The Review/Feature/

Modern Muses: Nadia Litz Interviews Pamela Anderson

The director and star of The People Garden talk feminism, Federico Fellini, art, and the betrayal of rock star boyfriends

by
Mar 8, 2017

Nadia Litz’s The People Garden, available now on Canadian iTunes, is a modern art film. It reminds me of the work of Antonioni (in particular, L’Avventura), films that were stylish and saddening, haunting and opaque, sumptuous surfaces that form like pools of water and later, sadness. In a beautifully inspired move, Litz cast Pamela Anderson in the role of Signe, a hardbodied model who becomes an adversary to Sweetpea (played by Dree Hemingway), who is searching for her missing rockstar boyfriend on set of his video shoot in Japan. “We banged around, everybody bangs,” explains Signe, simply and sadly, before descending onto a swing in the rain, in one of the most beautiful and luminous sequences this year.

Anderson plays the role with a sense of detached narcissism that hints at something far more bruising below the surface. It’s a performance that doesn’t rest on camp, a woman who knows who and what she is and is content to sink into all the layers of meaning she creates. It’s also a perfect parallel to the way we’re used to seeing Pamela Anderson — a modern muse who is quickly turning the camera back on itself by collaborating with a whole new generation of emerging filmmakers.

In this incredible e-mail exchange between director and performer, filmmaker and muse, Nadia Litz and Pamela Anderson discuss feminism, art cinema, inspiration, and the betrayal of rock star boyfriends, just in time for International Women's Day.

-CHANDLER LEVACK

PAMELA ANDERSON TO: NADIA LITZ

Subject: Fwd: Nadia. I'm sending these quickly because I know there is a rush. Please forgive any typos. I can barely see on my phone ;)

NADIA TO: PAMELA

I'm not sure if I ever told you this, but one of the reasons I wanted you so much for The People Garden was because a few months before approaching you, I had seen you on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. You had chopped your famous locks in exchange for a pixie cut. You looked like a Godard muse. You were on the show talking about how you were about to run the New York Marathon for the Haitian relief fund. You were smart, witty, poised. At the end of the segment, they changed you out of your demure clothing and put you in a tight white t-shirt in front of a greenscreen and made you run on the spot against a wall mocked up like a New York backdrop and shot at you with water guns. I thought immediately of Signe because you struck me as a woman who wanted to be allowed change and grow, but who was in an environment where people wanted you to stay the same and be your old self, which is really the theme to Signe (if not the entire film!). Do you remember the place in your life where you were at on that Ellen segment? What drew you to want to play Signe around the same time?

PAMELA TO: NADIA

I wish my hair was still in the pixie cut for you. I think it would have been great in the rain! It was fun to play an older character too. I had to leave any vanity out of this. It was a little surreal. We shot this film before the short I did with Luke (Gilford), called Connected. It really set me up for that. I hadn't worked in a while. I'm always threatening to quit the business. But I think if I can remain brave enough — this is a whole new world. Not chasing youth. But embracing the now, the future without Instagram filters. I don't mind women coming on this journey with me.

NADIA TO: PAMELA You are a muse for so many artists: filmmakers, photographers, designers. You are so playful with it and seem so at ease taking on "personas." (Even though you are one of the most deeply full-of-humanity-humans I've ever met!) You have to have such a strong sense of self to have people project on you all day. Can you talk at all about what your relationship is to being a "muse?"

PAMELA TO: NADIA

I've looked around me, and have said — "You're an artist, you're a painter, you're a director, you're an actor, you're a photographer. What do I do?! How do I make a living and survive?" I know I'm an activist and had a TV and Playboy career. But I love these raw edgy indie films — I hope to do more. You helped ignite this new road for me.

I've never felt beautiful, so maybe that's why I can let all hang out. I don't understand the actresses that complain about roles for women, about being discarded. I think I'm just beginning. I've never been on an audition. Werner (Herzog) told me never to audition. Director just don't get that they should see what I've accomplished on my own and be inspired to draw something new and better out of me.

NADIA TO: PAMELA

One of my favorite parts of working with actors is collaborating on shared inspirations. You were the most fun of any of the cast to do that with! I cherished getting your references in my inbox! I remember a YouTube clip you sent me from a Louis Malle film called Elevator to the Gallows with Jeanne Moreau... Heaven! We also talked about the women of Fellini a lot. For me, this clip between Marcello Mastroianni and Claudia Cardinale from 8 1/2 was the inspiration/ backstory between Jamie and Signe. I love when Claudia Cardinale repeats at the end of the segment — "because he doesn't know how to love... because he doesn't know how to love." What actresses give you the most inspiration either in your acting work and/ or in life? Who are your muses?

PAMELA TO: NADIA

I love 8 1/2. (We all look better in black and white.) I love Fellini, Godard, Russ Meyers, David Lynch, art house films. I have no idea what's popular. It drives my kids nuts.

NADIA TO: PAMELA

There are a few people who have a hard time understanding Dree's character Sweetpea. They wonder why this determined young woman is so drawn to this missing rockstar who appears to be no good for her. I wrote the character, so clearly I empathize with the predicament (despite being a determined young woman myself). Any comment?

PAMELA TO: NADIA

Well.... Music is seductive. When women fawn all over these flawed hungry characters? Why does it feel like an accomplishment to be loved by men who don't know how to love? It's a slippery slope. It's painful and maybe a bit addictive. I get it.

NADIA TO: PAMELA

Finally, so many young feminists consider you their hero. I think it's because you are a woman who embraces the freedom to be many things. Why do you think it is? Are you a feminist? What does that mean to you?

PAMELA TO: NADIA

I never thought "feminist" was a good word to describe me. I feel like there are roles to play as women, men, gay or transgender. It's romantic to be a woman. But I absolutely believe in being self-sufficient, equality is important so we can be that. In this social media world, family dynamics have changed and being single is more common. I'm not sure how I feel about it all. Thank God for art, artists, and expression. We are all a mess — searching. It's fun to cross paths with others in the same boat — I loved working with you too. I hope we do more together. It's all new to me!