Tom Selleck

This Iconic Primetime Leading Man Was Almost Cast As Indiana Jones Instead Of Harrison Ford

What could’ve been! Tom Selleck was almost Indiana Jones, according to Harrison Ford who claimed that the Blue Bloods star was offered the role of the adventure hero before him.

Ford made his debut as Indiana Jones, an archaeology professor whose real name is Dr. Henry Walton Jones Jr., in 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark. He went on to star in three more Indiana Jones movies — 1984’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom; 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade; and 2008’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull — before his return to the franchise in 2023’s Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.

While it’s hard to imagine anyone else as Indiana Jones, Ford revealed to Deadline in June 2023 that Selleck was, in fact, the first choice for the role but turned it down due to his commitment to CBS’ Magnum P.I., which aired for eight seasons from 1980 to 1988, around the same time the first three Indiana Jones filmed. “How I got the job. Tom Selleck had the job but he also had an occurring obligation to do a television series,” Ford said. “He was unable to get out of that contract. I became the second choice, and I’m very grateful for Tom. Thank you, Tom, man. If you’re listening, thank you again.

As for how he booked the role, Ford told Deadline that he received a call from Indiana Jones creator George Lucas — who had also cast Ford as Han Solo in the Star Wars movie — telling him about a movie he was working on. “I got a call from George Lucas. He said, ‘I’m going to send a script to your house.’ I was like, ‘Really? OK.’ He was like, ‘I want you to read it right away. I want you to read it in an hour,’” Ford recalled. “I was like, ‘OK. I’ll read it in an hour.’ I sat down, and I read it in an hour. He was like, ‘I want you to go over to Steven Spielberg’s house and talk to him. I went to Steven Spielberg’s house. I had never met Steven Spielberg before. I guess about an hour later, I had the job.”

In an interview with Empire magazine, Lucas revealed that he didn’t want to cast Ford as Indiana Jones at first because he didn’t want to be a filmmaker who worked with the same actor for each of his projects in the same way as Martin Scorcese and Robert DeNiro. “I was wary of Harrison and I becoming like Scorsese and De Niro. I thought, ‘Let’s create a new icon.’ We found Tom Selleck, but as soon as the network heard, his option on Magnum P. I. got picked up,” Lucas said.

Deborah Nadoolman-Landis, Indiana Jones‘ costume designer, told Empire magazine that Lucas was so set on Selleck that she even had a prototype for a costume that fit him. “I had made a complete top-to-bottom prototype outfit for Tom Selleck,” she said. “He wasn’t replaced until pretty far down the line. I think the film benefited tremendously when the casting changed. Indiana Jones has so many different levels and a lot of that comes from the personality and introspectiveness of Harrison Ford.”


Lucas revealed to Empire magazine that Spielberg was the one who brought up Ford’s name once it became clear that Selleck couldn’t play Indiana Jones. “So then we were running short of time and Steven said, ‘There’s always Harrison.’ I doubted he’d go for a three-picture deal — he didn’t want to on Star Wars,” he said. “And we had three pictures. Steven said to try anyway. I went to Harrison and he read the script and said, ‘Yeah, I’ll do a three-picture deal. I’d love to.’”

In an interview on The Rachael Ray Show in 2020, Selleck clarified claims that he didn’t want to play Indiana Jones. “There’s one everyone seems to know got away. Steven Spielberg put my screen test on the anniversary of Raiders of the Lost Ark. He asked if he could do it. The thing I hated with Wikipedia and all of that stuff is I didn’t turn it down. I earned the part,” he said. “I did a screen test, and Steven Spielberg and George Lucas said, ‘You got the part.’ And I said, ‘Well, I’ve done this pilot and I don’t know whether there’s a conflict.’”

He continued, “And they were like, ‘Oh, we’re not worried about that.’ It was Magnum. And CBS basically said, ‘No. You can’t do both.’ Well, it isn’t the worst thing that’s ever happened. But it turns out, I could’ve done both. But Harrison kind of did a good job.”

Selleck also explained how he didn’t regret taking Magnum P.I. over Indiana Jones in an interview with Build series in 2018. “After I did the pilot for Magnum, I tested for Indiana Jones and I got the job. Steven and George offered me the job, and I was like, ‘Well, I’ve done this pilot.’ They were like, ‘Well, thanks for telling us. Most actors wouldn’t do that, but we’ve got cards to play with CBS. Turned out, CBS wouldn’t let me do it,” he said. “They held out the offer for about a month. Harrison Ford hates to hear this. Harrison, this is your role and you’re indelible in it. It’s just an interesting story.”

He continued, “Look, I signed a deal for Magnum and it was the best thing I ever happened to me. I’m proud I loved up to my contract. Some people said, ‘You’ve got to get in the car and drive into a brick wall and get out of Magnum.’ To them, I said, ‘I got to look my mom and dad in the eye, and we don’t do that.’ I did Magnum. It’s not so bad, is it?”


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