Being John Denver

000426 the early show chad lowe
The public John Denver drew fans and international acclaim for his thoughtful lyrics and wholesome image. But the private man faced many personal and professional struggles before finding success.

The new TV movie, Take Me Home: The John Denver Story, will be broadcast Sunday, April 30, at 9 p.m. ET on CBS. It takes a look at some of the struggles he faced. Chad Lowe took on the daunting task of playing the lead role, including wearing an exact replica of the kind of glasses Denver wore.

He tells Early Show Co-Anchor Jane Clayson it was a role that challenged and intimidated him.

"Everybody has an opinion of what he should look like and how he behaved," he explains. "So there's a little extra pressure when you're portraying a character or person who lived and certainly who was as well known and beloved as he was."

He prepared by reading Denver's autobiography and, of course, he spent a lot of time listening to his music. But Denver's songs have resounded through Lowe's life, beginning when he moved to Colorado after his mother and stepfather divorced when he was 8 years old.

Fifteen of Denver's original recordings will be featured in the movie, including "Annie's Song" and "Rocky Mountain High." Except for a brief number at the start of the film, Lowe lip synchs to Denver's vocals.

"I thought I knew who he was," says Lowe. "I knew he was a social activist and an award-winning singer-songwriter, and I still didn't know who the true John was. I didn't know his heart and didn't know his emotional life."

Denver had a shaky relationship with his father and two failed marriages. He was only 53 when he died in October 1997 when the experimental plane he was piloting crashed off the coast of California.

"He was just a normal guy like you and me," explains Lowe. "He was a normal guy, yet his persona was very different from the kind of struggles that he endured."

Take Me Home shows Denver's conflict with his father (played by Gerald McRaney) as well as the toll his career took on his marriage with wife Annie (Kristen Davis). Lowe's own wife, Hilary Swank, won the Best Actress Oscar in March for her performance in Boys Don't Cry. Lowe quips the Oscar is prominently displayed on their mantelpiece, except when he's out of town, when Swank takes it to bed.

While Swank was giving her acceptance speech at the Oscars ceremony, her proud husband was moved to tears - even though she forgot to thank him. Once backstage, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, she said, Oh my God, I forgot to thank my husband. He's been so supportive of my dream. He's my everything."

Lowe himself won an Emmy in the early '80s for his role as a teen-ager with AIDS in the TV series Life Goes On. His Emmy sits next to her Oscar when it's on the mantel.

Biography information on Chad Lowe:

  • Born Charles Lowe on January 15 1968, Dayton Ohio.
  • Won an Emmy Award for his portrayal of a teen living with AIDS on Life Goes On.
  • Besides growing up with notorious brother Rob Lowe, Chad has two other brothers, Micah and Justin. Their father is a lawyer and their mother is a novelist.
  • When the family moved to L.A., neighbor Martin Sheen encouraged Lowe to look into acting.
  • Enjoys photography and ice hockey.
  • Volunteers for several youth-at-risk causes including the homeless and pediatric AIDS.
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  • Now and Again (1999) Series
  • Target Earth (1998) (TV)
  • Suicide, the Comedy (1998)
  • Touched by an Angel (1998) (guest role)
  • Do Me a Favor (1997)
  • The Way We Are (1997)
  • Floating (1997)
  • The Others (1997)
  • ER (1997) (recurring role)
  • Driven (1996)
  • In the Presence of Mine Enemies (1996) (TV)
  • Melrose Place (1996-1997) Series
  • Fighting for My Daughter (1995) (TV)
  • Dare To Love (1995) (TV)
  • Siringo (1994) (TV)
  • Candles in the Dark (1993) (TV)
  • Highway to Hell (1992)
  • Captive (1991) (TV)
  • An Inconvenient Woman (1991) (TV)
  • Life Goes On (1991-1993)
  • So Proudly We Hail (1990) (TV)
  • Nobody's Perfec (1989)
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  • April Morning (1988) (TV)
  • Apprentice to Murder (1988)
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