When Brandon Lee, Pamela Anderson’s oldest son, decided to make a documentary about his mom’s life, his goal was simple: To change the world’s long-held misperceptions about her.
“I wasn’t necessarily out to make a film that made her look her best,” Lee, 27, tells PEOPLE. “I was just going to tell the truth.”
That truth was captured in Pamela, A Love Story, which shot to the top of the charts on Netflix after its release in Jan. 2023, and is now nominated for two Emmy Awards: Best Documentary or Nonfiction Special and Best Documentary Music Composition.
“I basically wanted to bring to light the human that she is, the Pamela that nobody knew,” Lee says. “There were so many assumptions about her, around her career and her decisions and her lifestyle and all these things. But you really don’t know what you really don’t know about a person. There’s always so much going on underneath the surface, and in her case, an extreme amount more going on than people ever realized.”
Lee says he was overwhelmed by the public’s reaction to the film, and is overjoyed about the Emmys love.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he says, when Netflix called him to congratulate him. “At the same time, my goal with the film was never an Emmy, or for people to recognize me. I would just think about this small-town girl who showed up in L.A. and got completely mistreated and misused and hurt, and how it kind of created a monster, or whatever people thought Pamela Anderson was at the time.”
He adds, “Her life just got away from her and she never had the opportunity to rein it back in — until now.”
The doc, which dropped 11 months after Hulu’s scripted series Pam & Tommy (which was made without Anderson’s involvement or permission) used tons of unearthed footage, like Anderson’s meticulously kept journals and old family home videos. That intimacy is what made it such a hit, according to Lee.
“The fact that that you can look so deeply into someone’s life and so intimately are what made it so popular. Learning that she was a romantic and loved love and was a risk taker and just a good person down to her core? That’s the real stuff that just shines through.”
He adds, “She isn’t a creation. And now people know that she’s just this nice, small town girl who wants to relax with her dogs and hang out in her garden.”
Though Anderson, 56, didn’t have any creative control over the project, Lee says his mom trusted her son and director Ryan White throughout the process, as well as their production company Dorothy Street Pictures.
“I was so nervous when I screened it for her and my brother Dylan,” he admits. “I was like, ‘Oh God, she’s going to hate it!” It was very intense, and there were a lot of emotions. But she called me on the way home and was like, ‘Bravo. It’s very good. And it’s very thorough!'”
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Lee says the impact the film has had on her life since it was released is what he’s most proud of.
“People will come up to her and say things like, ‘I used to not like you, I used to think you did all this stuff for fame and personal gain, but I like you. You’re a real person.’ To know that a film, telling a story, can have a real impact on someone’s life, that’s the real payoff.”
As for Hulu’s scripted series — which Anderson openly spoke out against — Lee says his doc wasn’t made in response to that.
“We were actually in the process of making this way before that came out,” he says. “But that was tough for her. It’s tough to watch your life and things that were traumatic in your own life being played out on TV for everyone to watch and laugh about. That’s so painful. But when you’re famous, your life becomes public domain. A judge basically deemed her ‘public property.’ But we got through it, just like we kind of get through everything. She’s so tough and positive, and always looking toward the next good things, which is such a great aspect about her.”
Lee adds that growing up with two famous parents — his dad is rockstar Tommy Lee — didn’t impact his life as much as one would think, mainly due to his mom protecting him from the spotlight.
“She was a great protector, and a great mom,” he says. “She was at all of my sports games. She had it written into contracts that she had to be able to take me to practices, games, participate in my life, and then go back to work. She made a lot of sacrifices I think, to keep me and my brother out of the public eye. I think both of my parents did a pretty good job!”
As for mom’s next moves, he says she remains happy living in her small town in British Columbia, but is thinking about next steps. “For the first time in her life she’s able to think about businesses she wants to start, create products she likes, make a career doing what she wants to do, as opposed to what people tell her to do.”
And he’s proud to have played a part in it — almost as proud as he is of her for what she’s achieved through life.
“She was able to survive everything by always staying true to her roots, to the compassionate person she always was,” he says. “That’s integrity.”
Pamela, A Love Story is streaming on Netflix.