When Tom Selleck Reached The Peak Of His Fame, He Quit Hollywood For This Surprising Reason

Although Tom Selleck was once a huge star, he could have been even bigger. And while the Magnum, P.I. star is alive, well and still acting, he maintains a rather low-key presence on our screens today. But there’s a reason why Selleck flies somewhat under the radar. At the height of his fame, you see, he practically turned his back on Hollywood, leaving behind the role that could have propelled him to the A list. And in 2020 the star finally revealed the surprising decision behind that fateful career move.

Selleck’s stint in Magnum, P.I. was a massive success, of course. The show spanned eight seasons, too, which was no small feat. But at the height of the crime drama’s success in 1988, it just stopped. And this wasn’t because it was canceled by the network; instead, Selleck, for reasons of his own, decided to quit the show.

And Selleck has spoken before about his leaving Magnum, P.I. In a 2017 Build Series interview, the actor mentioned how long the show had run for before saying, “God knows how many episodes we could have done. We went off the number one show on the air, so I’ve been very lucky.” It was only years later, however, that he explained just why he had quit.

So, was it to do with the incredible level of fame that Selleck experienced in the wake of Magnum, P.I.’s success? After all, the show even made his mustache legendary; today, it’s considered one of the finest examples of facial hair in the history of television. The Hawaiian shirt that Selleck wore on screen is also now in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

But, of course, Selleck has left Thomas Magnum well behind him. These days, he appears on another crime show, Blue Bloods, where he portrays Police Commissioner Frank Reagan — the patriarch of a family with a history of law enforcement. And although Blue Bloods hasn’t reached Magnum, P.I.’s dizzying levels of popularity, it’s still a well-respected series with ten seasons in the can and counting.

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Naturally, Selleck has got much more on his resume than just those two shows. As fans undoubtedly know, he famously appeared in Friends from 1996 to 2000, playing the recurring role of Dr. Richard Burke. Burke is a love interest of Courteney Cox’s Monica Geller, and Selleck’s performance in the role ultimately won him an Emmy nod.

Still, if you want to see Selleck on television nowadays, you have to either watch Blue Bloods or catch him in the Jesse Stone TV movies as the eponymous police chief. Yes, you’ll struggle to see the actor elsewhere – save for the occasional Magnum, P.I. rerun or a commercial or two. But while some stars would panic about not finding bigger and better roles, Selleck seems pretty content with his lot in life.

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What’s more, Selleck is such a private person that it’s surprising he even talked about his exit from Magnum, P.I. at all. He doesn’t tend to give many interviews, either. And perhaps nothing better illustrates Selleck’s desire to keep the media away from his personal life than his marriage to English actress and dancer Jillie Mack in August 1987.

For one, the wedding took place under a heavy veil of secrecy. Selleck and Mack even booked their ceremony under the names “Tom Jenkins” and “Suzie Mark” so that nobody would get suspicious. And the wedding pictures were Polaroids — photographs that would have been much harder to leak to journalists.

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In addition, the couple chose a venue specifically known for its discretion: the Lakeside Christian Essene Church at Lake Tahoe. Yet even after all these careful preparations, there was one big snag. You see, the reverend who had married the pair called up People and offered to sell the magazine details of the ceremony. Luckily for Selleck and Mack, though, the publication turned him down.

And, interestingly, Selleck never even expected to become an actor in the first place – let alone become famous. In 2015 he told AARP The Magazine that when he had been young, he had actually wanted to be an athlete. The star also somewhat surprisingly divulged, “I never did school plays. I had no interest.”

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In fact, Selleck got into television pretty much solely to earn money. To this end, he appeared on The Dating Game – an experience he looks back on less than fondly. Selleck said in his AARP The Magazine interview that he had found the whole thing “humiliating and embarrassing,” adding, “I lost. Twice. I wasn’t particularly funny or glib.”

But that show and assorted television commercials earned Selleck a place on the 20th Century Fox New Talent Program. And while he went to join the California Army National Guard two years after winning that coveted spot, it nevertheless made him decide that he wanted to try and make it as an actor.

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Selleck told AARP The Magazine, “The luckiest thing that happened was that I didn’t get a real job until I was 35. When I was 25, I looked 35 but sounded 15. There are a lot of very good actors who make it as younger leading men but don’t graduate — because the audience won’t accept them as grown up.”

Success didn’t come overnight for Selleck, though. Before Magnum, P.I. debuted, he had been in six failed TV pilots, in fact. And given that grueling rise to the top, it’s perhaps no shock that Selleck is grateful for his part in the famous crime series. He told AARP The Magazine, “I don’t want to get too emotional, but I am very proud of [the show]. Magnum was recognized as the first show to portray Vietnam veterans in a positive way.”

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Selleck wasn’t as keen, however, about the fame that came with having a popular show under his belt. During his AARP The Magazine interview, he recollected having encountered a “hysterical” collection of fans when promoting the film High Road to China in 1983. After that, the actor said, he had called his agent and told them, “I don’t know whether I can do this unless I find a way to do it on my terms.”

So Selleck did just that. Since 1988, he and his loved ones – Mack, daughter Hannah and son Kevin – have owned a ranch in Ventura County. Selleck bought the property from Dean Martin just before Hannah was born, and it was there that the family found the privacy they so keenly sought.

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We know a little about the ranch, too, thanks to a 2012 interview with People. Across a sprawling 65 acres, there’s not only a spacious house and a corral for horses, but also an avocado farm. And Selleck was enjoying his second job growing avocados despite the fact that, as he admitted, “it’s hard to make a living, let alone a profit.”

Selleck also told the magazine that he had significantly slowed down his acting workload. He shot episodes of Blue Bloods every couple of weeks – going out to New York City to do so – in order to give his personal life space to breathe. The star explained, “My first priority is time with my family.”

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All in all, Selleck considered that set-up an ideal one. He continued, “It’s important to nurture your marriage. I think wanting time away from work has been good for that.” Mack, who was sitting in on the interview, added, “We both thought it was the best environment for [Hannah] to grow up.”

And yet, despite everything, Selleck was still willing to return to his most famous role if the situation was right. In 2015 he made a stunning admission to People, saying, “If anyone wanted to do a [Magnum, P.I.] movie and they think I’d still fit for him, I think that’d be great.”

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But no movie took place, and so Selleck’s agricultural life continued. In 2018 he opened up further to Closer magazine, saying, “This ranch is a great counterpoint to the acting business, which is an abstraction. You do something, it’s up on a piece of film, and [then] everybody argues whether it’s good or bad. You dig a hole and plant an oak tree — and I’ve probably planted a thousand of them — [and] it’s real.”

Selleck went on, “It’s there, and you can watch it grow. It’s a lot different from being famous, and it keeps me sane.” And although the actor didn’t actually like avocados, he was still devoting a great deal of time to them. He continued, “I work this ranch every day. I do the grunt jobs because it saves me money, and it’s good for my head.”

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An unnamed source explained Selleck’s daily routine to Closer, saying, “He gets up early, eats breakfast and goes right to work. He spends his morning fixing fences, feeding the horses and other animals and clearing brush and tumbleweeds from the property. He doesn’t work out because he hates it and considers his daily chores his workout.”

But Selleck himself spoke about his job in a 2020 interview with People magazine. And on that occasion, he revealed the main reason why he’d left the show that had made him a megastar. He explained, “I’ve always treasured the balance between work and time with my family. It’s always about them. My relationships and my ranch keep me sane.”

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Selleck – who described himself as “a fairly private person” in the interview – went on to explain just how difficult he’d found fame. He said, “I knew intellectually what it would mean in terms of being a public person, but until you’ve lived it, there’s no way to understand it. I had a feeling of, ‘I don’t think I’m cut out for this.’”

So, Selleck left Hollywood. He revealed, “I quit Magnum not because I didn’t like it or I was tired of it: I was tired from it. And I wanted a three-dimensional life because I didn’t have one.” But he didn’t regret it for an instant. He declared, “I’m proud of my work, I still love what I do, and I have my family. I’ve been enormously fortunate.”

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And Selleck hadn’t taken on many other acting roles, he said, because he simply “didn’t like what [he] was being offered.” He went on, “I put up with the articles that said, ‘He’s disappeared, he’s done.’ And you do get done, I’m well aware of that. It was a big lull, but it put a lot of things in perspective.”

So, was Selleck giving acting up for good? If so, what about Blue Bloods? Well, in July 2020 an anonymous source told Star magazine that yes, Selleck was quitting that show, too. They said, “At his age, Tom wants to do more to do outdoorsy things – like… on the ranch. And he wants to spend more time with his family.”

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The supposed insider went on, “Tom has more than enough money, and he’s not attached to fame and the trappings that go along with it. So he’s thinking about stepping away once and for all.” In addition, they claimed that Selleck had a “love-hate relationship” with Hollywood – partly because of his “moral values.”

Yet Selleck himself seems to be suggesting otherwise. For example, in April 2020 People asked the actor about the possibility of his appearing in the Friends reunion show later that year. To this, he replied that although he hadn’t been asked, he would happily “do it again!”

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And while quitting Blue Bloods may be more complicated, there are no indications that Selleck plans to do so. In 2019 he discussed his show contract with Deadline, saying, “[CBS] didn’t offer me a two-year deal, and I don’t know why. I signed up for a year because that’s what they were offering.”

Selleck went on, “I love the show. Don’t tell CBS that, because I got to be a good negotiator.” And, in fact, he could have walked away completely if he had wanted to. The Deadline interviewer asked the actor, “Is there any chance you wouldn’t have come back at all to Blue Bloods?”

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Selleck answered, “Let me say that it’s not like you can get a new detective and bring him to the family dinner table. These people [on the show] are related. So, as long as my fellow actors wanted to come back – and that was my only real criteria – I was coming back.”

Plus, there was further good news for Blue Bloods fans. When the Deadline interviewer asked, “So how long could you see the show going? 12 seasons? 15 seasons?” Selleck responded, “Look, as long as the characters are allowed to grow and change, I think it’s limitless… You’re talking about, from top to bottom, a cast of really good, strong actors playing all sorts of roles.”

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It appeared, too, that Selleck was putting his life story on paper – even though he had previously been apprehensive about the prospect. He explained during the Deadline interview, “I personally had always said, when approached, that I didn’t get a big break and then got strung out on drugs or kill my puppy or anything and then resurrected a career. You know, I’m not sure my life is worth a memoir, and I hope I always retain some sense of modesty.”

The actor went on, “But enough people were coming to me and saying you really ought to [write a memoir]. You have 50 years in show business. You have a lot to share. So, I finally agreed, but I’m struggling with it. It’ll take a while.” When that book comes out, moreover, it will be the most that Selleck has ever shared about his life.

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Selleck also spoke about Blue Bloods to People in May 2020 – just before the season ten finale. He even compared the long-running series to Magnum, P.I., saying, “When you get to a point like this – and we certainly had it on [Magnum, P.I.] – the audience is really inside the main characters’ heads.”

And yet it definitely sounded as though Selleck didn’t want to leave Blue Bloods anytime soon. He continued, “I don’t think there is an endpoint… There is an evolution. It started out as a character-driven show, and it’s even more than that now.” Most importantly, he loved his co-stars.

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Selleck said, “Our dinner party scenes are like a reunion of friends. Sometimes it’s hard for the directors to get us to concentrate. We do the work, and we do it well, but we’re also screwing around and kidding each other and catching up. What we have is truly a blessing.” So, while Selleck may be done with most aspects of celebrity life, it doesn’t seem to have affected his passion for his job – even though it’s been decades since he first rose to fame.

Family is obviously a big priority for Selleck, too, and that includes his wife of more than three decades. But just how have the actor and Mack managed to stay together for all that time – and seemingly be happy with it? Well, in another rare revelation, Selleck has explained the secret to his enduring marriage. And it may not be what you’re assuming, either.

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You’ll likely know Selleck as Thomas Magnum from the 1980s’ TV smash Magnum, P.I. If you’re younger, you may recognize him instead as Dr. Richard Burke from Friends. In any case, the actor and producer keeps a tight lid on his personal life. Yes, the 72-year-old has no social media presence, so you’re unlikely to ever see him post selfies online. But when he does shed light on private stuff – his marriage, for instance – it’s rather illuminating.

Believe it or not, Selleck actually started his working life as a male model – he was a good-looking guy in the 1960s. But like many others in that profession, he had dreams of making it in the acting world. And Selleck slowly built up some success. In between stints serving in the California Army National Guard, he made small appearances on television’s The Dating Game as well as commercials for Pepsi-Cola.

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Then, as the 1960s turned into the 1970s, Selleck scored a considerable break in befriending a Hollywood icon. That’s because the famous actress Mae West picked him for a small role in the notorious sex comedy Myra Breckinridge, which was released in 1970. “I escorted her to a couple of premieres and she did hundreds of interviews where she mentioned me in the same sentence as Cary Grant,” Selleck told Pennsylvania newspaper The Morning Call in 1997.

At around this point, the actor got married to model Jacqueline Ray. However, Selleck divorced Ray in 1982 – just a couple of years after accepting the role that would change the course of his entire career. That, of course, was the lead role in the comedy drama Magnum P.I.

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Magnum P.I was a colossal hit, and the series took Selleck to the top tier of TV acting talent. Indeed, to this day, Magnum is arguably the role for which he is best known. But it was while Selleck was on the show that the course of his personal life completely changed. Yes, in 1983, while filming a movie in London, he decided to see the famous stage musical Cats.

In fact, Selleck’s co-stars on the film he was shooting – 1984’s Lassiter – couldn’t help but notice something strange about their leading man. Selleck seemed to be utterly obsessed with Cats. Indeed, he went to see it performed dozens of times. But little did the Lassiter cast know that it wasn’t the show itself that had hooked Selleck. The dancer who played Rumpleteazer, 25-year-old Jillie Mack, had completely won Selleck’s heart.

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So Selleck and Mack began dating, and gradually it got more and more serious. For instance, once Mack’s contract for Cats had run out, she moved to Hawaii to be with Selleck while he filmed Magnum P.I. And for the next few years, Mack was frequently seen at Hollywood parties and events with Selleck, standing by his side and looking wonderfully happy.

Then, in September 1987, big news hit: Selleck and Mack had secretly got married. In fact, the work that the bride and groom had done to keep the occasion private was reminiscent of a spy operation. Indeed, they’d used the false names “Tom Jenkins” and “Suzie Mark” to keep people off the scent, for example. And even the presiding official at the wedding ceremony had been unaware of who he was really marrying until the very last moment.

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Furthermore, Selleck’s brother, Bob, had made all the wedding arrangements so that no news would leak. Also, the wedding photographs were taken on a Polaroid camera so that nobody could steal the negatives and sell them to the press. And even Selleck’s publicists were told to deny any suggestion of the marriage if asked. But eventually, 27 days later, the good news got out.

“In a Nevada Chapel, Under a Veil of Secrecy, Tom Selleck Marries His Kitten from Cats,” People magazine reported on September 21, 1987. The celebrity periodical also mentioned that the man who conducted the ceremony, one apparently unscrupulous Rev. Immel, had shamelessly offered to sell them details of the event.

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Though they didn’t actually pay him for the information, Immel told the magazine, “They were both nervous, like any other couple about to get married. [Selleck] was very concerned that the service be heartfelt, very concerned for her that the service be meaningful. He is a very warm, caring man.”

What’s more, People reported that Selleck’s family were there, and that he and Mack had arrived at the chapel in casual clothes to maintain their secrecy. But despite the incredible stress it must have caused Selleck and his bride-to-be to keep everything under wraps, it was now done. Magnum and Rumpleteazer were spliced.

