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Tom Selleck says Harrison Ford must be ‘sick’ of hearing about how he was originally cast as Indiana Jones

In Entertainment
May 10, 2024

Tom Selleck shot to stardom as a Ferrari-driving, Hawaiian shirt-wearing, Doberman-dodging private eye on TV’s Magnum, P.I., but the role came at the expense of another: Indiana Jones.

“I don’t have scars,” Selleck tells Yahoo Entertainment of landing and then losing 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark to Harrison Ford because CBS had him under contract and wouldn’t budge.

“Here’s what it did for me: I became a better actor as people invested their confidence in me,” the Blue Bloods star explains. “Whether or not CBS allowed me to do Raiders, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas believed in me enough that they cast me in that movie and held that offer out for well over a month. It was a great boost to my confidence. If people asked me to play bigger-than-life, iconic roles, I could do it. That was a big deal for me.”

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 07: Tom Selleck attends a discussion for the book,

Selleck’s memoir, You Never Know, is out now. (Gary Gershoff/Getty Images)

Selleck details the role that got away — and other Hollywood stories — in his new memoir, You Never Know. With six failed TV pilots under his belt, he wasn’t initially interested in Magnum but was contractually obligated, through a loophole, to do one more pilot for CBS. While he weighed legal action to get out of it, the Magnum script was retooled, he liked the role more, and he shot the two-hour pilot movie.

As he waited to see if Magnum would go to series, Selleck was asked by Spielberg and Lucas to screen-test for the top-secret role of the whip-cracking, fedora-wearing archaeologist. Given a leather coat and hat when he arrived, he nailed it (opposite Sean Young, not Karen Allen, who was eventually cast as Marion Ravenwood) and was called back and offered the job. Spielberg and Lucas held their offer out to Selleck for over a month while they waited for CBS’s decision.

Ultimately, the network decided to go forward with Magnum, its highest-tested pilot, and wouldn’t agree to delay it so Selleck could do Raiders first. Selleck said execs also worried he would become so famous doing Raiders that he would then try to get out of Magnum.

Raiders, of course, went to Ford. Almost unbelievably, Selleck moved to Hawaii to begin Magnum, but before he could, the 1980 actors strike began, delaying production. As he waited for months to work, he recalled seeing in the local paper that Raiders would conclude its shoot in Hawaii after Spielberg and Lucas negotiated a deal with the Screen Actors Guild to keep the production going. Selleck could have done both roles.

O'AHU - JANUARY 1: Magnum, P.I. (alt.: MAGNUM PI / MAGNUM, PI). A CBS television detective drama series. Pictured is Tom Selleck (as Magnum). (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)

Selleck played Thomas Magnum for eight seasons. The series finale remains one of the most-watched of all time. (Getty Images)

Selleck made a point not to let it get him down, which was easier to do because of the success of Magnum, for which the actor won an Emmy and remains in TV history for one of the most-watched finales of all time. When Raiders came out in June 1981, he even went to the local Waikiki Theatre to see it — against the advice of friends, who warned him it would be too depressing.

“It took about five minutes and [Ford] just inhabited the role,” Selleck says. “A couple of times in the movie I was mad at myself because the ‘What if?’ came in, and I just wanted to enjoy that movie. It was good — and Harrison was terrific.”

There’s been a cordial thing between the almost-Indy and the man who ended up playing him. Last year, Ford talked about being the second choice for the role and thanked Selleck for having to drop out of the film. Ford has starred in five films in the blockbuster franchise.

Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark. (CBS via Getty Images)

Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark. He’s been playing the role for over 40 years, appearing in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny in 2023. (CBS via Getty Images)

“I heard that,” Selleck says with a laugh. “Harrison has been great. I’m sure he’s sick of the stories. Steven didn’t help because for the [30th] anniversary of Raiders, he said, ‘Can I put your screen test in, Tom?’ Harrison’s been a great, great sport. It’s his role.”

Asked if he saw Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, the most recent film, in which Ford was de-aged, Selleck says, “No, I haven’t seen them lately.” Blue Bloods, which is in its 14th and final season (though not if Selleck has his way), “keeps me busy,” he says. “It’s not for any other reason.”

Selleck also was busy writing his memoir, which took four years.

“I wanted to entertain people,” he says. “I said some things in there that land for people, maybe move them, maybe make them laugh, but the object of the book is to entertain. I don’t think there are enough books like that.”

You Never Know: A Memoir is out now.

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