The actor, 54, on his live one-man show, poltergeists and why he is playing a Midlands cop
You’re doing an ITV cop show called Wild Bill in which you play a Lincolnshire police chief. How did that happen?
I’m always looking for a big character I can make my mark with and want to do things I haven’t done before. I’ve had a series on US TV every year since 1999, so to do something unexpected like this and to get into the streaming business, where this will end up back home, is something I wanted to do. But it’s really about the character and story.
Have you been to Lincolnshire before?
No. This is a new adventure. I shot a miniseries in Birmingham in the mid-1990s, I’ve worked in Oxford and I have friends in Wiltshire so I’ve been around the country.
What’s the set-up?
Wild Bill is an American law enforcement analytics expert who comes into police forces with his statistics, slashes and burns, then moves on. The city with the highest murder rate in England is Boston so they hire him to come over and fix things. Boston is controlled by some unsavoury characters he has run foul of — and he’s also caring for his suicidal teenage daughter.
Why is she suicidal?
Her mother died suddenly, she’s been to lots of different schools and now she’s yanked away from Florida to live in the Midlands.
And you’re going on tour — what can people expect from your ‘evening with’ show?
I wrote two books about my life and loved the response. Instead of writing a third, I wrote this show. David Niven’s classic book, The Moon’s A Balloon, inspired this. The notion of the celebrity memoir as an elevated genre has died. I like the ones that are sneakily more than stories about famous people — those stories are a delivery system for something more than that. The surprise about my show is how funny it is. It’s more like a stand-up routine with themes about fatherhood and recovery.
Has celebrity changed since you started your career?
When I started there was no social media and there wasn’t even People magazine. The notion you could be famous for anything other than being a really good actor didn’t exist. Now you can be famous for how well you play a video game. I come from a different era when it’s about the work first.
Do you enjoy being famous?
I do. I decided a long time ago you can fight it and focus on the parts that are unpleasant, and there are a great many, or you can enjoy it. It beats digging a ditch and you’re not curing cancer but, on the other hand, it’s not nothing either — you can bring enjoyment to people and bring them out of their own stuff for a while. I neither crap on what I do, and there are plenty of actors who do that, nor am I precious about it, and there are a ton of actors who are like that.
You did a reality show about strange phenomena…
That was an excuse to hang out with my sons. They’re older now and it takes something like that for them to hang out with me. I like going to places like the Tower of London and hearing all the supernatural stories. We did a show about poltergeists and we heard voices, things moved in the room.
Where do you stand on the existence of Big Foot?
They say they’re bipedal undiscovered apes and whether it’s in Asia, North America or South America, everyone has the same legends. If you look at it like an undiscovered species it makes more sense but I have no idea.
Did you keep up the saxophone-playing after St Elmo’s Fire?
I can fake the hell out of playing the saxophone.
Is Charlie Sheen still a friend?
I hear he’s doing well but I haven’t seen him for quite a bit. People ask a lot about Charlie and me and Emilio Estevez, Robert Downey Jr and Sean Penn growing up together in Malibu, and ask about the backyard movies we made. For years I didn’t think they existed and they’d all been lost but I found them doing research for this show. So the movie we did by Martin Sheen’s pool will be getting its UK premiere at the shows.
If the sex scandal tape occurred today, would it have finished your career?
It’s overrated to be a trailblazer — that’s my quote for that.
Any unfulfilled career ambitions?
The last time I did theatre was in London doing A Few Good Men. As I get older I want to do more of that. I saw Bradley Cooper in Elephant Man in London and he was spectacular. I’m so happy to be at a place in my life and career where I’ve never had more opportunity and the opportunities have never been more diverse. That’s the ideal place to be as an actor.
Rob Lowe: Stories I Only Tell My Friends Live! is at London’s Royal Festival Hall on December 1 and the Brighton Dome on February 16, ticketmaster.co.uk