Netflix documentary maker Pamela Anderson hopes the film will “take away the caricature” and people will “see the human being”.
Before Pamela, a love story Released January 31, filmmaker Ryan White talks to Yahoo Entertainment about telling the story of the famous blonde bombshell whose life has captivated in the decades since her first Playboy slow motion beach cover and sprint on Baywatch.
White was brought into the project by Anderson’s eldest son, Brandon Thomas Lee, who is producing the doc, which uses Anderson’s video archive and personal diaries. Born in 1981, White says growing up, “Pamela was like the most famous person in the world to me. She’s like my Kardashian,” but he admitted he didn’t “think about it much. [her] over the past 20 years.” And while the Serena and Ask Dr Ruth The director assumed her story would make a compelling documentary, he feared she was “a larger than life personality” with “a huge machine of people around her”, which would not fit with his stripped down style of cinema .
White agreed to a Zoom meeting with Anderson and, after talking for two or three hours, he found it “so different from anything I expected. And our conversation was different from what I expected. .His personality was different.His sense of humor was different..I just felt like that’s when you know you have a great doc: I’m so shocked right now to see who this real woman is – versus the public figure or the public creation that we’ve made. If I could bottle this conversation and translate it into film, people are going to be really surprised and love meeting her – the truth.”
When it came to making the movie, “Pamela said from the start… ‘Nothing is off limits. There are no rules. Ask me anything,” White recalled, adding, “Pamela is inherently very vulnerable – for better or better. worse because I think it burned her a lot in her life and her career.”
The story was to be about Anderson’s new life. How after having a famously crazy Hollywood run, she returned to her hometown of Ladysmith, BC in 2020, married a construction worker and lived happily ever after. During filming, however, the marriage to her (legal) fourth husband fell through, leaving the woman – painted throughout the film as someone just hoping for true, last love – vulnerable. Then Hulu announced Pam and Tommy, a biographical look at the infamous stolen home video of Anderson and her first husband, Tommy Lee, which was turned into a sex tape and sold without the couple’s consent. Anderson never profited from the tape, turning down a $5 million rights offer in the 90s, and while the Mötley Crüe drummer was basically cheered for it, Anderson was mocked on late night television. . She said it impacted not only her career, but also her marriage to Tommy and later the lives of her sons. The show, featuring Lily James and Sebastian Stan, was like kicking her while she was down.
“She didn’t know about the Hulu show when we started doing the documentary,” White said. As word got out, followed by the trailer and then the actual release of the series, “Those were the times when I could tell Pamela just wanted to get away.” Not from her cameras, but “from the world” as she was “retraumatized” from the flight while “knowing the whole country was talking” – again. Although she never asked White to stop filming, there were times – like when a friend innocently texted her the trailer, thinking she was somehow involved in the series – “that she would shut up” or become “nauseous”.
White adds, “It was really hard to see her through. I give her a ton of credit for letting me keep filming during that because it was really hard.”
It also wasn’t easy going through all of her old videos (of which there were “hundreds and hundreds”), including her marriages to Tommy, Kid Rock and Rick Salomon. At one point in the film, she and Brandon look at old footage and she shares with him a realization that after her head over heels, true love with Tommy, she never really loved anyone else. She said she carried the failed relationship with her son’s fathers with her, now 55 and four times divorced. Amid the emotional scene, she and Brandon took a break from filming to take a walk.
“Doing this documentary with her brought up all these emotions,” White says. “I think it was almost like therapy for her.”
White never considered interviewing any of her ex-husbands on the project – including Tommy, who she enjoys a friendly relationship with these days. (He married Brittany Furlan in 2019.)
“Early on, my conversation with Pamela was, ‘If I’m going to do this with you, I want to be with you very much. I want it to be incredibly personal, raw and intimate. I basically want your life and your world through your eyes,” he says. “And my vision for that was not talking heads in the movie, including ex-husbands. We were lucky and we have this huge archive, so especially Tommy, but all husbands can somehow shine on who they were through images of them…I wanted it to be his life through his eyes and not through someone else’s.”
White noted that Pamela, Brandon and Dylan “all have a good relationship with Tommy” and he knew from the start that she was going to be in a documentary and that the archives were going to be used. “He was very supportive of her telling the story.”
The film covers Anderson’s entire life, from a tumultuous childhood, during which she was molested by a babysitter, raped at 12 and abused by boyfriends, to landing on the step of the door of Playboy in 1989 and reclaiming her sexuality through her first nude photo shoots. Then it was about taking on Hollywood and falling in love, only to get burned by showbiz deals that left her with no money, the stolen tape (which she felt was another rape) and the ‘love.
As for what White hopes people will take away from the film, he points out that she is human.
“If this documentary accomplishes anything for Pamela personally – because she’s not a chess player, she’s not enterprising, she doesn’t need this documentary to boost her fame or fame – j hope it’s that people will understand her in a way that she’s been misunderstood and support her a little more than they laugh at her,” he says. “I think people l have always done. I don’t think Pamela was always such a derided punchline. I think people have a deep affection for her. So I hope it strips the cartoon [and] you see the human being behind.
He adds, “And I think people are going to be ready to support her for, you know, the last chapters of her life. I think she deserves to be an American icon — and I think I think people are ready to support her.”
Pamela, a love story premieres Tuesday at 3 a.m. ET on Netflix. his memoirs, Love, Pamelagoes on sale the same day.