Pamela Anderson’s image has been splashed everywhere – with and without her permission – and yet she struggled financially for much of her life.
It’s yet another revelation in his Netflix documentary, Pamela, A love story. The film, directed by Ryan White, goes to her home in Ladysmith, British Columbia – where she moved full-time in 2020 after unloading her Malibu, California property. He’s on the water, has a boathouse, and is sprawling enough that his parents could have a home on the property. But has been described as “modest” – a fun word to associate with someone who’s always been larger than life – and appears that way, especially when it comes to celebrities.
In the film, Anderson talks about turning down $5 million for her infamous stolen tape, taken from home videos made with then-husband Tommy Lee in the ’90s, with the pair not earning a dime. Playboy centerfolds notoriously never made models rich, and she didn’t have an agent when she brokered her deal on the world’s most-watched TV show, Baywatch. There was no glam squad for the doc. In one scene, Anderson – one of the world’s most famous blondes – goes to a local drug story to buy a box of hair dye.
Her son Brandon Lee, the film’s producer, bluntly says his mother has been in debt most of her life, as they discussed the tape she insisted she had no regrets not having monetized – even though the offer had been a billion – because it was a violation. Anderson has also expressed ongoing concern about her credit cards being declined. (Over the years, she’s made headlines for tax crimes, been embroiled in several high-profile lawsuits, and lost money tearing down and rebuilding this Malibu home, spending $8 million in cash. , which she would have struggled to pay.)
White, who directed the documentary, told Yahoo Entertainment he was “shocked” to learn of her financial troubles, especially that she got so little from global success. Baywatch, in which she appeared in the mid-90s for five years.
“She was the most famous woman in the world on the most famous show in the world and she doesn’t have a nest egg of Baywatch lean on,” marvels White.
White says he “just assumed” that Anderson, “a pop culture icon”, would be “extremely wealthy”. He didn’t realize she wasn’t until halfway through filming. He talked about how they had gone out to eat together, outside of Las Vegas, and she insisted on paying.
“She said, like, ‘Ryan, you always pay’,” which is usual for a doc director, “‘just let me pay for this once,'” he recalled. “As she was handing over a credit card, she did it as half a joke [about how her credit card sometimes] doesn’t work… I laughed, but she was like, ‘No, really, a lot of times in my career, my credit cards have been declined. I’m just not a good financial planner.'”
He added: “It’s shocking how famous she is and how much she’s been a part of American pop culture for the past 30 years that she’s had financial trouble on so many occasions. was really revealing and really humanizing.”
In the film, Brandon told his mother that he wished she had made money from the stolen tape – traumatic as it was for her – because her career took such a hit from the tape. He and Dylan and in the film, look at Anderson’s life, from the beginning to today.
White says they are “such an unconventional family in so many ways… You can’t categorize this family. They’re crazy in the best way, and so open and honest with each other, and don’t have nothing to hide. It’s like this open-door policy to talk about everything.”
Working with Anderson, White had to be “nimble,” he says, because he wasn’t sure exactly what she would do next. The film uses her collection of archival videos (“hundreds and hundreds” of tapes she had in the attic of her boathouse) as well as stacks of journals she kept from a teenager to present , so some days she would agree to watch an old clip — like her wedding in Cancun to Lee in 1995 — but it would stir up too many emotions and the next time he asked, she would refuse.
“‘No, that time has passed. I think you’ve had enough,'” he recalled saying. “And that’s what I love about Pamela is that she’s very, very authentic. Nothing about my film – even the hair dye stuff… – I’m like, I hope this doesn’t not seem contrived because it was literally [me] asking, ‘Where are you going?’ and she’s like, ‘I’m going to the pharmacy’ [and me tagging along] “not knowing she was going to dye her hair, not even knowing she was dyeing her hair herself.”
He adds: “Every time I’ve tried to direct Pamela or say, ‘How about we do this today?’ She always said ‘No'”, he laughs. “She always likes to do her own thing. So I learned to be very nimble and to always be open to surprise. And I was repeatedly throughout the filmmaking process.”
Pamela, a love story premieres Tuesday at 3 a.m. ET on Netflix. On the same day, Anderson’s memoir, Love, Pamela, goes on sale.