There’s a Reason Why Actors’ Tattoos Don’t Always Match Real-Life Celebrities’ in TV + Movies
Viewers are getting a unique look at how real-life musicians' and celebrities' tattoos are dramatized onscreen without legal repercussion, thanks to actor Sebastian Stan's tatted-up role as Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee in Hulu's sizzling Pam & Tommy.
In what's becoming an established on-set practice for portraying non-fictional characters with ink, artists and designers will alter the look of a celeb's tattoo on the actor playing them just enough to make it different, but not enough to make it unrecognizable.
It may be hard to tell, but Stan's onscreen "tats" in Pam & Tommy are 20 to 30-percent different from the rocker's real ones, The Hollywood Reporter revealed.
Why Onscreen Tattoos Have to Be Different
So why do they do that? Well, in 2011, S. Victor Whitmill, the tattoo artist who designed boxer Mike Tyson's infamous face tattoo, sued the studio behind The Hangover: Part II for displaying similar ink on actor Ed Helms, as The New York Times reported. Understandably, going forward, it’s prudent to avoid legal issues from the start.
But beyond just that, in the current age of highly stylized body ink, many performers and actors take care with how they display the tattoos they get, and they don't want them copied. They often lock in agreements for ink with high-profile tattoo artists, who own their designs under copyright.
Autonomous FX’s Jason Collins, who handled Stan's Lee tattoos for Pam & Tommy, explained to THR last month, "Actors and their agents and managers are getting pretty smart about it now because they want to showcase their ink."
He continued, "They're going to artists that are world-renowned or high-end or famous and they're getting clearances from those people when they get the work done, so that's sort of a changing landscape for us."
Tommy Lee's Ink on Pam & Tommy
To get close to Lee's real tattoos, Stan was first covered in plastic wrap as artists designed faux versions of the tattoos around his body. The sketches were then processed through Photoshop, transferred onto decal paper and subsequently placed on the skin.
As for the changes they made to Lee's signature "Mayhem" stomach tat, Collins subtly explained, "As long as you have the color, the composition, the arch, that kind of thing, generally you can get away with a lot."
He added, "There’s a lot of things that we changed on his arm for clearance purposes, but they’re the same color and they're in the right place. If you're looking and you're an avid Motley Crue or Tommy Lee fan, you’re going to see things that you’re like, 'Oh, wait a minute.'"
Stan doesn't have any tattoos of his own. For Pam & Tommy, he worked with Autonomous FX to design the faux tattoos for his body. They need to be reapplied daily for filming, a three-hour process overall.
In real life, Anderson and Lee divorced in 1998. He roasted her on TV in 2005. She wed Kid Rock in 2006; they also divorced. Lee married Brittany Furlan in 2019. The Easter egg-filled Pam & Tommy is now streaming, but a source said Anderson won't watch it.
Motley Crue this summer plan to mount their twice-postponed Stadium Tour. Crue singer Vince Neil recently returned to performing after falling and breaking his ribs. Motley Crue recently reportedly sold the rights to their song catalog for $150 million.
Did you notice Stan's Lee tattoos were slightly different from the real Lee's ink in Pam & Tommy?