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Tom Selleck was offered the Indiana Jones role but couldn't do it. He has no regrets

Of course, it ended up becoming one of Harrison Ford's defining roles.
/ Source: TODAY

Tom Selleck is as synonymous with Magnum, P.I. as Harrison Ford is with Indiana Jones. Imagine a world, though, in which Selleck was known for playing both iconic characters.

Yes, Selleck had the chance to star as the thrill-seeking archaeologist, but had to pass on it because he was committed to starring as Thomas Magnum on CBS’ “Magnum, P.I.”

The series debuted in 1980, while the first installment in the ‘Indiana Jones” franchise was 1981’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” directed by Steven Spielberg and written and produced by George Lucas. Selleck says that powerhouse duo wanted him for the part.

“I was offered the role and wanted it, but I had done a pilot of ‘Magnum.’ And Steven Spielberg and George Lucas kept the offer out to me,” he told TODAY with Hoda & Jenna on May 8 while promoting his new memoir, “You Never Know.”

“They said, ‘We’ll work it out and you can do both.’ And the more they wanted me, the more CBS said, ‘No, we don’t want to let him do it.’”

Even though he lost out on what would eventually become a massively popular film series, Selleck has no regrets that CBS wouldn’t give him the green light to play Indiana Jones.

“So, ultimately they stepped in, and it wasn’t exactly a cross to bear. When I signed the deal for ‘Magnum,’ it was the best thing that ever happened to me,” he said.

Indiana Jones and Magnum P.I.
Harrison Ford (left) as Indiana Jones and Tom Selleck (right) as Thomas Magnum.Getty Images

“And it certainly wasn’t a consolation prize. It was a pretty good deal. So I was kind of able to stay philosophic about it and I always, I’d say I had something to put in my hip pocket, that Steven and George wanted me, that I was enough.”

Ford himself has confirmed the story about getting the role because Selleck was committed to “Magnum, P.I.”

“He was unable to get out of that contract,” he said at the Taormina Film Festival last year while promoting “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” the fifth film in the series, according to Deadline. “I became the second choice and I’m very grateful for Tom.”

“Magnum, P.I.” had a solid run as one of the '80s' most beloved shows, airing for eight seasons before signing off in 1988. Selleck won an Emmy for his work on the show, winning best actor in a drama series in 1984.

Selleck would eventually make the leap to the big screen with the likes of “Three Men and a Baby,” “In & Out” and “High Road to China.” He’s also remained one of the most bankable TV stars of his time, appearing in the long-running drama “Blue Bloods” as well as the “Jesse Stone” TV movies and enjoying a memorable recurring role on “Friends.”

And while “Magnum, P.I.” was popular, it shot in Hawaii and premiered at a time when entertainment programs were not as prevalent as they are today and no one visited the set to report on the series. That meant Selleck didn’t fully grasp how big of a hit it was.

“I was a little removed. I just had no idea just how successful ‘Magnum’ was till I went to the mainland,” he told Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager.