Selleck has ins and outs with press
TV, film star joins Schwarzenegger, Cruise in calling for controls on the paparazzi
By BOB THOMPSON
Tom Selleck had a few choice words for the media yesterday. Not those words.
This phrase had the R-word in it -- as in regulation.
Selleck predicted that governments will regulate the press on privacy issues if the press doesn't start doing it themselves in the wake of the Princess Diana death.
"A lot of people spoke out," Selleck told me at the Four Seasons Hotel, where he was promoting his festival movie In And Out, which opens theatrically in a few weeks.
"And there continues to be great heat, but at the expense of shedding any light on the issue."
The former Magnum P.I. TV star was not sounding off, but answering questions raised by his movie. In the Frank Oz comedy, the 51-year-old Selleck portrays a gay TV tabloid reporter who hounds a smalltown high school teacher (Kevin Kline) "outed" by an Oscar-winning actor during a Tom Hanks' type acceptance speech.
The movie, in a broadly comic way, deals with gay issues but it is the paparazzi excessiveness that seems most pointed in the Princess Diana aftermath.
Selleck, who denied that he's leading an anti-paparazzi gang of actors in Hollywood -- "I'm not leading anything" -- admitted that he has talked "to like-minded actors" such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tom Cruise. They want a free press but have agreed something must be done to curb "the stalking.
"There is a perverse symbiosis among the tabloid press, the mainstream media and the public," said Selleck, who added that the mainstream press "let themselves off the ethical hook" by calling rumor-mongering news.
Indeed, Selleck knew Princess Diana. "I was actually the guy who had to cut in on John Travolta at the White House dance," remembered Selleck of the 1985 soiree featuring the much-written about Princess Diana dance.
But he found out about her so-called private life through the constant media barrage on her.
Mind you, Selleck has had his share of slams. Five years ago he successfully sued a tabloid that claimed he was gay. "I had a wife and daughter at the time, and I had raised a son, and it implied a certain dishonesty."
Although In And Out is obviously a lark, Selleck said he hopes the privacy issue gets discussed because of the film, too.
"Are public figures public property?" continued Selleck, "My answer is no.
"I want to start a debate heavy on light and short on heat about what these privacy issues are and where do we go with them."
If the movie warns about where the paparazzi might go if left unchecked, then he's happy.
Despite his concerns, he's also a satisfied actor -- what with his recent career upswing, helped along by his highly rated TV appearance on Friends, and his acclaimed cable TV western, Last Stand At Sabre River.
There's also a CBS deal for a half-hour comedy, but first he's waiting on the release of In And Out, and his definite against-type casting as the gay trash TV reporter, who becomes the teacher's buddy "trying to encourage him to do the right thing for all the wrong reasons."
Selleck even seals that relationship with an on-screen Kline kiss -- a long, lingering kiss.
"Actually, I did a longer one in a movie that not many people saw called Runaway," said Selleck. "They had Cynthia Rhodes and I kiss over the credits forever.
For the record? "Cynthia is a much better kisser than Kevin."
Don't stop the presses.