Tall, athletic, and brawny with wavy dark hair, a craggily handsome face, eyes sparkling with intelligence and wit, and a broad, easy smile, Tom Selleck looks as if he were born to be a movie star. Indeed, he was among Hollywood's hottest television sex symbols of the '80s, and yet, despite his charisma and charm, he has yet to translate his popularity into a major screen career. Born in Detroit, but raised in Los Angeles, Selleck did modeling work and attended the University of Southern California on an athletic scholarship, majoring in business administration until a drama coach suggested he try acting. Selleck made his feature-film debut as a studly secretary in the abysmal but campy Myra Breckinridge (1970) after signing a seven-year contract with Fox studios. Through the '70s, Selleck had small roles in a few feature films, worked in commercials and appeared as a guest star on television with his largest role on the soap opera The Young and the Restless. Later in the decade, he was a semi-regular between 1979 and 1980 on the popular Rockford Files, starring James Garner. He did, however, have a major role in the two-part television Western saga The Sacketts in 1979, but it would not be until 1980 that Selleck would get his big break playing laid-back, mustachioed, Hawaiian shirt-wearing private detective Thomas Sullivan Magnum in the series Magnum, P.I. The top-rated show was perfectly suited to Selleck's style and during its eight-year run made the hunky actor a major television star and the winner of an Emmy and a Golden Globe award. But TV stardom did not come without a price: Selleck lost out on the opportunity to play Indiana Jones in George Lucas' lucrative Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) because the Magnum, P.I. producers would not release him from the show. Later they eased up and Selleck was able to star in television movies and feature films such as Lassiter (1984).
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In 1987, Selleck appeared in the film for which he is best known, Three Men and a Baby, in which he played a playboy architect who goes ga-ga over a baby girl who was abandoned on the doorstep of the apartment he shares with fellow yuppie bachelors, Ted Danson and Steve Guttenberg. Selleck's scenes with the baby stole the show and at last it looked as if he were going to make it in the movies. But this did not happen; his next few films, including Quigley Down Under (1991) and Mr. Baseball (1992), were only somewhat popular. Perhaps his lack of solid success was due to the fact that he too closely associated with his Magnum character -- something which he was trying hard to get away from -- or maybe, it's that Selleck too often seemed to be playing himself or a caricature thereof. His attempt to reprise his role in the sequel Three Men and a Little Lady (1990) did nothing to boost his movie career. Still Selleck carries on and still appears on television and in the occasional feature film. He has branched out into television producing and helped revitalize Burt Reynold's flagging career with the television series B.L. Stryker (1989-1990). Through the mid-'90s, Selleck was a recurring guest on the sitcom Friends. In 1997, Selleck revitalized his own movie career by playing the gay news anchor who helps a sexually confused Kevin Kline in the comedy In and Out.
A number of television roles followed into the new millennium, and in 2005 Selleck's career got something of a second wind when he landed the role of troubled police detective Jesse Stone in a successful series of made-for-TV films based on the best-selling books by author Robert B. Parker.
~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi