Tom Selleck turns 77 today, and he’s still going strong after a 50-year career. The actor is currently starring in a long-running CBS television show and is the recipient of a Primetime Emmy and a Golden Globe Award.
It’s quite a career for a college basketball player who never played in school plays as a kid. After his basketball career failed and he served a tour in the California Army National Guard, Selleck turned to acting and persevered despite some early setbacks.
He’s now a Hollywood star who finds solace on a sprawling California ranch and professional fulfillment on location in New York City. Here is a look back at some of Selleck’s career highlights.
In Magnum P.I., Tom Selleck transforms into an action hero.
Selleck spent his twenties and early thirties taking acting classes and starring in six TV pilots that never made it to series. He was used to failure by the time Magnum P.I. came along. But he wasn’t going down without a fight. When Selleck was in his mid-30s, he landed his breakthrough role as Thomas Magnum, a Vietnam veteran trying to make it as a private investigator in Honolulu, Hawaii.
“The luckiest thing that happened was that I didn’t get a real job until I was 35,” Selleck said of his casting as Magnum in AARP Magazine.
However, Selleck refused to accept the executives’ vision of Magnum as a slick, “James Bond-like” figure. He pushed for Magnum to be a beer-drinking, Hawaiian-shirt-wearing Everyman a la James Garner’s protagonist on The Rockford Files. And he wanted Magnum’s past as a Navy SEAL to be a big part of his present. Magnum is now featured in the Smithsonian as a result of those decisions.
“I’m not going to get too emotional, but I’m very proud of this,” Selleck told AARP. “Magnum was credited with being the first show to portray Vietnam veterans in a positive light.” My ridiculous Hawaiian shirt and Detroit Tigers cap are now part of their collection.”
Here’s a highlight reel of Selleck’s best breaking-the-fourth-wall Magnum P.I. moments:
In Three Men and a Baby, Selleck saves the day.
Tom Selleck became an international movie star with Three Men and a Baby in 1987. He plays a charming bachelor architect living in New York City with two roommates in the film (played by Steve Gutenberg and Ted Danson). One roommate, Danson’s Jack, is an actor who has become involved with a drug-dealing director. Unbeknownst to Jack, he has a child with a New York actress.
Jack leaves for an overseas filming and informs his roommates that a package will be arriving for him and that he would like them to deliver it to the guys who will show up to retrieve it. It’s a delicate subject, he adds. Imagine the surprise on his roommates’ faces when an infant appears on their doorstep with a note for Jack. However, shortly after the infant, Mary, arrives, so does the parcel Jack was referring to.
When two shady men arrive to pick up Jack’s parcel, his roommates give them the baby, resulting in a comedy of errors. Selleck’s Peter and Gutenberg’s Michael quickly find themselves dodging drug dealers while attempting to save Mary – a process made even more absurd when Jack returns to assist them.
See Selleck in this scene from Three Men and a Baby:
In Blue Bloods, Selleck solves cr1mes.
Selleck plays NYPD Commissioner Frank Reagan in the hit CBS procedural Blue Bloods, the patriarch of a family of cops and prosecutors who juggles work and family commitments while overseeing the mean streets of New York. The show has been on the air for 12 seasons and shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.
Selleck, for one, isn’t thinking about retirement, but rather about future seasons of the show. In 2020, Selleck told People, “I don’t think there is an end point.” “I believe there is a lot of life in the show as long as you allow your characters to grow and mature.”
Here’s a link to a tense scene from Blue Bloods in which Selleck plays the NYPD Commissioner: