Rob Lowe on His Sex Tape, Sobriety and What Really Went Down with Aaron Sorkin

The heartthrob next stars in the Fox comedy The Grinder

Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty

The leaking of a sex tape can make or break a celebrity. In Rob Lowe‘s case, it was the catalyst he needed to hit rock bottom and check into rehab in 1990 – and he’s been sober for 26 years now. But even after that fall from grace, Lowe says his career wasn’t completely dead.

“I’ve been fortunate that I’ve always, always, always worked. Even after the sex tape was made public, it was like: You’re still a professional baseball player, but you’re playing for Double or Triple A,” Lowe, 51, says in the new issue of GQ, on stands Monday. “I lost the role in Titanic that Billy Zane got. But I was never banned from the game.”

Lowe recalls that only two people in Hollywood reached out after the tape, which showed him having sex with a 16-year-old and 22-year-old in an Atlanta hotel, went public: actress Jodie Foster and producer Don Simpson.

“Jodie and I had done The Hotel New Hampshire together, and she sent me a note with a recurring line from John Irving: ‘Keep passing the open windows.’ She was saying, ‘You’ll get through it.’ Don basically said, ‘F— ’em if they can’t take a joke,’ ” Lowe says. “Oh, and Hugh Hefner took me aside at one point and said, ‘You had to do it. The technology existed.’ ”

The heartthrob next stars opposite Fred Savage in the Fox comedy The Grinder, which he also executive-produces.

That leads Lowe to reflect on arguably his most popular show, The West Wing, which he quit in 2003 after not being given a raise like his costars. Lowe insists he and creator Aaron Sorkin are on good terms despite the contract drama.

“I never had any issues with Aaron. To his credit, Aaron writes what he wants to write, and he’s not telling anybody, ‘I’m going to guarantee you two great [story lines].’ And I loved The West Wing. But man, it was grueling,” he says. “We shot near the Friends stage, and we would roll in at, like, 6 in the morning, and the ‘friends’ would come in, in their Ferraris and Lamborghinis, like, at 11:30 a.m., and by midnight they would have shot their show. They’d be gone and we’d be there until 6 in the morning. The sun would rise. That would never happen in TV today. Never. They’d never pay for the overtime. It was a moment in time, both in terms of the economics of the business and how successful the show was. Aaron had the kind of latitude to do it. It will never be done again.”

Someone Lowe does have beef with? A random surfer who stole his wave.

“One time I took off on a wave next to a guy, and he grabbed my leash and yanked it. I went flying. So I paddled back and f—— hit him,” Lowe says. “I may wear makeup for a living, but I will fight you in the water.

The Grinder premieres Sept. 29 at 8:30 p.m. ET on Fox.

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