When Ryan began filming, he thought that the project would be about Pamela’s quiet life after leaving Hollywood, returning to the small Canadian town where she grew up, and marrying a local.
“I thought that’s what the documentary was going to be — looking back at Pamela’s crazy life from Vancouver Island,” says White. But over the course of filming, Anderson’s fifth marriage dissolved and the actor painfully confronted her relationship history on camera.
While filming, Pamela agreed to watch some of her home movies for the first time on camera — a compilation of videos featuring her at home with her young sons, her wedding to Kid Rock, and even her early days with Tommy Lee.
“We have this whole archive of Tommy and Pamela falling in love, and I think our film will really humanise them,” says White. “I think they’re often seen as these larger-than-life… maybe even cartoon characters. When you watch this footage of them meeting, it’s really beautiful.”
What began as a documentary portrait evolved into more of a journey film, Ryan says, when Pamela was cast as Roxie Hart in an eight-week run of Chicago at New York’s Ambassador Theatre earlier this year. Pamela had been offered a role in the musical about a decade earlier, says Ryan, but passed on the opportunity because she wanted to be available for her sons.
“Pamela really put her career on the back burner to be a mother — especially after the stolen tape,” says Ryan, calling the Chicago role a huge milestone for the actor. Though the show’s rehearsals, which were captured on film, proved a great storyline, Ryan says he was initially terrified for the actor. “I was like, are you kidding me? You have six weeks to train for this. She’s so honest. She’s like, ‘I’m not a singer, I’m not a dancer, [but] I’m going to try.’ We got to watch her work her ass off and master that over six weeks. And I just remember on the opening night, my heart was beating so hard for her ’cause I was so nervous. [But] she just totally nailed it. I’ve never had such a proud moment with one of my subjects on a personal level as when that show ended and the curtain went down.”