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The Untold Truth Of Rob Lowe

At this point in his wide-ranging career, Rob Lowe is practically an American institution. From his early days as a dashing young Brat Pack member in coming-of-age films like "St. Elmo's Fire" and "The Outsiders" to his comic turn in "Wayne's World" through more dramatic roles like Sam Seaborn in "The West Wing," Lowe has achieved lasting appeal for generations of fans. Things haven't always been super rosy for Rob though, given his serious addiction issues and the 1988 sex tape scandal that significantly derailed his acting career. Thankfully, sobriety and family support put him solidly back on track to expand his career into directing, podcasting, and being a brand spokesman.

Despite his heartthrob status, Lowe has never been a one-dimensional pretty boy. Throughout his life, he's taken an active interest in politics, been an advocate for healthy lifestyles, and has publicly celebrated being a dedicated husband and father. He also has a pretty good sense of humor about his past scandals, indiscretions, and career missteps. Rob Lowe has led a remarkable life, so read on for the fascinating untold truth of the life and career of Rob Lowe.

His nerve-wracking audition for The Outsiders

Rob Lowe's first movie role as Sodapop Curtis in director Francis Ford Coppola's film "The Outsiders" was anything but a sure bet. Casting for the movie adaptation of S.E. Hinton's classic coming-of-age novel proved to be a nerve-wracking, unorthodox experience that saw nearly all of Hollywood's hot young actors vying for roles as "greasers" and "socs." 

In a documentary on the casting of "The Outsiders," producer Fred Roos, known for his star-making casting abilities, recalls that Coppola wanted to experiment with the actor audition process. Instead of holding individual readings, Coppola herded actors onto a soundstage where they were placed in different groups, switching parts among actors at will, while those who weren't in scenes watched it all play out. Lowe said Coppola's casting improvisation was like "Gladiator" and was a "free-for-all," noting that he hasn't heard of a similar audition process since.

Even though Roos' notes revealed that Lowe had a good audition, he didn't have a lock on a part. Lowe writes in Vanity Fair that he, along with other hopefuls like Tom Cruise, Emilio Estevez, and C. Thomas Howell continued their auditions in New York. Although fretful that he'd end up cast as soc Randy, Lowe was finally offered the role of romantic, emotional Sodapop Curtis. Starring in his first movie on the cusp of adulthood, Lowe would soon have one of the hottest film careers of the 1980s.

Lowe's infamous Oscars performance that ruined careers

Once upon a time, Rob Lowe was Snow White's blind date at the fabled Hollywood haunt The Cocoanut Grove, and the two of them kicked it off so much they broke out into song, belting out "Proud Mary" in front of millions of television viewers. No, this was no fractured fairy tail — it was the opening number of the 1989 Academy Awards, a spectacle so reviled that it ruined the career of its mastermind, producer Allan Carr. 

Considered a low point in his career, Lowe told The New York Times that he took on the assignment because he was a fan of EGOT composer Marvin Hamlisch, who served as the musical arranger for the telecast. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Carr wanted to reinvent the ceremony through "camp comedy," and he certainly tried, creating a fantasia of Hollywood nostalgia complete with dancing tables and a kickline of movie theater ushers.

Unfortunately, audiences weren't prepared to embrace such levels of ostentatious artifice. The number was panned, The Walt Disney Company threatened to sue the Academy for its unauthorized use of Snow White, and Carr was laughed out of Hollywood, his career in shambles until his death in 1999. As for Lowe, he has a sense of humor about the debacle, sharing with The New York Times, "It's fitting and proper that we continue to honor the dark and tragic event that befell our nation 30 years later," adding, "I'm particularly looking forward to the candlelight vigils."

Rob Lowe's close family bonds

Rob Lowe is not shy about his love and admiration for his family, so much so that he's made his affection for them part of his career. Lowe has been married to his wife, makeup artist and jewelry designer Sheryl Berkoff, for over 30 years. According to People, Lowe and Berkoff met on a failed blind date in 1983 but reconnected in 1989 while working together on the movie "Bad Influence." Lowe credits his love for Berkoff as the basis for seeking treatment for his alcohol and drug addictions, telling People that a relationship with Berkoff would have been "next to impossible" without committing his life to recovery. The two married in 1991 and are parents to sons Matthew and John Owen. Lowe shared his key to marriage longevity with the "Goopfellas" podcast, saying, "If there's any way to marry your best friend, do it."

Lowe also keeps his work life in the family. His younger brother Chad Lowe is also a successful actor, with over 60 acting credits to his name. Recently, the brothers Lowe appeared in Rob's hit Fox television series "9-1-1: Lone Star," playing, you guessed it, siblings. Lowe is also working closely with his son, John Owen, whose lighthearted trolling of his dad on social media led to the development of the Netflix comedy series "Unstable" (via KTLA).

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

The personal sacrifice he made to appear in Wayne's World

When Rob Lowe got the call from "Saturday Night Live" executive producer Lorne Michaels to appear in the film version of his show's wildly successful sketch "Wayne's World," his career was in dire straits. His 1988 sex tape scandal left Lowe's future in Hollywood uncertain (via People), so he was not a natural choice to play an ambitious, manipulative yuppie TV executive in the Mike Myers comedy. "Wayne's World" director Penelope Spheeris couldn't believe Michael would suggest Lowe for the part of Benjamin, but Michaels was confident in his choice, even noting that they could hire Lowe on the cheap (via The Ringer).

Lowe was offered the part of Benjamin by Michaels, but the timing couldn't have been worse. As he tells ET, Lowe was literally on the way to get married when Michaels phoned him to take a meeting for the role. When Lowe arrived at his honeymoon destination, he got the fax alerting him to his new gig, so he ditched his honeymoon and reported to the set of "Wayne's World." Although Lowe laments that taking on "Wayne's World" interrupted his personal life, Michaels jokingly pointed out during an Academy roundtable about the film, "you did take the call."

His passion for politics

Rob Lowe's interest in politics started young. As a kid, he raised money for George McGovern's 1972 presidential campaign by selling Kool-Aid. In the '80s, as a burgeoning Hollywood heartthrob, he traveled the country stumping for presidential hopeful Michael Dukakis (via Politico). In the '00s, Lowe publicly threw his weight behind California gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger, accepting a volunteer position to cultivate celebrity support for Schwarzenegger during the state's 2003 recall election (via People). Schwarzenegger was victorious, serving two terms as governor, with Lowe attending both his 2003 and his 2007 inaugurations.

Lowe has channeled his passion for politics into his acting work, choosing roles that reflect his affinity for public service. In "The West Wing," Lowe played Deputy Communications Director Sam Seaborn, on "Brothers & Sisters" he portrayed Senator Robert McCallister, and he played exceedingly enthusiastic city manager Chris Traeger on the hit comedy "Parks and Recreation." He even played President John F. Kennedy in the television movie "Killing Kennedy." 

As for any political ambitions that Lowe harbors for himself, Lowe told ABC News he loves working in the political genre in entertainment but plays down any notions of running for office. Not that Lowe hasn't considered running, telling Alec Baldwin on his podcast "Literally! With Rob Lowe" he contemplated it, but his wife's negative stance and the changing political landscape caused him to shelve the idea.

He's all about an active, healthy lifestyle

Rob Lowe knows how to live an active and healthy lifestyle. A self-admitted "adrenaline junkie," Lowe tells Haute Living he's been physically challenging himself since his childhood days leaping from the highest diving platform at his local pool in Ohio. Whitewater rafting, heli-skiing, and surfing on the California coast are just some of the high-intensity activities that keep Lowe's vitality in peak condition. However, it's not all leaping out of aircraft to hit the slopes, as he also likes more mellow activities like golfing, revealing to Men's Health that hitting up the driving range is "the idea of heaven for me." Even when he's putting in long hours filming TV and movies, he squeezes in lunch break workouts while on set, saying, "I just do it for my mental health, whatever I have time for" (via People).

With his passion for movement, Lowe is very mindful about how he fuels his body. In an interview with GQ, he revealed that he has moved his focus from extreme workouts to "diet, rest, and being smarter and more strategic about the training." A devotee of the Atkins diet since his late 30s, Lowe parlayed his love of a low-carb lifestyle into an endorsement deal. For Lowe, eating well is paramount in his wellness routine, which in turn fuels his longevity in Hollywood, sharing with People, "I have to get enough sleep, workout, eat right. I look at myself as no different than a professional athlete."

