Aside from Sam Elliot, no actor is more famous for their mustache than Tom Selleck, the former Magnum, P.I., Three Men and a Baby, and the long-running CBS drama Blue Bloods. While you’re probably aware that Selleck was once considered for the role of Indiana Jones, there’s a lot more to his life and career. Consider some lesser-known facts about Selleck (born on January 29, 1945 in Detroit), such as his military service and his tenure with the Detroit Tigers.
1 – Tom Selleck once appeared on The Dating Game.
Tom Selleck was born on January 29, 1945 in Detroit, Michigan. He grew up in Los Angeles and attended the University of Southern California, where he also entered a management training program for United Airlines. While he was a gifted athlete, Selleck preferred the performing arts. Selleck began his career as a model and went on to appear in commercials, notably one for Safeguard deodorant, in which co-star Teri Garr declared, “He smells just the way a man should smell—clean.”
Prior to his commercial success, he appeared on The Dating Game in 1965, which was a popular technique for budding performers to obtain exposure at the time. (Anthony Schwarzenegger, Steve Martin, and Andy Kaufman all made appearances). Despite his subsequent stardom, Selleck was eliminated from the show twice.
2 – Tom Selleck was a member of the military.
During the Vietnam War, Selleck was called up. He enlisted in the California National Guard in 1967 and was assigned to the 160th Infantry Regiment, where he rose to the rank of sergeant and served until 1973. Selleck was under contract with Fox at the time. After six months of full-time service, he came home in 1969 to learn that the studio had sacked him. Later, Selleck was featured in National Guard promotional materials and served as a spokesman for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.
3 – Mae West helped Tom Selleck get a major break.
Though he continued to make television advertisements throughout the 1970s, Mae West provided Selleck with his first major big-screen role. Selleck was hand-picked by the iconic actress to play one of her “studs” in 1970’s Myra Breckinridge. Selleck attributed his success to West’s assistance. “Mae was a wonderful woman,” Selleck said in 1997 to The Morning Call. “I escorted her to a couple of premieres, and she did hundreds of interviews where she mentioned me in the same sentence as Cary Grant.”
4 – Magnum, P.I. wouldn’t have stopped Tom Selleck from playing Indiana Jones, it turns out.
One of the most interesting facts about Selleck’s career is that he auditioned for the role of globe-trotting archaeologist Indiana Jones in 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, was hired, but had to turn it down because CBS wouldn’t let him out of his contract to star in the private eye drama Magnum, P.I. That’s correct, albeit it turns out Selleck could have done both.
A writer’s strike halted production just before Magnum, P.I. was about to begin filming in Hawaii, and Selleck was forced to work as a handyman to pay his rent until the show resumed. To make matters worse, Raiders began filming at the same time—in Hawaii.
One lesser-known but intriguing piece of Selleck knowledge is that he turned down the lead role in Witness, a drama about a cop who meets an Amish family that went on to star Harrison Ford, in 1985.
5 – Tom Selleck “Hated” playing Thomas Magnum at first.
Selleck had already appeared in a number of failed television pilots when he was offered the role of Thomas Magnum. While a starring role in a major network drama was exciting, Selleck told GQ in 2014 that he didn’t like how the role was written at first. “I hated it,” he admitted. “He reminded me of James Bond. He was flawless. He had a female on each of his arms.
He drove a Ferrari.” Selleck intended to play a role more akin to Jim Rockford from The Rockford Files, in which he had previously appeared as a guest star. Magnum became more of an Everyman figure when the producers agreed. The show lasted eight seasons.
6 – Tom Selleck was a former Detroit Tigers player.
Fans of Magnum, P.I. noticed that Selleck wore a Detroit Tigers baseball cap throughout the series, an homage to his hometown. The actor is such a fan of the team that he attended spring training in 1991 to prepare for his role as a baseball pro in 1992’s Mr. Baseball. That April, Selleck appeared in one exhibition game against the Cincinnati Reds, striking out in the eighth inning.
7 – Tom Selleck is a skilled volleyball player.
Selleck frequently played volleyball with members of the Outrigger Canoe Club senior (over 35) squad in Honolulu while filming Magnum P.I., and he was even chosen honorary captain of the United States Olympic men’s team in 1984. Because the revenues would benefit the athletes, Selleck agreed to go shirtless for a billboard.
8 – On Baywatch, Tom Selleck was offered the part of David Hasselhoff.
Following the conclusion of Magnum, P.I., Selleck pursued a cinematic career, appearing in films such as 1989’s Her Alibi and 1990’s Quigley Down Under. In the guise of Baywatch, an NBC series about lifeguards, he was promised a return to television. Selleck declined the part of Mitch Buchannon, which was later filled by David Hasselhoff. Selleck returned to series television with regular appearances on Friends and Blue Bloods, which is now in its tenth season.
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