Long before Tom Selleck put on the NYPD commissioner’s uniform for Blue Bloods, he was rocking short shorts and Hawaiian shirts on Magnum P.I. It’s hard to explain to anyone who wasn’t there, but the show was massive.
Selleck’s charm and charisma and good looks made the show appointment television. And even before CBS had picked up Magnum, P.I. to series, Tom Selleck was becoming one of Hollywood’s hottest commodities.
So it wasn’t long after filming the pilot that he got a phone call from Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. They were producing a new action serial, something like you’d see in the 1950s. And they thought he was perfect for the lead role of Indiana Jones. But there was a catch.
Selleck Was Told No
“Turns out CBS wouldn’t let me do it,” Selleck said. “They held the offer out for about a month. Harrison Ford hates to hear this, and Harrison this is your role and your indelible in it, so it’s just an interesting story,” he explained in an interview with Yahoo Entertainment’s “BUILD Series.” “But yeah, I mean look, I signed a deal for Magnum, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I’m proud that I lived up to my contract. Some people said, ‘you gotta get in the car and drive into a brick wall and get injured and get out of Magnum and do this.’ And I said ‘I gotta look my mom and dad in the eye, and we don’t do that.’ So, I did Magnum, it’s not so bad, is it?”
Looking back, Selleck not getting the role was probably the best thing for his career. No one would have been as iconic as the adventuring archeologist Indiana Jones than Harrison Ford. And there’s always a chance that Selleck wouldn’t have lasted in the role.
Tom Selleck Wasn’t Their Only Choice for the Role
Variety spoke to Karen Allen who played Marion Ravenwood in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. And it turns out Harrison Ford and Tom Selleck weren’t the only actors Spielberg and Lucas had their eyes on.
“Tom Selleck had been cast, and then it turned out Magnum P.I. got picked up. They wouldn’t let him out of his contract, and so he was heartbroken,” Allen remembers. “I only know that way after the fact because I sat with him many years later, and he told me how heartbroken he was. I auditioned with Tim Matheson and John Shea. John Shea and I flew from New York together on the same plane to do a screen test, and Tim Matheson was in Los Angeles, but I had worked with him just a couple of years before in Animal House, so we were pals. I did the auditions with them and since discovered that Sam Elliot and Jeff Bridges auditioned. …”