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Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, November 10, 2000

HIFF honors Selleck

By Tim Ryan

A dozen years after "Magnum, P.I." completed its final season in Hawaii, the show's star Tom Selleck gets chicken skin recalling his eight years here.

" 'Magnum' was such a great run for me, a wonderful blessing to live in a place where the local people treat you so well," Selleck said in a telephone interview from his 60-acre Southern California ranch. "Doing the show in Hawaii gave me the room I needed to grow as a person and an actor. I wasn't a part-time visitor; I lived and worked there.

"I owe so much to Hawaii," he says. "You can only burst on the scene once and Hawaii was the perfect place for me to do it."

The state also wants to say thanks to Selleck.

The actor has come home to Hawaii to be honored at 6 p.m. today as the first recipient of the Hawai'i International Film Festival's "Film in Hawaii Award" to be presented at the Hawai'i Convention Center.

"It's a great honor and nice to be singled out," Selleck said. "But I was just one of hundreds that made 'Magnum" work. I share the award with the other producers, directors, writers, cast and crew."

The award, sponsored by the Hawaii Film Office, is given to the film or television entity that has "significantly contributed to promoting the local film industry." The winner may be a filmmaker, a star, or a production company that has helped develop the reputation of Hawaii as a premier tropical film location. Selleck was a unanimous choice for the award selected by Hawaii film commissioners.

During the "Magnum's" eight-season run on CBS, the production employed hundreds of actors and crew, pumped millions of dollars into the state's economy, and showcased the culture and beauty of the state. In the process, Selleck became the most popular actor in the world, helping him branch into motion pictures and producing.

Selleck believes the show helped Hawaii by featuring the state, its people and culture in primetime, 22 weeks a year.

"We did a nice job in capturing the spirit," he said. "But the main thing we accomplished was keeping a successful show on the air for such a long period of time, meaning regular employment for the basic talent pool of Hawaii filmmakers."

When the end of "Magnum" approached, the actor was concerned about the state's ability to be proactive in attracting production companies.

"Things were changing fast in the industry and I wanted to make sure (Hawaii officials) were aware of that," he said.

So Selleck did something uncustomary: He asked to speak to the Legislature to impress on them that other states and countries had become very competitive in going after productions.

Selleck believed that the governor, film commissioners and other state officials had to establish a liaison between labor unions and the studios, or production work here would suffer. He warned against complacency.

"Hawaii had had 20 years of a regular gig with us and 'Five-0,' but the entertainment marketplace was changing," he said.

"Magnum" was also honored by the Smithsonian Institution as the first TV show to present Vietnam veterans in a positive light. (Selleck's character and those of Larry Manetti, John Hillerman and Roger Mosley were all written as veterans.) The Smithsonian placed Thomas Magnum's character's ring, aloha shirt and Detroit Tigers baseball cap in an exhibit with Archie Bunker's -- of "All in the Family" -- chair.

Something Selleck has not talked about publicly is the $1,000 bonuses he gave to every "Magnum" crew member in 1987 when he produced the series.

"I got so much credit for 'Magnum,' but it was out of proportion to the contributions of so many other people," Selleck said. "This was a way for me to say thank you."

Selleck returned to California after 'Magnum' to focus on film, and produce a pilot. The actor, who married Jilly Mack during the last season, also wanted to start a family.

The couple settled into a rural lifestyle in Thousand Oaks, north of Los Angeles County, with their 11-year-old daughter Hannah. Selleck also maintains a home at Black Point.

Selleck has done several mainstream motion pictures, cable movies and appeared on the popular TV series, "Friends."

"The nice thing is somebody still wants me. I always wonder when my bag of tricks is up and they're going to find out."

He said he loves performing in cable films most because, like 'Magnum,' the storylines are about people. He said he doesn't see many feature films that excite him. "I get offered a lot of films with comic-book type characters or action films," said Selleck.

In January, he begins rehearsals for the Broadway-bound revival "A Thousand Clowns," in which he plays the lead character, Murray Burns. "I'm scared to death but risk is the price you pay for opportunity," he said.

Selleck hasn't given up on a "Magnum, P.I." reunion -- preferably a motion picture -- but producers will have to convince him they're enthusiastic about the project.

"I've always been very interested in doing the character again," Selleck said. "But the lack of vision of Universal executives has prevented it from happening. It's been very frustrating for me."

The 6-foot-4 Selleck, who was often spotted playing volleyball in Hawaii, gave up the sport after leaving.

"I can't jump," he says, laughing. "There would be large chunks of time I wouldn't play and when I did go back to (Outrigger Canoe Club) it would be hopelessly embarrassing."

So now the actor-athlete has added a different sort of sport to his resume, spending "a lot of time" as a rancher, tending 20 acres of avocado trees and caring for eight horses.

"I'm the cheapest labor I can get," Selleck said. "For once I have a real job and it's not intangible. I can go pick a piece of fruit and I can hold onto it. It's very real."

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