When Hulu premiered Pam & Tommy, the scripted TV series dredging up the most traumatic chapter of Pamela Anderson’s career, Anderson’s name was notably absent from the production. She did not consent to or sign off on the series, meaning that, nearly 30 years after her and her then-husband Tommy Lee’s home movies were stolen and distributed to the tune of over $75 million in sales in its first year alone, according to Rolling Stone—not a dollar of which she says she received—more Hollywood forces were profiting from her stolen personal property and trauma. Anderson did not comment on the series either, but she makes her feelings about the project—and many more subjects, including her stolen tape, marriages, and media misconceptions—known in a forthcoming documentary from Emmy-nominated documentarian Ryan White (The Case Against 8, The Keepers). Titled Pamela: a love story, the unsparing documentary chronicles Anderson’s complicated journey from small-town Canadian to Playboy pinup to ’90s icon to unlikely Broadway star—plus all the romances in between.
White, the acclaimed filmmaker behind this year’s Good Night Oppy, a documentary about the Mars space rover, says he generally has little interest in making celebrity documentaries.
“I feel like a lot of them are about brand management or selling a product, whatever that may be. And Pamela’s the opposite of that,” says White, revealing that the actor sat down with him for her interviews without makeup and answered his questions for hours on end. “From the very beginning, she was like, ‘You can ask me anything. I will talk about anything. I will be nothing but honest with you about it all.”
Anderson also gave the filmmaker decades’ worth of home movies and journals—chronicling her love life, career, and children’s coming-of-age—without even reviewing them first. “The infamous stolen tape, which we’re always very careful to call ‘the stolen tape’ and not ‘sex tape,’ was just one of hundreds of hours that they filmed,” says White, referring to Anderson and Lee. “There’s no calculation with how [Anderson] thinks about these types of things. It’s all just about being raw and honest, for better or worse. It made for a really emotional film and I’m really grateful that I got to work with someone like that.”
White says that Anderson’s sons, Brandon, 26, and Dylan, 24, convinced Anderson “to tell her story on her own terms. They adore their mother and really hate seeing her story being told by other people in a way that they don’t feel is authentic to who she is. Pamela, by nature, is an incredibly open and honest person. That’s perhaps why Pamela’s gotten burned a lot in her life, but I also think it’s what’s so lovable and infectious about her.”
In an email to Vanity Fair, Anderson confirms that Brandon, who is a producer on the film and appears on camera, was especially integral to her decision to finally open up.
“Brandon can talk me into anything with his sincere heart and a fierceness that only a son could have,” writes Anderson. “He wanted to tell my story, authentically and without distortion.”
While filming the documentary, Anderson discovered that Hulu was making the scripted series about her and her ex-husband’s stolen tape, which incited a painful aftershock of trauma that played out onscreen in the new project. Speaking about her decision to discuss the stolen tape at length once and for all, Anderson explains, “Nobody knew the truth—even I don’t know 100% of what happened, but I think what is most important is to share my human feelings and how much it hurt and how it undeniably defined me moving forward—in my career and my relationships.”
On camera, Anderson describes herself as a hopeless romantic, the quality that gives the documentary its title: Pamela: a love story.
“Pamela wears her heart on her sleeve—not just in relationships but in all things in her life,” says White. “All of her husbands are a part of her story, so they’re in our film, including the most recent one. And no matter how many times it hasn’t worked out for her, she still is a hopeless romantic and looking for true love in every way.”
When White began filming, he thought that the project would be about Anderson’s quiet life after leaving Hollywood, returning to the small Canadian town where she grew up, and marrying a local.
“I thought that’s what the documentary was going to be—looking back at Pamela’s crazy life from Vancouver Island,” says White. But over the course of filming, Anderson’s fifth marriage dissolved and the actor painfully confronted her relationship history on camera. “I’m a romantic, and romance is tragedy,” Anderson says in the email. “I believe in fairy tales.”
While filming, Anderson agreed to watch some of her home movies for the first time on camera—a compilation of videos featuring her at home with her young sons, her wedding to Kid Rock, and even her early days with Tommy Lee.
“We have this whole archive of Tommy and Pamela falling in love, and I think our film will really humanize them,” says White. “I think they’re often seen as these larger-than-life…maybe even cartoon characters. When you watch this footage of them meeting, it’s really beautiful.”
What began as a documentary portrait evolved into more of a journey film, White says, when Anderson was cast as Roxie Hart in an eight-week run of Chicago at New York’s Ambassador Theatre earlier this year. Anderson had been offered a role in the musical about a decade earlier, says White, but passed on the opportunity because she wanted to be available for her sons.
“Pamela really put her career on the back burner to be a mother—especially after the stolen tape,” says White, calling the Chicago role a huge milestone for the actor. Though the show’s rehearsals, which were captured on film, proved a great storyline, White says he was initially terrified for the actor. “I was like, are you kidding me? You have six weeks to train for this. She’s so honest. She’s like, ‘I’m not a singer, I’m not a dancer, [but] I’m going to try.’ We got to watch her work her ass off and master that over six weeks. And I just remember on the opening night, my heart was beating so hard for her ’cause I was so nervous. [But] she just totally nailed it. I’ve never had such a proud moment with one of my subjects on a personal level as when that show ended and the curtain went down.”
“You can’t discount Pamela. She’s been discounted her whole life and she totally pulled it off,” says White. “The film is called Pamela: a love story, and there are many love stories within it. Ultimately I think the end of the film is about her putting more of that love into herself.”
The documentary will coincide with Anderson’s HarperCollins memoir Love, Pamela, which will also be released January 31 and is a similarly candid confessional.
“Writing my book was therapy,” Anderson says. After giving so much of herself to the documentary, though, she isn’t especially anxious to see herself revisit her personal highs and lows onscreen. “The documentary I haven’t seen, and I have no intention of seeing. I gave full access to my archives and diaries, and I hope that through full transparency, it makes sense to somebody.”
source: Vanity Fair