‘Pam & Tommy’: history of the first viral sex video | TV

They were rich, famous, handsome and living as fast as you can live. Actress Pamela Anderson and musician Tommy Lee met on New Year’s Eve in 1994 and Lee became obsessed with her, a whole sex symbols and famous worldwide for the series The Baywatch. He followed her on a trip to Cancún without her permission, and three days after their first date, they were married right there. But the leak of a recording of both having sex put the brakes on dry. Anderson and Lee’s love story goes a long way. Of its ins and outs there were plenty of testimonies in gossip magazines. It turned out that all that glittered was not gold, far from it. Pam & Tommy (of which Disney + premiered three episodes this Wednesday, followed by one each week) focuses on a very specific fact of that relationship: the circumstances in which the most famous homemade porn tape of the nineties was recorded and leaked and the consequences on the characters involved in that case.

Beyond the curiosity of the recreation of this story, present in one way or another in the imagination of everyone who lived through those years, the series is based on an anecdote with surreal overtones. A disgruntled worker masterminded the robbery of the couple’s safe in which, unbeknownst to him, was the famous tape, and executed it disguised as a dog. This is how the report that Amanda Chicago Lewis published in 2014 in the magazine rolling stone about the ins and outs of this leak, which serves as the basis for the series to lead to a reflection on intimacy, the media industry and social and citizen responsibility in events like this.

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Craig Gillespie, Australian filmmaker who in I, Tonya already boarded with a peculiar mix of drama, thriller and black comedy, an eccentric true case through which he dissected other aspects of American society, is responsible for the first three episodes of the series and for establishing its tone. “I liked the idea that we were all going to enter this series with some prejudices, some things that you know. You start to see her and everything seems very crazy to you. But then you get hooked and you find layers. I think a lot of people are going to approach it with the feeling that it’s going to be something superficial, an entertainment. But you get hooked on the characters and you embark on an emotional journey with them, ”he tells EL PAÍS by video call.

Lily James, in a moment of 'Pam & Tommy'.
Lily James, in a moment of ‘Pam & Tommy’.

For that journey from crazy to emotional and thoughtful, you needed Pam and Tommy. Some almost unrecognizable Lily James (Downton Abbey, Cinderella) and Sebastian Stan (known, above all, for playing the Winter Soldier in Marvel movies and series) are transformed, helped by an enormous job of makeup, hairdressing and prosthetics, into the actress of The Baywatch and the drummer of the band metal Motley Crue. James spent a minimum of three hours in the hair and makeup department each day. Stan had to have the musician’s tattoos repainted every few days, sessions that could last four hours. “I hardly saw Lily without makeup, I saw her at the end of the series, she almost always wore makeup, prosthetics and a blonde wig. It was an incredible transformation, you couldn’t see Lily underneath,” Gillespie recalls.

The director has nothing but good words for the actors. When he joined the series, James had already been cast as Pamela Anderson. “They were looking for an actress who had the ability to totally transform herself and she has done an excellent job. There’s a lot of prosthetics, but there’s also body language and accent, things he worked really hard on.” With Sebastian Stan I had already worked on I, Tonya. “He’s a tremendously versatile actor, he nails this mix of drama and comedy that I do.” The director also praises the work of Seth Rogen, who plays Rand Gauthier, the operator who, in response to Tommy Lee’s misbehavior and contempt while working at his house (the musician even threatened him with a gun), stole the box strong that contained the tape and managed to spread it, first on home videos and then across the fledgling internet, making it a viral hit.

Seth Rogen and Nick Offerman, in 'Pam & Tommy'.
Seth Rogen and Nick Offerman, in ‘Pam & Tommy’.

The crazy part that the director talks about has its climax in the second episode, which narrates the beginning of the relationship. At one point, between sessions of unrestrained sex, Tommy has a dialogue with his own penis, which answers him in the voice of actor Jason Mantzoukas. It is a scene inspired by a passage narrated by the musician in tommyland, his memoir. For the occasion, they used an articulated penis controlled by four puppeteers. “It was a very difficult scene for an actor, it’s not easy to get the viewer to stay in the story after that. These types of scenes demand everything from you, but I knew that Sebastian [Stan] I would go into this scene keeping the emotional depth, and as weird as it was to shoot it, I would do it in the most sensitive way possible,” says Gillespie of those surreal seconds.

The series has changed the idea that Gillespie had about what happened. “At that time we were all aware of that, there was talk of whether [sus protagonistas] they would have something to do with it… They were everywhere, in the press, on TV shows, on late-night shows… But he had never given it much thought. When I started doing research with the scripts, it was amazing to see how victims they were, how they had been lost in the process and how the media took advantage of the story without caring about their lives. The director hopes that this change that occurred in him will also occur in the viewers. “It is a great opportunity to comment on complicity as a society, how we consume information, how we have all those media that feed on it and how we demand it at the same time,” he analyzes.

Neither Pamela Anderson nor Tommy Lee have been involved in the development of the series and those responsible do not know the opinion of the actress. The head of the production, DV DeVincetis, assured in the magazine Entertainment Weekly: “We wanted to explain to her that the portrait that was going to be shown of her was very positive, that we cared a lot about her and that it had been done with a lot of love for her. We got no response.” Other American media have pointed out that the actress was upset that such a traumatic moment in her life was to be removed. Instead, the producers were unconcerned about not having Lee’s endorsement for the series. “Tommy is a public figure and I think we treated him well enough. In addition, we have known that he is excited about the series, ”said DeVincentis.

Lily James and Sebastian Stan, as Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee in the series 'Pam & Tommy'.
Lily James and Sebastian Stan, as Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee in the series ‘Pam & Tommy’.

For Gillespie, it was important to show the most human face of the two protagonists. “They had a life of excesses at that time, they fell in love in four days in Mexico… As much as possible, he wanted things to remain realistic, down to earth, so that we could understand their humanity and the enthusiasm of each one for the other. That had to come from a real place even if some situations were crazy.” In some way, the series seems to want to compensate for the damage caused in the past to Pamela Anderson, and the most emotional part of the story focuses on it: as the chapters progress, it is verified how the leak affected both her personal and professional life. “I can’t imagine… I can’t speak for her, but we have tried to approach the matter with empathy. It seemed that this was a good time to look back on this”, concludes the filmmaker.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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