When Tom Selleck Reached The Peak Of His Fame, He Quit Hollywood For This Surprising Reason

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Fans of Magnum P.I. may have noticed that star Tom Selleck hasn’t been around on screens much in the past few years. However, luckily he’s done the occasional interview where he updates fans on his life. And eventually, the reason came out why he turned his back on Hollywood and all that came with it.

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Selleck’s stint as Magnum P.I. was a massive success. The show ran for eight seasons, no small feat… and then, at the height of its success in 1988, it just stopped. But it wasn’t because it was cancelled by the network. It was because Selleck, for reasons of his owns, decided to walk away from the show.

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The actor has spoken before about his leaving Magnum P.I. In a 2017 Build Series interview Selleck mentioned how long the show ran for and said, “God knows how many episodes we could have done. We went off the No. 1 show on the air, so I’ve been very lucky.” But it was only years later that he talked about why he left.

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The level of fame that Magnum P.I. brought Selleck was incredible. It even made his mustache famous — today it’s considered one of the finest examples of facial hair in the history of television. And the Hawaiian shirt Selleck wore on the show now belongs to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

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But there’s no more Magnum. These days Selleck appears on another crime show, Blue Bloods, where he plays Police Commisoner Frank Reagan — patriarch of a family with a history of law enforcement. Blue Bloods hasn’t reached the dizzying heights of popularity that Magnum P.I. did, but it’s a well-respected series. And it’s actually run for longer than Magnum P.I. did, having gone past eight seasons.

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Selleck has, of course, got much more on his CV than just those two shows. He famously appeared in the iconic sitcom Friends from 1996 to 2000, playing the recurring role of Dr. Richard Burke, the love interest of Courteney Cox’s Monica Geller. This performance won him an Emmy nomination.

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But in the current era if you want to see Selleck on television you have to either watch Blue Bloods, or catch him in the Jesse Stone TV movies, where he plays the eponymous police chief. And he hasn’t been in a cinema release for a while, either. For some stars that would be a horrible situation to find themselves in, but it’s just how Selleck likes it.

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Selleck is such a private person that it’s quite surprising he even talked about his exit from Magnum P.I. at all. He doesn’t give many interviews and he wants the paparazzi kept far, far away from his family life. Nothing better illustrates this than what took place when he married English actress and dancer Jillie Mack in August 1987.

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The wedding took place under a heavy veil of secrecy. Selleck and Mack booked their ceremony under the names “Tom Jenkins” and “Suzie Mark” so nobody would get suspicious. And the wedding pictures taken were Polaroids — photographs that would have been much harder to leak to journalists.

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The couple chose a venue specifically known for its discretion, the Lakeside Christian Essene Church at Lake Tahoe. But even then there were complications. The reverend who had married the pair called up People magazine afterwards and offered to sell them details of the ceremony. Luckily, they turned him down.

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Selleck has always maintained a difficult relationship with fame. In fact, he never even expected to become an actor in the first place. In 2015 he told AARP magazine that what he really wanted was to be an athlete and, “I never did school plays. I had no interest.” Obviously, though, things turned out rather differently.

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In fact Selleck got into television pretty much solely to earn money. He appeared on the TV show The Dating Game, which he looks back on less than fondly. He told AARP he found the whole thing “humiliating and embarrassing” and added “I lost. Twice. I wasn’t particularly funny or glib.”

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But that and assorted television commercials earned Selleck a place on the 20th Century Fox New Talent Program. It didn’t last — two years into it he went to join the California Army National Guard — but it made him decide he wanted to try and make it as an actor. However, he never imagined that he’d end up a household name.

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Selleck told AARP, “The luckiest thing that happened was that I didn’t get a real job until I was 35. When I was 25, I looked 35 but sounded 15. There are a lot of very good actors who make it as younger leading men but don’t graduate — because the audience won’t accept them as grown up.”

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Before Magnum P.I. came out, Selleck had been in six failed TV pilots. So his eventual success meant a great deal to him. He told AARP, “I don’t want to get too emotional, but I am very proud of [the show.] Magnum was recognized as the first show to portray Vietnam veterans in a positive way.”

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Selleck talked to AARP about the price of fame. He recollected an incident when he’d been promoting the film High Road to China in 1983 and had encountered a “hysterical” collection of fans. After that, he said, he called his agent and told them, “I don’t know whether I can do this unless I find a way to do it on my terms.”

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So Selleck did indeed find a way to do it on his own terms. Since 1988 he and his family – Mack, daughter Hannah and son Kevin – have owned a ranch in Ventura Country. Selleck bought it from Dean Martin just before Hannah was born. There, the family found the privacy they so keenly sought.

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In May 2012 Selleck chatted with People magazine about the ranch. It was an impressive 65-acre property which had, in addition to a house, a corral for horses and an avocado farm. Selleck was enjoying his second job growing avocados, though he admitted, “It’s hard to make a living, let alone a profit.”

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Selleck told the magazine that he had significantly slowed down his workload acting-wise. He shot episodes of Blue Bloods only every other week, going out to New York City to do so, in order to give his personal life space to breathe. He explained, “My first priority is time with my family.”

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The actor considered that the current situation was the ideal one for his family. Selleck said, “It’s important to nurture your marriage. I think wanting time away from work has been good for that.” And Mack, who also sat in on the interview, added, “We both thought it was the best environment for [Hannah] to grow up.”