He hosted and produced a game show

The next time you and your friends get together for trivia night, you might want to get Rob Lowe on your team because, as he shared with Jimmy Kimmel, he knows a lot of "stupid, useless trivia." Lowe's factoid skills run deep, and one of his early television appearances was in 1979 as a celebrity contestant on the "The $10,000 Pyramid," spinoff "All-Star Junior Pyramid." He won, naturally, and he told ABC News that he donated the proceeds to the Cleveland Amory Fund for Animals.

Lowe funneled his trivia fandom into a gig as a game show host and producer. He teamed up with executive producer Arthur Smith, the man behind the sports reality competition series "American Ninja Warrior," to create the game show "Mental Samurai." In the show, contestants answer trivia questions and solve puzzles while being hurtled through space while sitting in a giant hamster wheel-like contraption. As the host of "Mental Samurai" Lowe received positive reviews and his genuine love of the knowledge game didn't go unnoticed. Vulture observed that he "makes for a strong game show host, full of enthusiasm and delight and empathetic sadness when appropriate. The phrase 'childlike joy' comes to mind."

His directorial debut was a remake of a cult classic

Rob Lowe has spent decades on Hollywood backlots and soundstages, so it's no surprise that he eventually wanted to sit in the director's chair. For his directorial debut, Lowe remade the 1956 cult classic film "The Bad Seed" for Lifetime. Before there was Damien in "The Omen" or the Grady Twins in "The Shining," there was the 8-year-old menace from "The Bad Seed," Rhoda. Remaking "The Bad Seed" might not have been an obvious choice for Lowe to helm, but he tells "Good Morning America" that he thought it would be fun to bring a piece of '50s culture into modern times. He had a strong personal point of view on how to direct the project and used his acting skills to hone his directing chops.

Sadly, the reviews of Lowe's version of "The Bad Seed" were not great. The Hollywood Reporter said it delivered a "baseline amount of trashy fun," while IndieWire called it "surprisingly tame." Still, Lowe said he found joy working behind the scenes, sharing with "Good Morning America" that he enjoyed the lack of vanity of being a director. Lowe hasn't pursued directing outside of a short documentary since "The Bad Seed," but his efforts proved fruitful. Although he's not involved in the project, the sequel "The Bad Seed Returns" was eventually scheduled to hit Lifetime in 2022.

His Brat Pack ties run deep

While the "Brat Pack" label was coined in the '80s by a New York Magazine journalist after tailing Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, and Judd Nelson during a night of Hollywood antics, it became shorthand for a loosely affiliated group of young actors who were taking Tinseltown by storm. However, these actors, including Lowe, didn't come together simply by being cast in the same projects — many actually grew up together. Lowe and Estevez, as well as Estevez's brother Charlie Sheen and actor Sean Penn, attended Santa Monica High School and were friends with each other (via Elle). Beyond that, ABC News reports that Lowe was especially close with the Sheen family and has been buddies with Charlie Sheen since he was 13 years old.

Being in the Brat Pack was not something that all of its members celebrated, with actors like Judd Nelson and Andrew McCarthy actively deriding the label, but Lowe's opinions have been softer. When he was younger, Lowe also bristled at the seemingly dismissive nickname, but with decades between himself and the Brat Pack's heyday, Lowe shares with CBS News that he actually loves the name now and is glad people still talk about the work he and his friends accomplished. These days, he's not personally close to his former "Brat Pack" compatriots, but Lowe tells Andy Cohen that whenever they reconnect, it's like time has stopped.

The real reason he left The West Wing

Deputy Communications Director Sam Seaborn on the Emmy-winning NBC series "The West Wing" is arguably one of Rob Lowe's most celebrated and famous roles. For four seasons, Lowe's earnest portrayal of the idealistic speechwriter was a main draw to the show — so much so that when the show launched in 1999, he received top billing above Martin Sheen, whose President Jed Bartlet was scheduled to be a supporting, albeit important, character in the series (via Los Angeles Times). The role was a perfect mix of drama and politics, buttressed by writer Aaron Sorkin's sizzling dialog, allowing Lowe to tap into two of his passions.

