Saturday, May 11, 2024

Books: "You Never Know,” Tom Selleck’s Look At His Legendary Career


You Never Know

By Tom Selleck

Dey Street Books; hardcover, 352 pages; $29.99

Tom Selleck is currently a star on the massive New York hit Blue Bloods as Police Commissioner Frank Reagan, and he is also known for his role as Thomas Magnum in the classic television series Magnum P.I. To another generation, Selleck is known for playing Monica's older boyfriend, Richard, on Friends.

Some of the other memorable roles Selleck has played in his remarkable career include, Peter Mitchell in the late 1980s hit movie Three Men and A Baby, Matthew Quigley in Quigley Down Under, PI Lance White on the Rockford Files, Jack Elliot, an aging New York Yankee, in Mr. Baseball; and as New England police chief Jack Stone in a series of detective movies.

Selleck begins this autobiography, which he wrote with veteran New York columnist and author Ellis Henican, when he is at the University of Southern California (USC) and a member of the basketball team. It wasn't soon before he was offered an acting job, an air force training film for their psychiatrists. 

By June 1967, he was in his first six-month term at Fox, as part of their New Talent program, after having basically dropped out of USC. That meant he lost his student deferment for the draft at, what was then, the height for the Vietnam War, and he was drafted. set to report to Fort Ord in Monterrey, California, for basic training. 

Selleck eventually became a member of the Selected Reserve Unit, and that began six years in the military in which he rose to the rank of sergeant in the United States Infantry, before he left on July 1, 1973.

"Someday I'll write a book about my time in the military, just not now," Selleck writes. "But more than in most lines of work, your growth as a person in the acting business has a lot to do with your growth as an actor. You are, after all, the product you're selling. I grew a lot in the crucible of basic training. The honest truth is that I excelled in the military. When I graduated from basic, I was selected as the outstanging trainee. When you graduated, you automatically were given the rank of private. I was promoted to the rank above that, private first class. It was the first such promotion in the history of my basic training company."

Within his military service, he still was able to work on his acting career, and in late 1968, he got a role on a western called Lancer, which was in its first season on CBS. Selleck writes that, "The only reason anyone remembers Lancer at all is that it's the show Leonardo DiCaprio is doing in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino's gritty look back a the industry circa 1969.

"The episode I appeared in was 'Death Bait,' and I was thrilled to be the star of a network TV show. Actually, that's not true. I was the star of the teaser, the scene at the beginning of the show meant to grab viewers' attention. That's not exactly true, either. The real star of the teaser was James Olson, a Chicago-based stage actor who'd already appeared alongside Joanne Woodward in Rachel, Rachel, an Academy Award nominee for Best Picture. But being cast in Lancer was still a very big deal to me."

Selleck then writes about how he then had an interview at Fox with screen legend Mae West for the movie Myra Breckinridge. At this point, Mae hadn't done a movie in 27 years, but Selleck was a huge fan of her movies with Cary Grant, She Done Him Wrong and I'm No Angel. He writes of how she instantly went from Miss West to Mae West, completely in character, which he couldn't help but react to it.

When it came to Magnum, P.I., one of the most compelling stories, which Selleck spends considerable time on, was when Frank Sinatra did an episode in the series' seventh season called "Laura." Selleck writes how he was tasked with making the call to bring in Sinatra to play retired NYPD Sergeant Michael Doheny, who is in search of the killer of his granddaughter. Sinatra came out to do the shoot in Hawaii, and it was fascinating to read how tight the schedule was, shooting on location, and insights into how sets aren't like they are now, and since there were not many trailers, Selleck let Sinatra use his while they did the episode.

"On the scoreboard, 'Laura' was our highest-rated show in two years," Selleck writes in his lingo for ratings. "I might add that Universal was shocked when they got the bill for Frank's expenses. I don't know the exact number, but it was in the six figures. Someone at the studio said to me, 'I thought he said he would give us a deal.' My only reply was 'He did give you a deal.'

"We had no way of knowing at the time, but it was his last acting role. And Frank couldn't have come to a more welcoming place. All of us, the staff, cast, and crew, were in his corner. Not that we had to pull him through it. Frank Sinatra pulled his weight. He delivered the same complex mix of cockiness, emotional honesty, and vulnerability that he brought as a singer, and that's a hefty load. And what seemed like a very long week was just a moment in time, and suddenly, it was over."

That episode earned Magnum P.I. another full season, its eighth and final one, but Selleck notes, that at this point, he has done far move Blue Bloods episodes, 250 and counting, than Magnum's 163.

Speaking of Blue Bloods, Selleck does not write as much on it as one would expect, but it will still satisfy the dedicated fans of the series on the Reagan family, with Selleck playing Frank, the current commissioner, in a family with generations of service to the NYPD. The pilot was originally was going to be called Reagan's Law, and shot in Toronto, with only exterior shots in New York, for budgetary reasons.

"When the show was ready for broadcast, we officially became Blue Bloods...thank goodness," Selleck writes. "I never thought Reagan's Law was a good idea, and I was reminded of what it was like having to live with the P.I. tacked onto Magnum. That's why I'd made it my personal mission never to refer to it that way."

Selleck knew the Executive Producer, Leonard Goldberg, from when they set on the set of Charlie's Angels, and Selleck played Jaclyn Smith's boyfriend in role he thought would be recurring, but it did not pan out. In addition to Goldberg, Selleck knew one of the top writers on the show, Kevin Wade, who, as he writes, "came in to rewrite a troubled script of Mr. Baseball back in '92 and that 'he literally turned a lemon into lemonade.'"

There also is a bit on how they knew right off the bat that Donnie Wahlberg would play one of Frank Reagan's son

Blue Bloods has become, to Selleck, a "family. Not just a bunch of actors playing family members, but a bunch of actors who have become a family themselves. And time has graced us all with the opportunity to embrace that."

It is one of the top three scripted shows in broadcast television, and has remained the number one show on Friday nights since it premiered in 2010.

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