Tom Selleck is one of the most iconic actors of the 1980s. His role as Thomas Magnum in Magnum, P.I. helped launch him into the spotlight, and he’s been a television staple ever since. While fans might think they know all there is to know about the mustachioed star, the following facts show he’s much more than his iconic facial hair.
He got into USC on a basketball scholarship
After graduating high school, Tom Selleck attended Los Angeles Valley College. During his junior year, he transferred to the University of Southern California on a basketball scholarship, where he played for the USC Trojans men’s basketball team.
Speaking with GQ about that time in his life, Selleck says he had a tough time finding balance, “I never learned how to have fun and set aside time to study, and I wasn’t very motivated at USC. I was a basketball player, barely trying to stay eligible, and somehow got offered a contract to 20th Century Fox.”
Mae West helped him land one of his early roles
Selleck’s career began with an appearance on The Dating Game and in commercials, before slowly starting to build his film career with smaller roles. This included the part of Stud in Myra Breckinridge, which he landed with a little help from famed starlet, Mae West.
The film has definitely not held up over time, given the way it handles its subject matter, but for Selleck, it was his movie debut and helped afford him future acting opportunities, including in Coma and The Seven Minutes. It wasn’t until the 1970s that he began landing larger roles in both film and television.
He’s responsible for Magnum’s love of Hawaiian shirts
There are two key aspects to Thomas Magnum’s look: his mustache and his array of Hawaiian shirts. We’d claim the character helped put the Aloha shirts on the map, but what you might not know is that Tom Selleck actually came up with the idea for the famed P.I. to wear them.
Selleck is no longer able to wear Hawaiian shirts in his personal life due to their association with Magnum, but we doubt he’s too concerned. We don’t take him as being the type of guy to wear the colorful vacation staple on the regular.
He served in the military
Selleck was drafted during the Vietnam War and joined the California National Guard, where he was placed in the 160th Infantry Regiment. He served from 1967 to 1973, during which he attended the California Military Academy. He was under contract with Fox at the time of his service, and returned to learn he’d been fired by the studio.
Nowadays, Selleck is used in promotional material for the California National Guard and has become a spokesperson for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. He has also appeared on recruitment posters for the California Military School.
He danced with Princess Diana
While John Travolta’s dance with Diana at the 1985 White House dinner is considered by many to be the highlight of the night, the Princess of Wales actually danced with other famed actors, including Tom Selleck. He described Diana as “just charming, lovely,” and admits he was nervous about their waltz.
Another star to dance with the Princess was Clint Eastwood. However, he wasn’t as smooth with his moves. According to Selleck, the Dirty Harry star was out of his element and the dance was painful to watch.
He almost starred in the Indiana Jones film series
While it’s hard to imagine anyone but Harrison Ford playing the adventurous archaeologist, there was a point in time when Tom Selleck was cast as Indiana Jones. George Lucas had worked with Ford on films in the past and was looking for someone different, and Selleck’s audition tape caught his attention.
Ultimately, Selleck turned down the role due to his Magnum, P.I. commitments, so Steven Spielberg approached Ford to take over the role. The unfortunate thing is Selleck could have taken the role, as the actors’ strike put production of Magnum, P.I. on hold for six months. Hindsight certainly is 20/20.
He’s a volleyball champion
Is there anything Tom Selleck can’t do? Not only did he play basketball in college, but he later went on to play volleyball with the Outrigger Canoe Club in Honolulu while filming Magnum, P.I. He became an accomplished indoor and outdoor hitter, twice winning the over-35 division at the National Championships.
His skills on the court afforded him the opportunity of being named the honorary captain of the U.S. Men’s Olympic team in 1984. He even agreed to pose shirtless for a promotional poster after learning the proceeds of its sale would go to the athletes.
His mustache truly is iconic
Even those who don’t know Selleck by name recognize him by his mustache. It’s as iconic as the actor himself, so it’s no surprise it holds a coveted spot in the International Mustache Hall of Fame.
Selleck was part of the inaugural class in 2015, under the category of Film & Television. He joined a list of 27 individuals, including Hulk Hogan, Teddy Roosevelt and John Oates.
Oh, and before you ask: no, he doesn’t have a nickname for his mustache.
Avocado ranch living
When you’re as successful as Tom Selleck, you have your pick of where you want to live, so why not choose the ranch once owned by Dean Martin? While Selleck may not like avocados, he enjoys growing them and working outside, as it allows him to stay active without going to the gym.
The ranch did get him into a spot of trouble in 2015, after the Calleguas Municipal Water District accused him of stealing 1.4 million gallons of water and transferring it to the Hidden Valley Municipal Water District during California’s historic drought. He ended up settling the suit for $21,685.55, avoiding a trial while simultaneously not admitting any wrongdoing.
He doesn’t want to be a sex symbol
While many consider Selleck to be a 1980s sex symbol, he never actually set out to be one. In fact, he went so far as to turn down the role of Mitch Buchannon in Baywatch because of this.
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While it’s hard to imagine anyone but David Hasselhoff playing the iconic lifeguard, we wonder how Selleck would have pulled off the role. Even more important to consider is whether or not he’d have been allowed to keep his mustache.