Lily James and Sebastian Stan are set to play Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee in a Hulu limited series currently titled Pam & Tommy about the couple’s infamous sex tape. Seth Rogen will produce the show and likely co-star as the man who stole the tape.
While the casting is new, the project has been in the works for more than two years. Collider held the story while the series was being shopped around because the show’s producers initially struggled to cast the role of Anderson. In fact, James Franco was originally slated to direct and play Tommy Lee, but he hasn’t starred in a major new film or TV series since his acclaimed turn in The Disaster Artist following several troubling allegations that certainly thwarted this project’s momentum back in 2018.
Instead, Craig Gillespie will direct the eight-episode series, which was written by Rob Siegel (The Wrestler). Rogen and Evan Goldberg are producing under their Point Grey banner along with Dylan Sellers‘ company Limelight and Annapurna TV. Production is expected to start in the spring. Deadline broke the casting news, adding that Anderson and Lee are not involved in the project, though they were made aware of it earlier this year when James first signed on.
Anderson and Lee‘s rocky romance was often splashed across the tabloid pages, becoming front page news when a sex tape filmed during their honeymoon was stolen and leaked online. The series will follow the couple from their first meeting in 1995 to their wedding just four days later, all the way up to their legal battles with Internet Entertainment Group, which distributed their private video.
Here’s how the heist allegedly went down. According to reports, a disgruntled electrician named Rand Gauthier stole the sex tape after getting fired. He’d hoped to collect his tools, but claims that Tommy Lee pointed a shotgun at him and told him to leave the property. Months later, he returned and stole a safe containing the infamous sex tape, which was made aboard a houseboat during a summer excursion to Lake Mead. Lee believed that Gauthier had an accomplice, but that’s besides the point. Gauthier had a background in porn and still swam in those social circles, so he teamed up with a friend named Milton Ingley to make a bunch of copies and sell them online for nearly $60 dollars by mail. For months, Pam and Tommy didn’t even know their safe was missing, and by the time they discovered what was circulating online and filed a $10 million lawsuit to prevent anyone from profiting from the tape, Penthouse had already published a detailed account of its contents. They just couldn’t publish any images taken from the footage, since it was considered intellectual property for which the couple still held the copyright. In November 1997, two years after the original footage was stolen, Pam and Tomy signed the copyright over to Club Love founder Seth Warshavsky, who later cut a deal with Vivid Entertainment to legally sell physical copies of the movie on DVD, VHS and yes, wait for CD-ROM. The sex tape made Warshavsky a ton of money, and eventually Pam and Tommy sued him for more profits in federal court, where his company Internet Entertainment Group was ordered to pay them $740,000 each. However, the company had long since folded, so neither Pam nor Tommy were paid beyond the initial deal. Shortly thereafter, plans were announced regarding the release of an earlier sex tape that Anderson had made with Poison singer Bret Michaels, though he successfully sued to block its release. You can still find snippets on the internet, not that we’re encouraging you to go down that particular rabbit hole.
Pam and Tommy hardly invented the celebrity sex tape, but they popularized it, and its impact was immeasurable. Whether the tape was sold or stolen is besides the point, as it effectively became the first viral porno. The tape seemingly encouraged other couples to perform on camera in the privacy of their own homes.
I always thought it’d be fascinating if FX picked up this project and positioned it as a new season of American Crime Story, since this theft and the subsequent violation of their privacy was clearly a crime, even if both of them seemed to benefit from its distribution. It made Anderson one of the most searched women on the internet, while Tommy was able to brag about the size of his appendage.
Given the direction Anderson‘s casting could’ve gone, I would say James is a major coup for this project, as is the casting of Stan, who previously worked with Gillespie on I, Tonya. I don’t know if I can see him as Tommy Lee — Franco might’ve been better, to be honest — but he’s a better actor than people give him credit for, and I’m excited to see what he does with the role.