Pamela Anderson Never Wanted the ‘Dirty Money’ from Her Stolen Sex Tape

At the Netflix premiere of her documentary "Pamela, a Love Story," the actress and her son Brandon Lee discussed the intimate project.
Pamela Anderson
Pamela Anderson

One of the biggest bombshells (other than the subject herself) in “Pamela, a Love Story,” a new Netflix documentary about Pamela Anderson, is the shocking revelation that she and ex-husband Tommy Lee never saw a dime from their infamous sex tape. Though the information was public, most people just assumed the couple somehow capitalized on the unauthorized tape, which was stolen from their home and released in 1995.

The original celebrity sex tape and viral video in one, Anderson says in the documentary it was one of the most painful times in her life. Though she has always said she never profited from the tape, no one cared enough to listen.

“I don’t think anyone wanted to believe it,” Anderson said during a talkback after a recent New York screening of the film. “Plus, we just let it go. After the depositions and all this craziness, and I was pregnant with Dylan, we didn’t wanna put any more stress on the baby. Tommy and I just said, ‘f— them, karma, whatever,’ we just left it. We really just tried to leave it in the past. So we didn’t do a press tour talking about what money we didn’t get. That was just dirty money. We didn’t want it. And we ended up OK.”

The Ryan White film sets the record straight on many things in Anderson’s life; fleshing out the icon for those who may know nothing beyond “Baywatch.” Born on Vancouver Island, B.C., she survived a childhood marred by trauma before being plucked from obscurity by a few “Forrest Gump”-like coincidences of being in the right place at the right time. It’s a refreshing and intimate look at the misunderstood starlet, who comes off as thoughtful, loving, and free-spirited.

PAMELA, A LOVE STORY, (aka PAMELA: A LOVE STORY), Pamela Anderson, 2023. © Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection
“Pamela, a Love Story”©Netflix/Courtesy Everett Collection

“I just think, why not? Everyone’s different, let’s try and dig into those feelings that nobody else has,” said Anderson of the decision to make the film. “We all have a purpose, and if we can just find our unique forward-thinking ideas, that’s where all the interesting, good stuff is. So I thought, ‘if somebody else can do it, I can do it.’ And I just don’t know what I’m capable of yet. I just want to push myself to the limit. I don’t know what my purpose is, I’m just having fun doing it and trying all the things. I think it’s a survival mechanism — trying to have a good time, even if things are hard.”

The film also offers her own take after the popular Hulu series “Pam & Tommy” forced her to relive the sex tape. Aside from being yet another painful invasion of privacy, the series stoking renewed media interest in the scandal. Anderson’s older son, Brandon Lee, was a producer on the film, and felt especially passionate that his mother be seen in her full humanity.

“My whole goal with this was to give everyone a glimpse of what I got to see every day when I came home from school. Every day at my soccer practices, being a dedicated mom, and just all around a supportive human being, trying to live this normal life inside a world that just really didn’t understand her,” Lee said. “The way she was treated was unacceptable, and we should all be ashamed of ourselves for being a part of that.”

It was Lee who recruited director White (“Good Night Oppy,” “Ask Dr. Ruth”) to the project. Anderson herself was very hands-off, her son was there to make sure the story was being told with care and nuance. Still, it was difficult for him to remain entirely neutral.

“There were definitely times where I thought: ‘Am I gonna be able to keep a level head as a producer on this project and wanna do what’s best for the film?’ I constantly battled that with a lot of stuff that was in the film about my family,” said Lee. “You’re watching your life come together in reverse, and I don’t think that a lot of people get to do that, I’m watching a lot of 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. A lot of this for me was kinda catching up to that, so it was very emotional.”

“Pamela, a Love Story” is currently streaming on Netflix.

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