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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 8)

Well, uh, yes, Selleck's a very attractive man and if, at 62, he looks an easy five to 10 years younger, all the better. Interestingly, the character of Jesse Stone that author Robert B. Parker created and turned into the antihero of a best-selling series of books—a former Los Angeles detective who, upon learning of his wife's affair, hits the bottle and, after losing his job, hits the road headed east and ultimately becomes chief of police of the (fictional) small town of Paradise, Massachusetts—was actually 35 years old on the page.

With understated performance, Selleck offers up a Jesse who's quietly strong on the outside but haunted within, and does so with a rather obvious difference in the character-versus-actor age. So how does the character's author, in spite of the first four films' critical acclaim, record viewing numbers and an Emmy nomination, feel about a creative prerogative that's aged Jesse by a couple of decades?

According to Parker, he's thrilled. "Tom had read Stone Cold and called me saying that he was enamored with the story and the character of Jesse. Of course," adds Parker, "I said I'd never, ever consider selling the rights to Hollywood [laughs wildly], but for Tom I'd make an exception. Now, physically, he's an improvement to the Jesse I imagined. If you've spent time with Tom, you know that he's not a bad-looking guy—walking around with Tom in public has you feeling like a gnome after a while—and I had no qualms about it.

"Now in all honesty, this is a business and I probably would have sold [Stone Cold] to Mickey Rooney if he was still working and if he'd offered the right money and made the right deal, but [laughs again] I wouldn't have had the same feeling of confidence and pleasure that I have with Tom. I cried when I saw his Stone Cold, because Tom nailed it. He totally nailed it.

"Tom's good, Tom has gravitas and you rarely find that anymore," Parker continues. "There's weight to his performance. I remember watching him in Ike: Countdown to D-Day and people said, 'Tom Selleck as Ike?!' Well, he nailed that too."

Michael Brandman, Selleck's co-executive producer on the Jesse Stone franchise, concurs. "Tom, as a working partner and as an actor, has some of the best instincts of anyone I've ever worked with in my entire career. He's smart...very, very smart. Most actors think they have all the smarts and all the gifts, but Tom really does. He takes the time to know the story's character—and the character's story—and he also knows production and post-production, which means that he's already got a pretty good idea of what's going to work and what isn't when it comes time to work the film.

"He makes you want to do the best you possibly can and he encourages you by example. If he ever chose to run for politics, well, he has the charisma, the knowledge—and I'm talking global knowledge—and the wit to make things happen. We joke about our votes canceling each other's out, [and] his take on global affairs and politics are a lot different than mine," Brandman says, smiling, "but over the years as we've discussed things and debated them, Tom's caused me to look at things differently—not necessarily to vote differently!—but to see things from another perspective. He's broadened my own awareness of things, broadened my perspective, and that's a good thing."

Selleck groans out loud when Brandman's comment "if he ever chose to run for politics..." is passed by him for a response and it's obvious that it's opened up a can of worms that he's simultaneously eager and loath to talk about. Selleck's political leanings have been commented on by the media—both accurately and not, says Selleck—constantly over the last decade or so and, frankly, he's a little tired of the whole thing.

"I'm not politically active; I'm politically minded," Selleck's insisted in recent years, and if a review of the actor's political donations over the last decade or so turns up a number of campaign donations to Republican candidates, so, he points out, do donations to Democratic candidates. He's not ashamed of his conservative leanings in an industry that's heavily liberal, he says, but he's also tired—really, really tired—of being characterized as something he's not, and that includes being, exclusively, behind Republican support issues or thinking himself of running for office.

"I'm a Libertarian at heart, although it's not practical, [and] I'm a Conservative—little 'L,' little 'C'—and I've been a registered Independent for well over a decade," says Selleck. "I don't fit into the box that [people] want to put me in."

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