‘Pam & Tommy’ recaps sex tape drama through a #MeToo lens
NEW YORK (AP) — A hard-hitting, if not cringe-worthy moment in the new Hulu series, “Pam & Tommy,” is when Lily James as Pamela Anderson is interviewed by Jay Leno on “The Tonight Show.” and he asks her about her sex tape with then-husband Tommy Lee. “How does it feel to have this kind of exposure?” He asks.
“What does it look like?” responds Lily James as Anderson. “It’s horrible…It’s devastating.”
The sex tape jokes were a regular monologue for Leno back then. What may have been fun in 1996 is disturbing in 2022.
James says this new perspective is a point of the series, based on a Rolling Stone article written by Amanda Chicago Lewis in 2014.
“We look at these stories as a sort of record and realize our own culpability in the way people have been treated and how as a society we treat women, in particular, not just through the media, but at all levels,” James said. “It’s good to spark a conversation, and it’s important for all of us to look within, look at ourselves, and try to do better.”
Yes, “Pam & Tommy” recreates the whirlwind courtship of a rock musician and TV star and their impulsive marriage. But the big takeaway for viewers is that the sex tape was not leaked to the public by Anderson or Lee, nor was it sold by them. The tape was discovered in a safe that was stolen from their home by a carpenter (portrayed by Seth Rogen, an executive producer on the project) who had been laid off from a construction job at their home. When Lee refused to pay him or give him his tools, he snuck into the property and stole the safe, hoping there was cash and valuables inside. The tape ended up trading several hands, being sold and also going live.
While the series is entertaining, sometimes funny, and has a great soundtrack, it can also be sad and infuriating. It’s about how this couple had their privacy invaded, leading to major stress in their life and in their marriage. Anderson said they never made any money from the tape and she never saw her.
So how do you begin to portray an infamous couple with larger-than-life characters, especially when neither Anderson nor Lee are involved in the project?
Lots of research, Stan says, not to mention hours in the makeup chair for both actors.
“I don’t have a single tattoo on my body, so the thought of being completely covered in tattoos was nerve-wracking because I felt like I didn’t know what it was. I didn’t not the confidence to do that,” Stan said. “So that was really scary. But then obviously Tommy looked a certain way. There was weight loss that I kind of had to do. I kind of had to eat very specifically, and I would do these long periods of fasting and then I would run and walk and, you know, try to take 20,000 steps a day. And it was four months.
James said she and Stan would “go up and down” to assess their own performance.
“Sometimes you felt really in and out. When I had the final fittings and the costume and the hair and the makeup and everything that was going on, it was pretty crazy to suddenly feel like your whole body was changing. The acting kind of fell into place,” James said. “But it’s also great to feel so challenged and kind of lean into a transformation that feels extreme. This part was really rewarding.
To commemorate the experience, Stan says he wondered if he should get a tattoo for real.
“I’ve thought about it many times, but I feel like the pressure now is kind of like, what’s that first tattoo going to be, you know? And I’m old. (He’s 39.) Is that that I’m gonna get a huge tattoo on my back? Am I on the Ben Affleck scene yet?” (Affleck has a large tattoo on his back of a phoenix.)
James says there’s a scene in “Pam & Tommy” where she gets tattooed by famed tattoo artist, Mark Mahoney, who has done tattoos for Anderson and Lee.
“I really want him to give me a tattoo,” she said. “But I have no idea what.”