Pamela Anderson Visits Julian Assange in Prison: "He's Isolated, Vilified"

David M. Benett/Getty Images

"He's a great guy and he's being crucified," Assange's longtime pal said during the Cannes Film Festival of the WikiLeaks founder, who was indicted by the U.S. government, as she urged Hollywood to support him.

Rain fell for hours, pretty much all day, on the first Saturday of the Cannes Film Festival. The May 18 deluge frustrated many visitors expecting that "c’est magnifique!" French Riviera sunshine, especially those who’d RSVP’d to Vanity Fair’s biannual dinner and afterparty at the Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc in Cap d’Antibes. The iconic terrace was wet and not the place to be, maybe why Pamela Anderson stood with her back to the Mediterranean and instead faced the packed party indoors at 11:30 p.m. when guests like Quentin Tarantino, Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Antonio Banderas, and Vanity Fair’s Radhika Jones were making rounds and talking cinema.

Film is not what Anderson had on her mind. The still newish resident of France — a lifelong activist for causes like animal rights who moved to the country more than two years ago — attended the party with son Brandon, an actor, who was standing nearby with eyes on his cellphone. “I just like to watch him have a good time and enjoy it here. The best thing you can do for your kids is get out of their way and watching him, it’s like watching a movie,” she told The Hollywood Reporter. Of the setting, she said being at the Hôtel du Cap feels like coming home because she’s been so many times. “It’s one of the most beautiful parts of the world. I love the South of France. I always wanted to live here at this time of my life, and now I’m closer to things I want to be a part of.”

Advocating for Julian Assange is at the top of that list. Eleven days before Vanity Fair’s glamorous party, Anderson stood in front of cameras outside the high-security Prison Belmarsh, where she had just become the first person to visit the WikiLeaks founder, who was arrested during a dramatic scene April 11 at Ecuador’s embassy in London. “He’s a good man, he’s an incredible person, I love him, and I can’t imagine what he’s been going through,” she said that day, and each one since has delivered a new round of headlines about the controversial figure accused by U.S. authorities of assisting a breach of classified data. More recently, the news has centered on where his embassy belongings will end up and whether he will be charged in Sweden in a sexual assault case that has just been reopened and could complicate extradition proceedings in the States. Then there's the matter of all the new charges. On May 23 he was indicted by the U.S. government on 17 additional charges, including espionage. 

Anderson was the first to bring up Assange’s name with THR and she makes it clear that free champagne is not the focus of her Hôtel du Cap appearance. “Now it’s really important for Hollywood to get behind Julian Assange. I don’t mind coming to these parties and talking to friends and seeing how they feel about it,” she said. “I just visited him in prison. It was terrible. He’s isolated, vilified; just a combination of human rights violations.”

Specifically, she says, he’s been “so psychologically tortured” that she’s worried about his safety and his health. That said, Assange remains the strongest person she knows and she’s calling on the entertainment industry to help get him freed. “He needs public support, and people in Hollywood have a voice,” she continued. “Everyone is a little bit brainwashed because of the election, and they blame it on him or whatever they want to do. I feel like I need to clear up all misinformation out there. He’s a great person, he’s a great guy, and he’s being crucified by people, by journalists.”

The case in Sweden led Anderson to further defend Assange via a personal blog post published this week. As a rape and sexual assault survivor, the 51-year-old Playboy icon writes that she would never defend a rapist. The women who accused him, she writes, only did so after being pressured by authorities. Those sexual encounters, she claims, were consensual. “I speak out in support of a friend. A friend whom I love dearly, but whose health is crumbling, whose hopes are fading and whose time is running out,” she posted. “A friend who has dared speak truth to power, who has shone a light on their criminal deeds and who is now paying the price.”

After sharing her time with THR, Anderson then was ready to check the clock and plan an exit strategy. “It’s a two-hour drive back to my house so I’ll be leaving shortly,” she explained. “I get to go to sleep in my own bed tonight.”

A version of this story first appeared in the May 29 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.