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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 6)

An example, he says, that he's never talked about publicly before.

Selleck begins by telling the story of how, during the height of his success playing Magnum, he did High Road to China, a feature that enjoyed commercial success in America and, as a result, garnered a personal appearance request for him and costar Bess Armstrong to come to Paris to coincide with the movie's French premiere.

One of the events was held in a large public park where Selleck was to receive the Medal of Paris from the mayor on a grandstand at one end of the park before continuing on with another event on the opposite side of the venue.

Officials walked Selleck and the very petite Armstrong off the grandstand and the crowd of 20,000 screaming attendees descended on the actors, crushing them into the crowd. Selleck, who beforehand had made a point of inquiring about security details, realized that not only was the security detail—made up of 75 horse-mounted Parisian gendarmes—not going to break up the crowd, a crowd that had already stampeded a dog to death in the rush forward, but that the producer of the event, affiliated with the film company, had orchestrated the melee.

Even as he tells the story of an event that happened more than 20 years ago, you can see that Selleck is still as angry about the experience today as he was then.

"In the madness a dog was killed—trampled to death—and it really disturbed me. I wasn't," he laughs a little sarcastically, "scarred from it, but it informed me so much about where this business could go. Keep in mind that I'd been in Hawaii, I'd been 'removed' for a while. I'd go to L.A., do a rush of stuff, but it was controlled stuff. I was so disturbed by that [Paris] deal that I remember saying to my agent, 'If this is what it's like, I've got to find another line of work. It's mad.' It was just so disturbing and so undignified that I think it affected my choices and how much I did value my privacy and how much I avoided stuff after that. And maybe it made me more guarded. I've never told anyone that story before," he says, pausing, "but I had to find a way to do this business and stay a little saner."

Today, part of that sanity comes from having as normal a family life as he, his wife and his daughter can maintain on their ranch. Set among rolling hills covered in oak, this is no rich man's hobby farm; the ranch is home to an eclectic mix of family pets and livestock, including a stable of horses. Selleck, a big fan of Western movies, admits that he doesn't ride as much as he'd like considering that he's juggling projects at two major networks. Still, when he can find the time or is lucky enough to land a film that calls for a cowboy to ride the open range before disappearing into a sunset, he prefers to ride Western.

His daughter, Hannah, on the other hand, is a whole different story; Hannah's horses are trained show jumpers, she rides competitively in events all over the country and hopes, ultimately, to compete in the Olympics. Even as Selleck grumbles good-naturedly about her choice of passion ("she couldn't have found a less expensive sport to compete in?"), it's obvious that he and his wife are as committed to her happiness and goals as she is.

"I'm very proud of her. You know, she didn't pick it when she was four years old because it was expensive," Selleck says with a sigh. "And she's stayed with it. She's stayed with it through...well, she broke both bones in her lower leg, she's broken her wrists, she's broken her collarbone and every time got back on a horse. So it's taught her a lot of stuff that most kids, particularly athletic kids, don't get. You learn through your failures. She doesn't win every horse show. She doesn't win most of her horse shows. It's a lot like baseball: if you get a hit three times out of 10 times, you're a superstar.

"I think lessons in sports come more often than not not from winning but from failure," Selleck muses. "But she's found a sport that is also a sport for [laughs] affluent people. My wife and I have talked a lot about this. We grew up with pretty simple lower-middle-class values, both of us, her in England. Kids don't just get those values by osmosis and [Hannah's] grown up in a different environment where I've had money and we've had a nice house. The day we came home from the hospital, the day she was born, that's the day we moved onto our 63-acre ranch, and that's where she grew up. So she's picked a sport where I have to sometimes say 'we can't afford that' and it's a blessing. You know," Selleck sighs again, "there are a lot of multibillionaires in the sport [of competitive jumping] that drive the price of these horses up into higher and higher levels. So we've taken her about as high as we can take it."

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