyond helping the public health and it's moved towards, you know, 'We're going to protect you from yourself.'"

Still, Selleck says, he's found outdoor areas where he can enjoy a cigar just to unwind a bit. "If I'm in a work situation I'll smoke cigars just because you have to wait around a lot. There's time if you've got a 45-minute set-up in between takes and you know your words and you know your character. The worst thing in the world to do is sit around doing your words and thinking about your character and getting nervous! At home if I'm in the normal mode I'll probably smoke three, four cigars a month. Here I'm smoking one a day, probably."

As for what he's smoking, Selleck doesn't hesitate. "I smoke Arturo Fuente cigars, the Don Carlos Robusto and the Short Story. And if that's all I had I'd be happy the rest of my life. [The Don Carlos is] always a good smoke. It's really a good cigar and I know the family. They're a terrific family. And even when they're hard to get, they kind of help me find some. So I'd say 90 percent of the cigars I smoke are those, the Don Carlos Robusto. And if I want a good short smoke, it's a Short Story. I've never had a bad smoke with a Don Carlos. I did a take yesterday and I stuck [one] on the foot part of my chair. I went in and did two or three takes, did the scene, came out, and it was still lit."

Selleck used to be a big Cohiba fan, but says he's slightly less enthusiastic these days. "Look, I'm over the Havana thing. I've smoked some really good Havanas. I think they cost a lot, though. The cost of cigars influences me [some], but the Cohiba Robusto, especially when they first came out, I think they were better than they are now. That doesn't mean they aren't good now, [but] what I found basically with Cubans, which is frustrating, is you get an exceptional cigar but...quality control—wise for those prices, you're going to find some lousy smokes. If it's not taste, it's the way the cigar is made. It's got a tunnel or it's going to go out or it's going to drop. In a box you're going to have a certain amount of those, and you shouldn't. So that's always frustrating. But, you know, maybe they've corrected that now. There was a period, I heard, where the Havanas, they were rushing them to market, not aging them properly, stuff like that."

When it's pointed out that in Halifax he can pretty much buy whatever cigar he wants, Selleck doesn't miss the inference. "I'm not just running out and buying Cubans and trying to—for those Customs officials reading—I'm not trying to smuggle Cubans back into the United States. I'm pretty much a free-market guy," Selleck quips, "so it's not really patriotic."

More than 30 hours after this last conversation, it's hard to tell whether Selleck is simply feeling a little more relaxed and a little less guarded than usual or just that he's weary from a 14-hour day of shooting. Either way, it is after 10 o'clock at night, he's seated in front of an Italian seafood dish with a very nice glass of Riserva Ducale Chianti in his hand and, for whatever reason, Selleck suddenly feels as if he owes more than a general complaint about the privacy and safety issues that he's talked about and that come with being a public figure; he owes an example.

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