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A year later, the happy couple had a little girl, Hannah. She was actually a second child for Selleck, as he had adopted his first wife’s son, Kevin, years prior. Subsequently, the new family settled down to life on a ranch in Ventura County, California. And Selleck continued to work as an actor – albeit in more low-key roles than he had played previously.

Today, Selleck and Mack actually have one of the longer-lasting Hollywood marriages, with 30 years under their collective belt. So how do the couple do it? Well, although Selleck remains an incredibly private person, he has nevertheless revealed a few things over the years as to why his marriage works so well.

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One of these tidbits can be found in a 1999 newspaper interview with the New York Daily News, appropriately headlined, “A Shy Guy Speaks His Mind.” There, Selleck said, “Jillie and I have a pretty good partnership. We don’t do anything or make any decisions without consulting each other. And if one of us makes a decision involving Hannah, the other parent completely supports that position, even if you disagree.”

And in 2007 the question of how he maintained his excellent relationship was put to Selleck directly. Good Housekeeping magazine asked the actor “Can you tell us the secret to your successful marriage?” He answered, “Hopefully you marry someone who you not only love, but who you like as well.”

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Selleck went on, “I just still enjoy my wife’s company enormously. She’s hilariously funny, and we make a point, no matter how busy we are, to stop and spend time together. We make sure we sit down and enjoy a nice long dinner.” The interviewer asked him what his Valentine’s Day plans were.

The actor answered wittily, “Well, this is going to sound terribly unromantic, but the thing is, Jillie and I just aren’t that sentimental. We don’t like to emphasize one day of the year. We try to celebrate the fact that this is a daily commitment, and pay attention to each other every day. I promise I’m not just saying that so I can get out of giving her a gift.”

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Also Good Housekeeping asked about Selleck’s relationship with his daughter Hannah. And the actor said, “We’ve always had a very strong bond, because luckily, I was spared most of the adolescent drama in our house. My wife and daughter tended to butt heads more, whereas I just got a lot of eye rolling.”

Selleck went on, “When the two of them would clash, I would sort of recede into the background. These days, we still see a lot of her, because she continues to be a very accomplished equestrian, and we travel around to attend her competitions. In that world, I’m not the celebrity, she is.”

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Then in 2012 Selleck granted an interview to People in which he revealed that he’d left Magnum P.I. to concentrate on his personal life. “I quit Magnum to have a family,” he said in the article. “It took a long time to get off the train, but I try very hard to have balance… I think wanting time away from work has been good for that.”

And Selleck revealed that he’d been working less hard these days, recording his show Blue Bloods every other week to allow some time away from the cameras. To add to that, he’d been recording his yearly Jesse Stone TV films. He said, “My first priority is time with my family. It’s important to nurture your marriage. ”

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But it was possibly a National Enquirer piece in 2014 that gave the best insight into Selleck’s marriage. This quoted a “pal” who said, “Tom dotes on Jillie. He gets up early every morning, makes her a cup of tea and takes it to her before she gets out of bed,” they claimed. And according to the same source, the couple never argued anymore as they “decided long ago that fighting was a waste of time.”

The source continued, “[Selleck] also leaves little love poems he’s written around the house for [Mack] to find while he’s in New York every other week, filming Blue Bloods. And he’s constantly texting her sexy messages. He’s also on a first-name basis with the local florist because he’s always sending her flowers.”

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And the apparent insider added, “Jillie and Tom agree that although it’s nice to have some shared interests, people need to have their own individual interests, even if it means doing things on their own. They say when they come back together again after time away, the sparks fly – so it works out great.” Although none of this was ever backed up by the secretive Selleck, it all doesn’t seem beyond the realms of possibility.

Now, Selleck himself happened to give an interview later that year, speaking to GQ in September 2014. Of his marriage he said, “There’s just not a lot of bulls**t. We know we love each other. We both keep busy with stuff. Both of us get mid up with whether our anniversary is 8/7/88 or 8/8/88. Jillie doesn’t get offended.”

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The 1980s’ heartthrob went on to explain, “I think some of that comes with age; some of that comes with the good part of the familiarity. I don’t think the infatuation stage of any relationship lasts forever, but it can grow into something. I just find that – I had no problem with the infatuation stage with Jillie, but I think it’s probably our relationship’s more satisfying.”

Then the interviewer asked the actor a very personal question – what about sex? Unsurprisingly, Selleck didn’t share much in that regard. He said, “Most of that stuff’s private, but I think it’s fair to say you don’t have sex as often as you did when you were 30. That’s a good generalization.” And that was that.

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But most celebrity married couples have divorce rumors swirl about them at some point – and Selleck and Mack are no exception. However, in 2016 Selleck spoke jokily about the whispers on The View. “We’re not getting a divorce!” he protested. “I know there’s that silly tabloid story running around. I don’t want to shock anybody, but they make this stuff up.”

Selleck continued, “I love my wife dearly, I think she loves me. She wrote me a great note on Valentine’s Day.” The star added that the couple found divorce rumors so laughable that it was a running joke between them. He continued, “I said, ‘Did you hear? Is there something I don’t know?’ and Jillie says the same thing. But we’re kind of used to it, they make stuff up.”

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So where do Selleck and his wife stand now, having been married for such a long time? Well, they still seem to be as healthy as ever, and their daughter is doing great, too. Hannah is now a champion equestrian who breeds horses in a business that she runs with her dad. In 2015 she told The Hollywood Reporter that her parents have always supported her fully in her career.

Yes, Hannah told the publication, “I started at four and my parents just encouraged me to try all different things – dance, ice skating, soccer, lots of things that kids do. Around the time I was 12, I was getting more serious. Then around the age of 14, I was very good at ballet and riding. At that point I had to choose if I wanted to excel at either one. My love was with the horses. That’s when I became very serious about it.”

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Regarding her childhood Hannah said, “My parents encouraged me to stay in school and not do the home-schooling route, which many younger riders did. I stayed in school regularly even though I missed quite a bit of class to travel and compete, but I attended school dances and went to prom and I was able to balance it. I am happy about that. Some of my friends that rode missed out on that.”

Hannah went on, “As a kid they tried to raise me as normally as possible given my dad’s line of work. Those horses have been a great way for me to have my own accomplishments outside of whatever my parents had done. People like to [criticize] and say that you’re able to buy expensive horses and all of that, but when it comes down to it, it’s just you in the ring who has to perform.”

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Although Hannah didn’t say much to The Hollywood Reporter about the marriage of her parents, a few years later Selleck himself would confirm that everything was still going smoothly. Yes, he sat down with People magazine in April 2020 and told them about how he was managing his life and career.

Right away Selleck told the interviewer, “I’m a fairly private person. And I’ve always treasured the balance between work and time with my family. It’s always about them.” He added, “My relationships and my ranch keep me sane. I do grunt work and I make the rounds. I like watching things grow. It’s a retreat.”

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Selleck talked about what he considered the price of fame. For you see, he’d found it difficult once Magnum P.I. made him a superstar. He told the magazine, “I knew intellectually what it would mean in terms of being a public person, but until you’ve lived it, there’s no way to understand it. I had a feeling of, ‘I don’t think I’m cut out for this.’”

The actor explained, “I quit Magnum, not because I didn’t like it or I was tired of it. I was tired from it. And I wanted a three-dimensional life because I didn’t have one.” So he spent some time away from Hollywood, and though he was still very much in demand, he didn’t like the job offers he was getting.

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Selleck said, “I put up with the articles that said ‘he’s disappeared, he’s done.’ And you do get done, I’m well aware of that. It was a big lull, but it put a lot of things in perspective.” But, he went on, “I’m proud of my work, I still love what I do, and I have my family. I’ve been enormously fortunate.”

Nevertheless, Selleck and Mack are so private that we’ll probably never know the truly intimate details of their lives. Even what the couple did for their 30th wedding anniversary may forever remain a mystery. But it is nice to see a Hollywood marriage go on so long – never mind the rumors. For Tom and Jillie, it might be a genuine case of “until death do us part.”

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