COVER STORY

THE TV ICON RE­VEALS HOW FAME NEARLY DE­STROYED HIM — AND HOW A SIM­PLE LIFE WITH HIS FAM­ILY BROUGHT HIM JOY

Closer Weekly - - Contents - By BRUCE FRETTS

How Tom Sel­leck turned his back on fame and for­tune to make his fam­ily his great­est pri­or­ity.

Tom Sel­leck will soon cel­e­brate his 50th an­niver­sary in show­biz. On Jan. 14, 1969, he made his act­ing de­but op­po­site a Ger­man shep­herd in the ob­scure TV Western Lancer. “The dog wasn’t look­ing vi­cious enough, so they had me hide a piece of steak in my fist and put my fist up to it, and they said, ‘Then the dog will re­ally come for you,’ ” Tom re­calls. “And he did, and it was ter­ri­fy­ing, but my per­for­mance was quite good!”

That may not have been the most aus­pi­cious be­gin­ning, but Tom, 73, has en­joyed a re­mark­able run, with hits on TV (Mag­num P.I.) and in film (Three Men and a Baby) alike. He’s cur­rently shoot­ing his ninth sea­son of CBS’ Blue Bloods and shows no signs of slow­ing down. Yet he’s hap­pi­est far away from the spot­light, at the re­stored 1910 hunt­ing lodge where he lives on 65 acres in Ven­tura County, Calif.

“This ranch is a great coun­ter­point to the act­ing busi­ness, which is an ab­strac­tion — you do some­thing, it’s up on a piece of film, and ev­ery­body ar­gues whether it’s good or bad,” Tom says. “You dig a hole and plant an oak tree — and I’ve prob­a­bly planted a thou­sand of them — it’s real. It’s there, and you can watch it grow. It’s a lot dif­fer­ent from be­ing fa­mous, and it keeps me sane.”

Tom bought the place from Dean Mar­tin in 1988, when he was just wrap­ping his eighth and fi­nal sea­son on Mag­num and pre­par­ing for the birth of his daugh­ter, Han­nah, with wife Jil­lie. “I quit Mag­num to have a fam­ily,” he says. “It took me a long time to get off the train, but I try very hard to have bal­ance, and this ranch has helped me do that.”

More than 30 years later, Tom and Jil­lie have no re­grets about their de­ci­sion to leave Hol­ly­wood. “This is the best place to raise a child,” she says. “It was such the wis­dom of Tom. He knew he needed to buy back his anonymity, to re­plen­ish the soul.”

JUST PLAIN FOLKS

Tom’s tire­less work ethic came to him nat­u­rally. When he was 3, his dad, Robert — a former World War II B-29 me­chanic — moved the fam­ily from Detroit to LA to pur­sue a ca­reer in real es­tate; he ul­ti­mately be­came a VP at Cold­well Banker. “I had a great dad and a great mom,” says Tom, whose par­ents were mar­ried un­til his fa­ther’s death in 2001 (his mom passed away last year). “I could go into

anal­y­sis for 20 years and not blame them for any­thing, so I’m very for­tu­nate that way.”

Though he was more in­ter­ested in ath­let­ics than act­ing while he was grow­ing up, Tom got into the in­dus­try after he was re­cruited by a ta­lent scout who’d seen him lose — twice! — on The Dat­ing Game. He strug­gled to find steady work for more than a decade, but his fam­ily backed him up all the way.

“My dad said, ‘Look, it’s a kind of op­por­tu­nity where, if you don’t give it a shot, you might get to be about 35 and won­der,’” he re­mem­bers. “Then he said, ‘Just don’t let them change you.’ ”

Tom didn’t, and when he was 35, he landed the role that would change his life: Viet­nam vet-turned-Hawai­ian P.I. Thomas Mag­num. “Be­ing 35, I didn’t take suc­cess on Mag­num for granted,” says Tom, who worked hard to en­sure his char­ac­ter wasn’t a one-di­men­sional su­per­hero but rather a flawed yet pro- foundly de­cent hu­man be­ing.

