When Rob Lowe emerged onto the scene in the 1980s he was a teenage heartthrob with sky-blue eyes and a winsome smile that drove swooning girls to wallpaper their bedrooms with posters featuring his impossibly pretty face. He was the dreamy Sodapop Curtis in “The Outsiders” and the persistant hustler Nick De Angelo in “Oxford Blues” and, later, the saxophone-playing screw-up Billy Hicks in Joel Schumacher’s “St. Elmo’s Fire,” a bad boy role that secured Lowe a spot, for better or worse, in the “Brat Pack,” a term coined for a core crew of actors such as Andrew McCarthy, Demi Moore and Molly Ringwald — all of whom loathed the term — who defined coming-of-age movies during the Reagan administration.
By the late ’80s, Lowe’s reputation was marred by an underage sex scandal and his career as a dramatic actor sputtered, but he regained footing as a touted comedic talent, hosting the 1990 “Saturday Night Live” season opener and eliciting laughs in such comedy classics as “Wayne’s World,” “Tommy Boy” and “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.” In 2001, Lowe proved his ability to segue easily between the serious and the silly, earning an Emmy nom for his dramatic lead turn as White House spin doctor Sam Seaborn on NBC’s critically acclaimed series “The West Wing.”
|Rob has been a part of so many iconic films and has created so many indelible roles.”|
Since then, the career of Rob Lowe, receiving his star Dec. 8 on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, has been an appealing mix of comedy and drama, with notable roles on “Brothers & Sisters,” “Parks and Recreation” and in Steven Soderbergh’s HBO movie “Behind the Candelabra,” in which he stole scenes as Liberace’s pill-addled plastic surgeon, Dr. Jack Startz. In 2011, Lowe became a New York Times bestselling author with the publication of his insightful and poignant autobiography, “Stories I Only Tell My Friends.” In 2015, “Love Life,” a follow-up memoir, hit bookstores.
Lowe now brings his signature brand of deadpan humor to Fox’s fresh fall sitcom “The Grinder,” where he plays Dean Sanderson, a famous small-screen lawyer on a now-cancelled hit TV show who returns to his small hometown thinking he can run his family’s law firm. “Rob has really established himself as a comedic actor — it’s not a new thing,” says Fred Savage, who co-stars as Lowe’s lawyer brother on “The Grinder.” “It’s a real credit to Rob that’s he’s established himself so completely as a dramatic actor when he’s also been doing these top-level, high-profile comedy for the past 20 years.”
During the development process of the series, Lowe was considered such a comedic asset that it might never have been made had he not signed on to star.
“The great comic actors just have the gift and in Rob’s case, he does have amazing comic timing,” says Gary Newman, co-CEO of Fox Television Group.
“Of course I loved his work on ‘Parks and Rec’ and in ‘Wayne’s World,’ but what really stood out for me were those DirecTV commercials where I thought he was just so original. It wasn’t much after that that ‘The Grinder’ script came in and it just screamed to us, Rob Lowe. I don’t know if we would have gone forward if Rob hadn’t done it. It was hard to imagine anyone else. We asked people to consider other names, just to be prepared, but there was no one who generated any enthusiasm because they were all being compared to Rob.”
Savage, who grew up watching Lowe’s career unfold and thinking “he’s the coolest guy ever,” was, in fact, a bit intimidated when it came to working with him on the show. “Rob has been a part of so many iconic films and has created so many indelible roles,” he says. “I remember looking up to him and wanting to be Sodapop in ‘The Outsiders’ and then watching him in ‘About Last Night …’ and then, in college, watching ‘Tommy Boy’ over and over, and then marveling at his transformation in ‘Behind the Candelabra.’ Any one of those moments could be a signature moment in his career.
|Throughout the ‘80s, Rob Lowe starred in some of the most memorable movies about young adults.|
|1984||The Hotel New Hampshire|
|1985||St. Elmo’s Fire|
|1986||About Last Night…|
“When I knew we were doing ‘The Grinder’ together I remember talking to my wife and wondering how could I ever sit down and just have a cup of coffee with Rob Lowe? But the thing is, what I like most about Rob is what a dedicated family man he is, and that was how we connected. And now we do have coffee and hang out.”
Tom Barrack, a close friend and Miramax investing partner, believes that what makes Lowe such a lasting pop culture commodity is that he continually strives to reinvent himself on multiple creative fronts.
“Rob’s true competitive edge is not his beautiful face,” Barrack says. “It is the magic elixir of a powerful mind and a soul of humility and kindness. ”