So why did Lowe abruptly leave "The West Wing" in 2003? The story has had plenty of spin over the years. Lowe's statement at the time of his departure said, "there was no longer a place for Sam Seaborn on 'The West Wing'" (via EW), although the Los Angeles Times reported that Lowe allegedly felt squeezed out by the breakout popularity of his "West Wing" co-stars like Allison Janney and Bradley Whitford. Lowe came into the show as one of its stars and when other actors were given raises tantamount to his salary, and he wasn't able to negotiate a raise for himself, he left the show.

He's turned his Hollywood insider-status into a storytelling career

Rob Lowe has been in the entertainment business for decades, straddling the worlds of old-school showbusiness glamor and social media virality with aplomb. The man has stories and Lowe is more than willing to dish the dirt and pull back the curtain on what life is really like in the Tinseltown trenches, publishing several candid memoirs about life as a Hollywood heartthrob. His first book, 2011's "Stories I Only Tell My Friends," earned him praise by The New York Times for being a "canny observer of both himself and others." His follow-up book, 2014's "Love Life," is a collection of meditations on loving relationships, with some juicy gossip to boot.

Lowe's memoirs proved so popular that he turned his books into a one-man show. In "Stories I Only Tell My Friends: LIVE!" Lowe takes to the stage for a performance "literally" of his lifetime. Lowe jokingly refers to the show as his "stand-up act" and embraces that not only is it a trip down memory lane for some, it's also for his newer fans, saying it's "a little bit of everything for everybody" (via KTNV). He's also taken his Hollywood-insider storytelling skills into the podcasting world, hosting "Literally! With Rob Lowe." 

Lowe's hot '80s dating life included stealing girlfriends from Duran Duran

Rob Lowe knows he's hot. He tells The New York Times that back in his teen idol heyday of the '80s that he was so pretty, "I wouldn't have taken myself seriously." But although he laments the bias against "good-looking people" and the effect it had on his career in the '80s, it certainly didn't stop him from having an exceedingly exciting love life. He had romantic trysts with a who's who of starlets, including Madonna, Winona Ryder, and Demi Moore. His long-term relationship with actress Melissa Gilbert garnered plenty of gossip and he even romanced royalty, landing a People Magazine cover for his "one-minute" romance with Princess Stephanie of Monaco.

Admittedly, Rob Lowe was a ladies man, to the extent that he even "stole" a girlfriend or two from one of the '80s hottest bands. During a Comic-Con Q&A for the animated series "Moonbeam City," when commenting on the similarities of the show's character design to that of artist Patrick Nagel's cover art for Duran Duran's 1982 album "Rio," Lowe said "I might have stolen a girlfriend or two from them. Not to rub their nose in it — cough, cough — John Taylor!" (via Deadline). It seems that Taylor's perfectly quaffed New Wave hairdo and energetic bass playing were no match for Lowe's devastatingly handsome charisma.

He's a master of reinvention

To not only survive but to thrive in Hollywood for close to five decades requires a level of creative dexterity that only a few possess, and Rob Lowe is one of the individuals who has managed to pull off this astounding feat. Starting his career in the '80s as a pretty matinee idol in movies like "The Outsiders," "St. Elmo's Fire," and "Class," Lowe tells CBS News that "I think I'm a comedian/actor trapped in a leading man's body." As such, it's fitting that in the '90s, he flexed his comedy chops in movies like "Wayne's World," "Tommy Boy," and the "Austin Powers" franchise.

Lowe, like many actors, pivoted to television, with roles in hits like "The West Wing," "Brothers & Sisters," and "Parks and Recreation," alongside misses like "The Lyon's Den" and "Dr. Vegas." From his incredible physical transformation as Liberace's plastic surgeon in "Behind the Candelabra" to performing voice work in animated series like "Moonbeam City," Lowe has proven he's a valuable Hollywood talent. He embraces his diverse resume, sharing with The Washington Post, "There's a reason why I'm still doing this. I think people like to see people try new things. And I think that's one of the keys to navigating a long career — you know, experimenting and trying and delivering on new things."