How ‘Pam & Tommy’ makeup team created that talking penis

The outrageous story of the internet’s first celebrity sex tape borders on the absurd so often that any retelling could quickly become farce. To avoid that fate, the Hulu limited series Pam & Tommy faithfully and meticulously recreates the 1990s tale of the whirlwind romance of Baywatch star Pamela Anderson and Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee and the torturous aftermath of a stolen videotape after their honeymoon lovemaking.

While many productions employ computer-generated magic, here the hair and makeup team relied on handcrafted artistry and every tool in their arsenal. Among the crew’s many challenges was transforming Lily James, a pale, scrawny British actress, into Anderson, the permanently tanned, busty Malibu sex symbol – and getting a rock star’s penis to talk.

As head of makeup, David Williams controlled the look of all characters – including actors who played Tommy Lee and his Motley Crue bandmates, Jay Leno, Hugh Hefner, Penthouse editor Bob Guccione and private investigator Anthony Pellicano. He coordinated Barry Lee Moe’s wig and hair styling team and special effects for Jason Collins of Van Nuys’ Autonomous F/X, who created dozens of prosthetic faces and bodies.

Sebastian Stan

Sebastian Stan in makeup


“The Lily makeup is the most complete character makeup that I think any one of us has ever done,” said Williams, a three-time Emmy winner who is also nominated for the Peacock limited series Angelyne .

“The vast majority of creating this look was painting highlights, shadows, contours and re-texturing a great texture that was already there. We turned a beautiful woman into another beautiful woman,” Williams said.

Nearly 70 prosthetic foreheads were used on James to match Anderson’s taller hairline and facial structure, while approximately 25 eyebrow appliques recreated her signature pencil-thin arches.

Moe designed and styled 27 custom wigs handmade by Wigmaker Associates in Beverly Hills, including Anderson’s trend-setting messy updos. James managed to hide her British accent by wearing dentures to evoke Anderson’s capped-teeth smile.

To create Anderson’s buxom figure, Collins’ team took a chest cast of James and then built molds to create gel-filled silicone prosthetics that were bonded to the body and extended beyond her collarbone. Each of the 45 to 50 disposable devices was then airbrushed onto the body to blend with the spray tan skin tone.

“Every stitch on her was painted — skin tone, everything, right down to her fingernails,” Williams said. James required four hours of makeup each day, while co-star Sebastian Stan’s transformation into Lee took about three hours, including the application of nipples he cast himself in silicone that could be pierced with rings.

Lily James prepares "Pam & Tommy" shoot (Hulu)

Lily James Prepares for Pam & Tommy Shoot (Hulu)


According to Collins, 70 sets of digitally printed tattoos were applied in sections to match Lee’s 35 tattoos covering his torso, back and arms. All had to be slightly altered and reviewed by attorneys to avoid copyright infringement, Collins said. James also sported tattoos, some of which matched her birthmarks. The stars drenched everything with ocean waves, bathtubs and sweat.

Anderson and Lee’s iconic hairstyles challenged Moe to get the pieces right. Stan had his hair dyed, chemically straightened, and pomade straightened to preserve the drummer’s sweaty, messy locks. Anderson, etched in his memory with 14 Playboy covers and 110 Baywatch episodes, was the gold standard for boxy blonde updos with dark roots in the ’90s.

“As best I could, I didn’t want it to look like a caricature of Pam,” Moe said. “Our entire trailer was surrounded and covered with pictures of Pam, so Lily and I had an image catalog from which to approach each scene.” Moe would often work on a section at a time on a rotating set of wigs, checking against photos to copy the hanging and bending of individual tendrils.

“Those tiny details seemed crazy, but this side-by-side comparison helped make it look natural and beautiful on Lily in the end,” he said.

A man stands in a home music studio.

Seth Rogen plays Rand Gauthier, the handyman with a grudge.

(Erica Parise / Hulu)

For Seth Rogen’s character, a pathetic carpenter, Moe made an elongated mullet modeled after his own father, who worked for a Wisconsin phone company in the ’80s and ’90s.

“He always had this nice, curly mullet that covered his neck so he wouldn’t get sunburnt,” Moe said.

A touch of realism appeared in the most unexpected places, such as in the scene from Lee’s autobiography where a naked Lee talks about Anderson with his penis and he talks back.

“It’s a mechanical penis that’s controlled by wires,” says effects designer Collins, adding that a special sock apparatus was molded and glued on. Two puppeteers worked cables running down Stan’s legs.

“We have more skill with the four-way move – left right, up down. We were able to get more throw distance for the penis to look up at him, look side to side, shake his head side to side and all that stuff with a cable control,” Collins said. “The mouth was a little little mechanism, a push-pull.

“What’s really great about having a puppet, as opposed to something that’s CG and not ‘there’, is that it gives the actor someone to play against,” said Collins.

Tommy (Sebastian Stan) and Pam (Lily James)

Tommy (Sebastian Stan) and Pam (Lily James)

(Erin Simkin / Hulu)

Williams made sure this moment of high comedy matched the tone. “I’ve done a lot of sketch comedy in my career. When you’re doing absurd things … everything else around it has to look and feel real,” Williams said.

The many dark moments were perhaps more demanding aesthetically. Though Anderson was literally overexposed during her early career, Williams wanted to bring viewers closer to the real woman. In several heartbreaking scenes, Anderson’s glamor is stripped away, her makeup natural, soft, smudged and tear-streaked.

The bold hair and makeup transformations created a reality in which viewers — and the people creating the illusion — have been challenged to reconsider what we know about celebrities.

Collins also credits the writers for giving heart to the story.

“They did something that was fun and entertaining and also something to think about,” Collins said, “about how we treat people and how we think their lives are ours because they’re in the spotlight.” That’s another reason I’ll be proud that I worked on this show.” How ‘Pam & Tommy’ makeup team created that talking penis

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