How sobriety turned Rob Lowe’s life around
LOS ANGELES—While some members of his “Brat Pack” generation of fellow actors have faded away, Rob Lowe continues to be a busy thespian. And now, Rob makes his major directing debut with “The Bad Seed,” his remake of the classic horror film for Lifetime.
The former matinee idol, who directed the TV short “Desert’s Edge” in 1997, also stars in the horror-drama about a couple who realizes that their seemingly nice adolescent daughter, Emma (Mckenna Grace), may be a heartless killer.
Patty McCormack, who played the daughter in the 1956 movie adaptation of the play which in turn was based on William March’s novel of the same name, is in the cast of Rob’s version.
Excerpts from our interview:
Here you are, not only still popular as an actor, but you have become a director, as well. To what do you attribute your longevity in show business, while some of your peers weren’t as lucky? For me, it was about getting sober. My recovery and sobriety changed my life, and for 28 years now. That enabled me to get married, have a real life and enabled me to make better decisions. Whenever you look at … [people] in any field and you go, hmm, I wonder what is wrong with them, the first thing I look at is drugs and alcohol. Always. And inevitably, if you dig deep enough, bingo!
So, for me, that was a huge thing to be (sober). That has also given me a perspective of gratitude, not take things for granted, and the energy to be curious and confidence.
And the proper amount of “I don’t give a f***” (laughs) is important, because there’s so much fear in all our lives. You have it in this business, which is so cyclical, and it only promotes more of it that you can go, oh geez, should I work for this company? But, what does it mean if I work for that company? And is this part too small?
None of it matters. It’s the work. I have done small parts that I love. I was on “Californication” with Duchovny. It’s David’s show, and I’m happy to come in and do my thing. And getting rid of any ego and just doing work.
Were there also people who kept you on the straight path? Yeah, I have been lucky. It’s one of those things that I talk about in my one-man show. I am talking about Chris Farley, who was a great friend, and who I spent a lot of time with, trying to help.
At the end of the day, Chris Farley had the wrong heroes. His hero was John Belushi and, in the end, Chris was John.
So, I’ve been lucky that I’ve had the right heroes. I had Paul Newman—a great actor and the ultimate movie star. What I was drawn to without really knowing it was, I liked “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “The Sting,” “Cool Hand Luke” and “Slap Shot.”
Underneath it all, he had a great marriage. He was successful, well-liked, entrepreneurial—a lot of things that I aspired to. So, it’s better to have that as a role model than any one of the troubled, crazy actors who are out there.
What was your biggest challenge as a director? My biggest challenge was maintaining equal enthusiasm for directing and acting when I am in a scene. I loved it when I was directing and not acting. Directing myself is something that I never wanted to do. But that was the nature of this project—that I had to act in it.
How did you find Mckenna Grace? I was very worried, because this part is such an iconic role. Patty McCormack (who played the daughter in the original movie) was among the youngest Oscar (best supporting actress) nominees ever for the role.
Everybody knows you just can’t do it unless you find someone to fill those shoes. I didn’t know if we would find somebody, and we were prepared to not make it if we didn’t.
And we got Mary Vernieu to cast it. She is one of the greatest casting directors ever and who doesn’t really work for television, particularly.
In the first meeting, she said, “I think I have your girl.” And we met Mckenna, and she was amazing. We continued to meet other people, but she was always it from day one.
This movie has a child raised in the way you wouldn’t want to be raised. But you and your wife raised your sons well. Yeah, Matthew, my oldest, has one more year of law school. He graduated at Duke and now, he is at Loyola here in LA. He’s on an eight-day fishing boat trip in Mexico. If he had his way, he would stay there the whole time. I said, “I didn’t send you to Duke and Loyola to become a fisherman, so get the hell back here (laughs).”
And my younger son, Johnny, graduated from Stanford this year with a degree in science, technology and society. He’s going to use all that fantastic education to become an actor (laughs). So that’s time and money well spent.
But I’m actually proud and excited for them. We just did a movie for Netflix (“Christmas in the Wild”), and he’s (Johnny) great in it!
I’m lucky. My wife Sheryl probably deserves more of the credit than I do, but our sons continue to be among my great sources of joy.
Do you feel much more relaxed now than when you were younger? There better be some benefits of getting older (laughs). I’m just grateful and happy to be in a place in my life where I am comfortable. When you’re young, you have to prove yourself.
I learned so much in Africa (where he filmed “Christmas in the Jungle”). Watching the animals, you realize that we’re just highly evolved animals. The young ones are out there proving themselves, and they’re wrestling and testing their powers.
Then, the kings of the jungle, they’re like, eh (laughs). Like an impala will run by and they will be like, eh. Then, the right one goes by, and you’ll see the change in them and they will just work it, as my kids would say.
I enjoy being that—it’s the king of the jungle time and, if not now, when? This is it. I am right at that moment in my life, so I have to embrace it.
E-mail email@example.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/nepalesruben.
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