They make an odd trio: Tom Selleck, the easygoing sleuth of "Magnum P.I.," Ted Danson, the libidinous barkeep of "Cheers" and Steve Guttenberg, the feckless recruit of "Police Academy."
The obtuse combination, plus a captivating infant, helped make Touchstone Picture's "Three Men and a Baby" the biggest moneymaker of 1987.The three stars have reunited for "Three Men and a Little Lady," in which they play the concerned guardians of a 6-year-old, played by a precocious Floridian named Robin Weisman.
Selleck is a Californian who parlayed exposure as a Marlboro Man into an acting career. Discovered as a guest star on "The Rockford Files," he played Magnum for eight years, winning an Emmy. His films include "High Road to China," "Her Alibi" and the current "Quigley Down Under."
Brooklyn-born Guttenberg also won his start in commercials, then attracted notice as one of the Baltimore buddies in "Diner." He starred in the hit series of "Police Academy" farces, as well as in "Cocoon," "The Bedroom Window," "Short Circuit" and the TV film "The Day After."
Danson grew up near Flagstaff, Ariz., attended Stanford University and graduated in drama from Carnegie Tech. After soap operas and The New York Shakespeare Festival, he made his film debut in "The Onion Field." He recently began his ninth season on the Emmy-winning "Cheers."
The three actors sat down recently for a group interview with The Associated Press. Here are the highlights:
Q. How do you feel about sequels?
Danson: I probably wouldn't choose to do one. But I did, and I had a ball. I think we all felt, "Why mess up a good thing by doing a sequel?" They (Touchstone) came up with a good idea.
Selleck: I was real trepidatious about doing a sequel.
Selleck: Trepidatious. Obviously, there was financial incentive involved, but that's the wrong reason to do a sequel. ("Three Men and a Baby") was a special thing for me, a landmark, and I think it was for Steve and Ted. What I'm proudest of is that we all worked real hard to make a better movie the second time.
Guttenberg: I've had some sequels that worked, and some that didn't. I'm thrilled that we came out with one that works - in our opinion. When you do a sequel, you have a great responsibility to the audience. You're telling them: "You liked the first one, we're going to fulfill another promise." You have to adhere to that responsibility.
Q. What about acting with children? Isn't that a no-no?
Selleck: That's why we got a middle-aged kid to do the role. Robin is actually 63 years old. Seriously, I don't think kids do scene-stealing. I think everybody, including young actors and dogs, make you look better.
Q. Ted, you play a very self-absorbed actor in the film. Are actors really like that?
Danson: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. I think the more mature you become, you realize and recognize this neediness, and you're more at ease with it. If you need a stroke, you just turn to the closest person and say, "I need a stroke."
Selleck: I think there's some truth in it, and that's why we laugh at it.
Guttenberg: I think self-interest is probably a healthy feeling when it's taken in the right doses. But we can all get carried away. What we want as actors is attention. If you keep it under control and have a reality factor going on, it's OK.
Q. What impelled you to become actors?
Selleck: I don't know what impelled me. . . . I was just going to meander along with a management training program with United Air Lines. I didn't have a desire to do a school play or perform, except shooting spitwads behind the teacher's back. I was a bit directionless in college, but I got lucky.
Guttenberg: I went to college for a little while and dreams of going into dentistry. I was drunk one night and talking to friend about what we wanted to do. He said dentists made $80,000 a year, and I said, "That sounds good." I always wanted to tell stories, and I sort of fell into it when I was a messenger. When I saw envelopes filled with money at commercial agencies, I had a friend take some photos, and I used them for auditions.
Danson: I didn't even get close to a profession until acting came along. . . . I'm an actor. Boy, would I be a mess without it!
Q. If you had the power to change the movie industry, what would you do?
Guttenberg: I don't really know. I think the industry needs some changes, and I think those changes come about because of necessity. I wouldn't know. I'm just trying to make my way through it.
Selleck: Seriously, I would keep the testing of motion pictures at the level of a tool. I think it's rapidly becoming a sanitizer of good controversial product. They get three bad preview cards and say, "Let's take that part out so we won't offend people.
I would also educate the public so they'd know there's a lot more to films than the box-office score. When one film is in 2,000 theaters and another is in 800 theaters, people say, "I'm going to the one that's making all the money."
Danson: I think you should somehow stimulate writers, because that's the beginning and the end of films.