Tom Selleck nearly played Indiana Jones

It's hard to imagine anyone but Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones now, but just weeks before filming, Tom Selleck was all set to play the role

Indiana Jones

It’s now hard to imagine anyone but Harrison Ford donning a fedora and brandishing a whip as one Indiana Jones – hot professor and international archeologist adventurer. But it came incredibly close to not being him at all. Mere weeks before filming began, the role was set to be played by Tom Selleck – best known in the 80s for Magnum PI and Three Men and a Baby.

It was George Lucas’ wife Marcia who went to bat for Selleck in the role, favouring him over Jeff Bridges, who the casting director wanted. At the time, Selleck had filmed the pilot of Magnum PI, but it hadn’t yet had a full series greenlit. Apparently, when CBS realised that Selleck was in demand, they then ordered the series, meaning he could no longer play Indy.

Empire Magazine editor Nick de Semlyen recently tweeted a screen test filmed in 1980 – featuring Selleck as Indiana, and Sean Young (who would become best known for co-starring with Harrison Ford in Blade Runner) as Marion Ravenwood. Marion would of course eventually be played by Karen Allen.

In the brief clip Selleck wears a familiar leather jacket and the famous fedora. The chemistry is him and the feisty Young is great, even in the few seconds that we see. In a slightly longer version of the clip, Young pushes Selleck all the way over as a greeting.

Lucas and Ford had of course just filmed The Empire Strikes Back together, and Lucas didn’t want to seem reliant on him. He also thought that Ford was unlikely to sign onto another trilogy when he had finished the three Star Wars movies. Luckily, thought that Indy seemed fun, so agreed to do it – after negotiating a very favourable deal for himself of course.

Things worked out well for all involved, not least the audience. And Ford will be back in Indiana Jones 5 in 2023. In the meantime, check out our guide to the best adventure movies.