‘Pam and Tommy’ and 6 Other Movies and TV Shows Based on Real Hollywood Scandals
It’s no secret that Hollywood loves scandals. Often, the scandals chosen for dramatization in film and television are epic enough to write themselves, with dramatic twists and major plot points seemingly already written for the big screen. While there’s no shortage of movies and TV shows based on criminal and corporate scandals, Hollywood has paid just as much attention to the skeletons in its closet.
Covering celebrity deaths, criminal trials and ongoing feuds, films and TV shows based on scandals often seek to scrutinize the narrative and force viewers to question their role in stoking the salacious fire. . Taking tabloid dramas to the nth degree, these movies and TV shows based on real-life Hollywood scandals prove that sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.
The Mother of All Sex Tapes – ‘Pam and Tommy’ (2022)
Chronicle of the flight and the ultimate escape of the Pamela Anderson (Lily James) and Tom Lee (Sebastian Stan) sex tape, Pam and Tommy is ripe with scandal in its only titular characters. At the time, the bombshell blonde actress and Motley Crue drummer were tabloid fodder based on their whirlwind romance, but the proliferation of their intimate home video fanned the flames of their scandalous affair.
The leak of the 1990s became widespread just as the internet was gaining a foothold and is often credited with giving birth to online pornography. While Anderson has long been maligned for her band involvement, Pam and Tommy sheds new light on the misunderstood actress, who was making her Hollywood debut when the tape ruined her credibility. Pam and Tommy forcing viewers to reflect on their prior perceptions of the actress, played to masterful effect by Lily James.
The Birth of Reality TV – ‘American Crime Story: The People VS OJ Simpson’ (2016)
In its first season, FX’s anthology series American crime history squarely set his sights on the most infamous celebrity case of the 1990s, the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. Tracing the highly publicized event from the very beginning, The People vs. OJ Simpson does well to include all the tabloid tidbits that sparked public interest at the time, from the police chase to Simpson’s (played by Cuba Gooding Jr.) White Bronco with outlandish theories championed by his so-called “Dream Team” of lawyers (led by actors John Travolta, David Schwimmerand Courtney B. Vanceamong others).
Whereas The People vs. OJ Simpson unafraid of the salacious aspects of the scandal (which single-handedly spawned the reality TV empire), it also offers a redemption arc for prosecutor Marcia Clarke (Sarah Paulson), who suffered misogynistic treatment throughout the case.
Celebrity Beef – ‘Feed: Bette and Joan’ (2017)
Taking his knack for melodramatic scandal in another franchise, ryan murphy used the celebrity beef as the basis for another anthology series, the first installment of which focused on the infamous flaw (documented by Collider) between actors Joan Crawford (played by Jessica Lange) and Bette Davis (played by Susan Sarandon). The show chronicles the rivalry the leading ladies developed in the movie What happened to Baby Jane? ae even enlists gossip columnist Hedda Hopper (played by Judy Davis) on its main cast.
The tit-for-tat relationship lasted for many years, which is told in the series. The climax of the actual feud happens in Quarrel‘s finale when the two stars are nominated for Best Actress at the Oscars. Considering the excess of celebrity feuds in Hollywood, it stands to reason that Murphy is set to release next season of the series titled The women of Captoe, based on the betrayals of the titular author.
Revisiting the Manson Murders – “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” (2019)
Although it operates only peripherally in Once upon a time in Hollywood, actress murder Sharon Tate (played by Margot Robbie) in the hands of Charles Manson members of the sect remains an inescapable element of the Quentin Tarantino film. Audiences are offered insight into how the cult works, though the focus is on failed actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and its stunt double (brad pitt).
Interestingly, Tarantino chooses to revise the true events of Tate’s murder, opting instead for a happier portrayal in which the cult members meet their gruesome end. Rick’s neighbor neighborhood with Tate and her then director boyfriend Roman Polansky can be read as his desire to be part of Hollywood’s elite, culminating in his hero moment when he thwarts Manson’s murderers.
House of Horrors – ‘House of Gucci’ (2021)
While technically focusing on an arena adjacent to Hollywood, the criminal trial of Patrizia Reggiani nevertheless holds all the trappings of high society scandal. interpreted by Lady GagaReggiani’s romance-turned-murder of her fashion designer husband, Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver), captivated the world when it hit the headlines in the mid-1990s.
Director Ridley Scott doesn’t shy away from the most salacious elements in history, from Reggiani hiring a hitman to recruiting a fellow designer Tom Ford. Praising the film’s outrageous moments in a review for Collider, Writer Matt Goldberg said the film “works best when it’s an overworked soap opera”.
Discovering the Mystical – ‘Blonde’ (2022)
Premiering just this week from its release at the Venice International Film Festival, Blond seeks to uncover the scandal-filled mystique that surrounded its biopic subject, Marilyn Monroe (played by Ana DeArmas). Director Andre Dominiquewho based the film on Joyce Carol Oates‘ 2000 biography of Monroe, chronicles some of the controversies of the Hollywood icon’s life, from her rumored meetings with President JFK to the circumstances of her untimely death in 1962.
Chronicling the life of a tabloid-friendly sex symbol inevitably involves its fair share of outrageous moments. On a meta level, the film itself sparked its own Hollywood scandal, with potential viewers criticizing its NC-17 rating ahead of its premiere. In an interview with Collider, Dominik spoke of the drama inherent in Monroe’s life, which bled into the film. “The idea for Blonde was to detail a childhood drama,” he said.
The Disappearance of the Hollywood Dressmaker – “The Assassination of Gianni Versace” (2018)
Obviously drawn to soap opera stories, Ryan Murphy once again exploited one of Hollywood’s most dazzling scandals by American crime historyis the second season. Chronicle of the killing of Andrew Cunnan (played by Darren Criss), which led to the murder of the titular designer (Edgar Ramirez), The Assassination of Gianni Versace doesn’t shy away from the pulpy details of the source story.
A major member of sequins at the time of his death in 1997, Versace rubbed shoulders with the Hollywood elite and designed film dresses alongside his sister Donatella (Penelope Cruz). Fans of the Murphy verse will get equal doses of true crime and lavish excess, moving beyond titillating headline detail to explore themes of internalized homophobia.
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