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And yet, despite everything, Selleck was still willing to do more Magnum P.I. if the situation was right. In 2015 he made a surprising admission to People magazine, saying, “If anyone wanted to do a [Magnum P.I.] movie and they think I’d still fit for him, I think that’d be great.”

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But no movie took place, and Selleck’s agricultural life continued. In 2018 he told Closer magazine, “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. You dig a hole and plant an oak tree — and I’ve probably planted a thousand of them — it’s real.”

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Selleck went on, “It’s there, and you can watch it grow. It’s a lot different from being famous, and it keeps me sane.” And despite the actor not actually liking avocados, he was devoting a great deal of time to them. He said, “I work this ranch every day. I do the grunt jobs because it saves me money. And it’s good for my head.”

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An unnamed source described as a “friend” of Selleck’s also spoke to Closer for the piece. They said, “He gets up early, eats breakfast, and goes right to work. He spends his morning fixing fences, feeding the horses and other animals, and clearing brush and tumbleweeds from the property. He doesn’t work out because he hates it and considers his daily chores his workout.”

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But Selleck himself opened up about his job in a 2020 interview with People magazine. And he revealed the main reason why he’d left the show which made him a megastar. He explained, “I’ve always treasured the balance between work and time with my family. It’s always about them. My relationships and my ranch keep me sane.”

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The 75-year-old described himself as “a fairly private person” in the interview, and went on to explain just how difficult he’d found fame. He said, “I knew intellectually what it would mean in terms of being a public person, but until you’ve lived it, there’s no way to understand it. I had a feeling of, ‘I don’t think I’m cut out for this.’”

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Selleck said, “I quit Magnum, not because I didn’t like it or I was tired of it. I was tired from it. And I wanted a three-dimensional life because I didn’t have one.” But he didn’t regret it for an instant. He declared, “I’m proud of my work, I still love what I do, and I have my family. I’ve been enormously fortunate.”

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And Selleck hadn’t taken on many other acting roles, he said, because he simply “didn’t like what [he] was being offered.” He went on, “I put up with the articles that said, ‘he’s disappeared, he’s done.’ And you do get done, I’m well aware of that. It was a big lull, but it put a lot of things in perspective.”

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But all this led to one question: was Selleck giving acting up for good? What about Blue Bloods? In July 2020 an anonymous source told Star magazine that yes, Selleck was quitting that too. They said, “At his age, Tom wants to do more to do outdoorsy things like to do on the ranch. And he wants to spend more time with his family.”

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This supposed insider went on, “Tom has more than enough money, and he’s not attached to fame and the trappings that go along with it. So he’s thinking about stepping away once and for all.” In addition, they claimed that Selleck had a “love-hate relationship” with Hollywood due to his “having moral values.”

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However, evidence suggests otherwise. Selleck appears perfectly ready for appearing in more roles. For example, in April 2020 People magazine asked the actor about the possibility of his appearing in the Friends reunion show later that. He said that though he hadn’t been asked, he would happily “do it again!”

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And while Blue Bloods is a slightly more complicated situation, Selleck seems to enjoy the show immensely. In May 2019 he discussed his show contract with Deadline magazine, and said, “[CBS] didn’t offer me a two-year deal, and I don’t know why. I signed up for a year because that’s what they were offering.”

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Selleck went on, “I love the show. Don’t tell CBS that because I got to be a good negotiator.” However, he could have walked away completely if he had wanted to. The Deadline interviewer asked him, “Is there any chance you wouldn’t have come back at all to Blue Bloods?”

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Selleck answered, “Let me say that it’s not like you can get a new detective and bring him to the family dinner table. These people [on the show] are related. So, as long as my fellow actors wanted to come back, and that was my only real criteria, I was coming back.”

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The interviewer asked, “So how long could you see the show going? 12 seasons? 15 seasons?” Selleck had nothing but good news on that front. He said, “Look, as long as the characters are allowed to grow and change, I think it’s limitless… You’re talking about, from top to bottom, a cast of really good, strong actors playing all sorts of roles.”

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Deadline also asked Selleck about a memoir he was writing. Selleck said, It’s going fine. I personally had always said, when approached, that, I didn’t get a big break and then got strung out on drugs or kill my puppy or anything and then resurrected a career. You know, I’m not sure my life is worth a memoir, and I hope I always retain some sense of modesty.”

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The actor went on, “But enough people were coming to me and saying you really ought to. You have 50 years in show business. You have a lot to share. So, I finally agreed but I’m struggling with it. It’ll take a while.” When his book comes out, it will be the most that Selleck has ever shared about his life.

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And Selleck spoke about Blue Bloods again to People in May 2020, just before the season ten finale. He compared it to Magnum P.I., too, saying, “When you get to a point like this, and we certainly had it on [Magnum P.I.], the audience is really inside the main characters’ heads.”

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And yet, unlike what had happened with Magnum P.I., it definitely sounded like Selleck wouldn’t want to leave Blue Bloods anytime soon. He said, “I don’t think there is an end point… There is an evolution. It started out as a character-driven show and it’s even more than that now.” Most importantly, he also loved his co-stars.

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Selleck said, “Our dinner party scenes are like a reunion of friends. Sometimes it’s hard for the directors to get us to concentrate. We do the work, and we do it well, but we’re also screwing around and kidding each other and catching up. What we have is truly a blessing.” So while Selleck might be done with most aspects of celebrity life, he still loves his work.

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