“Mag­num was rec­og­nized as the first show to por­tray Viet­nam vet­er­ans in a pos­i­tive way,” says Tom, who do­nated pieces of his wardrobe to the Smith­so­nian In­sti­tu­tion. “I’m very proud that my silly Hawai­ian shirt and Detroit Tigers cap are in their col­lec­tion.”

But after eight sea­sons, Tom was tired of ap­pear­ing in nearly ev­ery scene of the ac­tion-packed se­ries, so he re­tired to his ranch. He’d al­ready seen his pun­ish­ing work sched­ule con­trib­ute to the demise of his first mar­riage, to ac­tress Jacque­line Ray (from 1971 to 1982), and he didn’t want to make the same mis­take twice. “I worked 90 hours a week and did a movie ev­ery break,” Tom says.

He down­shifted his ca­reer, tak­ing guest spots on TV shows like Friends and sup­port­ing roles in films like In & Out, so he could

“The nice thing about act­ing is you never get it fig­ured out. I keep learn­ing.” — Tom

spend more days on the ranch with Jil­lie and Han­nah. “My first pri­or­ity is time with my fam­ily,” says Tom. “It’s im­por­tant to nur­ture your mar­riage. I think want­ing time away from work has been good for that.”

HOME ON THE RANGE

Tom and Jil­lie are proof that op­po­sites truly do at­tract. “There’s a lot of yin and yang in us,” says Tom, who met his bet­ter half when she was danc­ing in the orig­i­nal Lon­don pro­duc­tion of the mu­si­cal Cats. “I’m kind of quiet. She’s got this joie de vivre. I don’t know what our se­cret is, but I’m happy.”

Even though Han­nah will soon turn 30 (and is an ac­com­plished eques­trian, thanks to her years on the ranch), Tom re­mains an in­volved fa­ther. “You don’t stop be­ing a dad, even though your kids are grown,” he says.

Not co­in­ci­den­tally, he’s be­come a fa­ther fig­ure on the set of Blue Bloods, where he plays NYPD com­mis­sioner Frank Rea­gan, the pa­tri­arch of a law-en­force­ment fam­ily. “Tom is such an in­flu­ence and men­tor in my ca­reer and life,” Sami Gayle, who plays his grand­daugh­ter, tells Closer. “He’s an om­ni­scient per­son in my eyes — I can ask him about any­thing and he will give me the great­est an­swer in one sec­ond, so it’s amaz­ing.”

Tom only agreed to re­turn to TV after CBS ar­ranged his Blue Bloods sched­ule so he could shoot only a few days a week in NYC, then fly back to his ranch. “This is a dif­fer­ent deal than Mag­num,” he says. “I don’t work ev­ery day. I don’t love the com­mute, but that’s OK. I’ve got a job right now that I love.”

At home, he’s fi­nally found a sense of in­ner peace. “I work this ranch ev­ery day,” he says proudly. “I do the grunt jobs be­cause it saves me money. And it’s good for my head.”

It also helps him keep his fame in per­spec­tive. “I’m not say­ing I’m re­mark­ably tal­ented — I’m say­ing my ta­lent may hap­pen to be where my dreams are,” he says. “Part of that ta­lent, I guess, is that my ap­petites seem to blend with what the au­di­ence wants to see me in. It doesn’t al­ways work that way. Ac­tors have ap­petites, and au­di­ences say, ‘I don’t want to see him in that; I want to see him in that. ’”

And his daily chores on the ranch pre­vent him from dwelling on his suc­cess. “You don’t have time to re­flect — you just keep mov­ing,” he says. “I feel very for­tu­nate, and I feel I’ve earned it.

That’s just as im­por­tant for me.”

Tom with wife Jil­lie and their daugh­ter, Han­nah

“Tom fell into the dad role im­me­di­ately,” says Brid­get Moy­na­han, with Blue Bloods’ Will Estes, Len Car­iou, Tom and Don­nie Wahlberg.

CBS re­cently launched a re­boot of Mag­num P.I., but Tom says he doesn’t plan to do a guest shot: “I just stepped back and said, ‘I won’t get in the way.’ I have an obli­ga­tion to my ver­sion, but I wish them the best.”

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