Exclusive: Lake Bell used experience from own 'humiliating' photo leak to direct Pam & Tommy, could relate to the pain
Actor-director Lake Bell, who faced a nude photo leak in 2014, says she used her own experience from that incident in how she approached directing Pam & Tommy, the Hulu series based on Pamela Anderson's leaked sex tape.
Hulu's new series Pam & Tommy is a retelling of one of the most sensational scandals of the 90s--the infamous sex tape that featured Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee. I use the word 'scandal' loosely here, because the only scandal there was the theft of the tape from the Lees' house. What followed was a criminal act where a celebrity couple's most private moments were dumped on the internet for all to see.
The biggest challenge for the series was how not to sensationalise it and portray it sensitively. Enter Lake Bell! The actor-turned-filmmaker has directed two of the episodes in the eight-episode series, including the recently-released fourth episode. The actor-director speaks to us about what drew her to direct the show, and how experience of her own nude photo leak affected the process.
The first episode Lake directs, deals with the protagonists --played by Lily James and Sebastian Stan--discover the true extent of just how far their private tape has reached. Talking about coming on board to direct the sequence, Lake tells us, "I felt protective of how Pamela was portrayed in this particularly sensitive moment of realisation that the cat's been let out of the bag. It's a turning point in the series, where we go from the pop culture phenomenon that is that couple into a place where there is true pain."
The actor-director is in a unique position to relate to what Pamela Anderson must have felt back then. In 2014, Lake was among the celebrities that were impacted by a massive hack that saw their private pictures and videos being leaked on the internet. That episode influenced how Lake approached directing Pam & Tommy. "I can relate to the sensitivity and pain one would feel when something is stolen from you and put into the tornado that is the world wide web. I felt very pulled the story to tell the story through the only lens I could look, which is my own. As a director, I felt very connected to the material in that way," she says.
Lake says that when she saw Pamela's rage in the episode, it was almost a cathartic moment, akin to letting out her own rage from what happened with her eight years ago. She says, "I remember reading the script and that scene was the bottleneck of all of this pain that they are experiencing. Seeing Pamela take it into her own hands felt very empowering. A lot of us hide our anger out of social graces and obligations, specially women. I felt pulled that it allowed me to feel erratic and wild and cathartic."
One of her biggest motivations and focusses, Lake shares, was "giving Pamela a voice". She tells us, "Even looking back at it from the outside, you felt she had no voice." The 42-year-old says the series wanted to present Pamela's point-of-view, something she believes has never been done before. She explains, "The way the series was written was that it was pretty overtly making a commentary on how the media can unabashedly and unapologetically exploit women. To take a crime of a stolen tape and utilise it for this woman's emotional demise, it's something we can see now in hindsight as criminal. Art can sometimes offer a space for people to discuss something they took for granted."
But even as Lake talks about giving Pamela a voice through the series, there is a caveat. Pamela wants nothing to do with the show. She refused to get involved when the makers and Lily reached out. Entertainment Weekly recently quoted a source close to the actor saying, "She'll never, never watch this, not even years from now. Not even the trailer."
Lake refuses to get drawn into this, however. "I obviously can't speak for her and can only speak from my own experience. I think it would be unfair for me to comment on it. It's her own journey. I have been through really humiliating and difficult breaches of my own privacy, so I would respect her enough to say I can't speak for her," she says. The director re-asserts her aim though. "But I can say that this series and the episodes I took part in has used this to see how we can give voice to this woman through this story," she adds.
The first three episodes of Hulu original Pam & Tommy premiered on Hulu in the US on Wednesday, February 2, and began streaming in India on Disney+ Hotstar on Friday, February 4. The fourth episode, directed by Lake, premiered on Disney+ Hotstar on February 10. The remaining four episodes will stream on Disney+ Hotstar every Thursday weekly. Lake has also directed the seventh episode of the series, which will stream next month.