How fake breasts, nipples, penis transformed Pam & Tommy stars Lily James, Sebastian Stan into iconic '90s couple for Hulu show

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Mötley Crüe, Baywatch one-piece, Versace, Dior, Tom Ford

The task: transform actors known for playing Cinderella and Marvel’s Winter Soldier into a buxom blonde Playboy cover girl and her tattooed rock star husband.

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The resemblance of stars Lily James and Sebastian Stan to Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee was shocking when streaming service Hulu released images from Pam & Tommy in May. The eight-part dramedy chronicles the four-day courtship between the Baywatch actress and the Mötley Crüe drummer before they wed in 1995 on a beach in Cancun, Mexico, dressed in bathing suits. Anderson was 27; Lee was 32.

Pam & Tommy mainly focuses on the fallout after an electrician (Seth Rogen), unpaid by Lee, obtains an intimate tape between Anderson and Lee and sells it on the internet.

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“Nobody wanted to take the short cut or compromise on anything,” Jason Collins, special make-up effects designer for Pam & Tommy, says. “It’s one of those rare projects where everybody is firing on all cylinders and lightning strikes.”

Mötley Crüe, Baywatch one-piece, Versace, Dior, Tom Ford

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James and Stan in a still from Pam & Tommy. Photo: TNS

Emulating Anderson and Lee is a tall order when you consider how their looks are fixed in the public consciousness. Most people of a certain age can conjure the image of Anderson in her Baywatch one-piece, so Lennox knew the correct cut and colour would be vital for the one they created.

“There was a lot of swatching and a lot of research to find out who made their bathing suits originally, which we did uncover,” she says.

The team also wanted to avoid a caricature of Anderson. In light of the devastation the tape caused Anderson, Moe “really wanted to make sure that we weren’t making a joke out of this … [that] we weren’t doing Pam drag,” he says. “It had to feel real, and it had to honour her and who she was at that time because she was a beauty icon.”

Mötley Crüe, Baywatch one-piece, Versace, Dior, Tom Ford

James’ transformation took about four hours each day. Photo: AP

James’ transformation took about four hours each day, says Williams, who began analysing side by side photos of James, 32, and Anderson. James needed more space between her eyes and her hairline; a prosthetic forehead also worked to conceal James’ natural brows. Lace eyebrows applied to the prosthetic forehead mimicked Anderson’s, thin like US actress Jean Harlow’s. Upper and lower dental pieces recreated Anderson’s smile and subtly pushed James’ top lip out.

“After that, it’s a little paint’ll make you what you ain’t,” says Williams. “Highlights, shadows, contours that enhance the prosthetic, that change structure.” James also wore contact lenses to conceal her brown eyes. (Anderson’s are blue.)

A prosthetic chest made of medical-grade silicone provided Anderson’s curves. Collins says the breasts James wore were sculpted “three or four times to get them perfect. It’s more than just the way they look. It’s how the whole appliance moves.” Anderson’s tendency to wear garments that show skin posed another challenge.

Mötley Crüe, Baywatch one-piece, Versace, Dior, Tom Ford

Pamela Anderson at the premiere of Superhero Movie in 2008, in Los Angeles. Photo: TNS

James wore four wigs to spare James’ naturally dark hair and to achieve continuity in terms of hair colour and density, Moe says. The wigs were custom-made and knotted by hand, after looking “at 30 different shades to find the perfect blond because Pam was known for colouring her own hair at home, through most of her life, with chemist colour.”

Lennox’s goal was to source wardrobe not made for the series from designers she says Anderson favoured at that time, like Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, Azzedine Alaïa, Dior and Yves Saint Laurent.

“We went into it very clear that we wanted it to be as close to the original as possible,” Lennox says. “So there was a lot of meticulous fine-tuning, especially of the bathing suit, with many fittings to make sure all the cuts hit Lily’s body exactly the same as it hit Pam in all the photos and videos we were watching.”

Mötley Crüe, Baywatch one-piece, Versace, Dior, Tom Ford

Stan in a still from Pam & Tommy. Photo: AP

Stan, 39, took about three hours to transform into Lee on most days of filming, with about two hours of that time devoted to replicating Lee’s tattoos, says Collins. A 3-D scan of Stan’s body enabled designers to create the tattoos – Stan wore more than 30 at a time – to fit his body. Williams says he couldn’t use the exact tattoos for legal reasons, “so we do a variation of them that is run by our legal department”.

Stan, a Romanian actor who first gained notoriety for his role in Gossip Girl and later appeared in several Marvel films and I, Tonya, maintained facial stubble, Williams says, and wore a touch of Tom Ford bronzer. He coloured his light eyes with brown contacts. Stan’s eyebrows were darkened along with his soul patch to match his dyed locks. Stan’s hair was styled to help elongate his face so it more closely resembled Lee.

Stan donned prosthetic nipples, which took about 45 minutes to apply, to attach Lee’s nipple rings, says Collins. They stayed put – even as James tugged at one with her teeth, thanks to a medical adhesive. Collins also created a prosthetic penis, which Lee converses with in the show, as the real Lee described in his 2004 memoir Tommyland.

Mötley Crüe, Baywatch one-piece, Versace, Dior, Tom Ford

Stan in a still from Pam & Tommy. Photo: AP

In the mid-90s, Lee’s style was “more jeans, T-shirts and boots”, says Lennox. “Still rock 'n' roll, but not as glam or theatrical as he was known to be.”

Lennox says the stylists’ work would be for naught if it wasn’t for James and Stan.

“When I offer something or put something on somebody, it’s how they hold themselves in the clothing that really tells me if it’s going to work or not,” Lennox says. “Immediately, both of them were able to put these clothes on and then really feel that character. They worked it. They held it.”

Mötley Crüe, Baywatch one-piece, Versace, Dior, Tom Ford

James at the world premiere of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again in London in 2018. Photo: Reuters

Moe describes James, a British actress also known for Downton Abbey and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, as “an A+ student of Pamela Anderson. She knew every interview, word for word, that she had ever done”. Williams recalls James “even using that four hours [in hair and make-up] judiciously in the trailer every day: She would be watching interviews, doing [Anderson’s] accent.”

Collins remembers James “letting me know when something was slightly off, or she felt like her expression wasn’t coming through. You can be the best, but until somebody really, really embodies that character and wears that – that’s when you have total success.”

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