How Pamela Anderson and Son Brandon Thomas Lee Handled Rehashing Difficult Personal Moments for ‘Pamela, a Love Story’
Pamela Anderson, along with son and producer Brandon Thomas Lee, shared how they handled putting some of the most difficult parts of the actress, author and activist’s life onscreen during a special post-screening Q&A at the Paris Theater on New York on Wednesday night.
In a 20-minute moderated conversation, the Pamela, a love story star sat down with her son and the documentary’s director Ryan White to talk about how the Netflix film came together, including why Anderson did it.
“I knew this was going to be kind of a wild family legacy artistic project and I just wanted to do one of those things that I really love to do and just have 100 percent faith, throw myself into it and see what the heck someone’s gonna try and make up all this mess I made,” she explained.
Anderson noted that in her memoir Love, Pamela was where she was most focused, but that Lee ultimately wanted her story on the screen. The producer noted that a visual medium was where he was most interested in seeing his mother’s story reclaimed.
“There’s such a visual aspect to this woman’s life that I really wanted represented whether it’s her career in entertainment, photos. You’re such an icon of so many people, and you’re such a tastemaker in a visual medium that I thought this was the opportunity to represent that,” he said. “I thought that this was the best opportunity to take someone that wouldn’t necessarily pick up a copy of her book and give them the opportunity to understand her as well.”
White previously told The News84Media that Anderson was hands-off during filming, and revealed during the panel at least one major reason why. White captures Anderson watching old tapes, including her time with ex-husband Tommy Lee and her two sons when they were young and the experience proved to be emotionally difficult.
“She would wander in from time to time while we were watching tapes and sit down and plug something in, and I would say to my camera people, Dominique and David, ‘Just roll on Pamela. She popped something in.’ You only ever did that the first weekend,” White recounted. “It was just Pamela always floating and sometimes she would want to watch these things and then after the first shoot, you said, ‘I won’t do that again. That was too triggering.’”
The amount of material Anderson had available to even look back on, however, surprised the actress and author, who told White during an early conversation pre-filming that she thought she didn’t have anything saved.
“I said, but there’s a storage space in the loft, so there might be some stuff up there. Here’s the key and just go. The only thing I want to do is I want nothing to do with this. Use whatever you want,” she recalled. “They went up there [and] it was like everything. I’d saved everything. Every report card, every V.IP episode. Bathing suits, bikinis I got married in, corks from champagne.”
While Anderson had no direct part in shaping the documentary, White confirmed Lee was involved to help ensure the story was authentic and honest while also being responsible.
“Pamela handed over every tape and every diary that she’s ever written or shot in her entire life and didn’t look at them, but she had her son as a stopgap,” White said of Anderson’s involvement. “I believe we were trustworthy but had we not been, he was there to see what we were putting into the film.”
For Lee, his involvement in the process was therapeutic but he noted that, at times, he had to grapple with his own feelings about how the doc team was representing his mom.
“There were definitely times where I thought, ‘Am I going to be able to keep a level head as a producer on this project and want to do what’s best for the film and what’s best for the truth of the story?'” he said. . “I constantly battled with that with a lot of stuff that was in the film about my family and what was going on.”
Part of that may have involved the more difficult moments of the doc, which included showing how Anderson repeatedly faced misogyny and cruel media attention, eventually learning to brilliantly deflect the turn the world’s invasion obsession with her into a mechanism for supporting causes she cares about.
“I think when I first started getting a lot of attention, I thought I have to share this attention with something more meaningful. That’s when I started stalking PETA and all these activist groups because I thought I would get a lot of attention. This just seems so superficial. So I used it to my advantage,” she said. “I would go speak to world leaders. They wanted a kiss on the cheek and an autograph and I wanted laws to be changed. We got we both got what we wanted.”
The “singular experience” of making the doc, however, was a bit therapeutic for Lee, offering him a chance to see and understand what had happened to his mother and their family in a way he hadn’t before.
“You’re watching your life come together in reverse. I don’t think that a lot of people get to do that. I’m watching things that happened with my family in the public eye that I remember certain instances of when I was a kid … but the rest of the world knew the full story and I didn’t,” he said. “A lot of this for me was kind of catching up to that so a lot of it was discovery for me and very emotional.”
“The first time I watched the first five seconds I couldn’t even hold it together,” he added. “Usually the car rides home for me were tough because I just tried to stay in there and stay in work mode but for sure it was a difficult experience.”
Anderson, who has previously said she doesn’t intend to watch the doc for now, admitted that she’s seen bits of it after screening it privately with her youngest son Dylan, but with little recall. “I was more concerned about Dylan, so I don’t really know what happened.”
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