An army of parasites callously used Anna Nicole Smith over the course of a life that grew progressively less funny and more tragic. That didn’t end with Smith’s 2007 death, which if anything, exacerbated the problem. Addicted To Fame is a queasy new documentary that attempts to shed light on what director David Giancola implicitly seems to feel was the real tragedy of Smith’s death: that the funereal gloom over her high-profile tabloid passing completely fucked his ability to leverage her trash-culture notoriety for a big payday for Illegal Aliens, the low-budget science-fiction spoof that was to be Smith’s final film. Judging by the film’s alternately self-pitying, self-aggrandizing, and bitter tone, the schlock director is afflicted with a bizarre lack of self-consciousness to rival Smith’s own impregnable wall of self-delusion. Giancola complains about the media and Smith’s hangers-on using her without ever acknowledging his own complicity in her exploitation. In his mind, the media are a bunch of vultures out to take advantage of a weak woman’s decline and death, while he’s a plucky independent who was out to make his dream project, until he was screwed by a star thoughtless enough to die at the most inconvenient possible time.
Addicted To Fame chronicles the making, unmaking, and surreal afterlife of Illegal Aliens, a high-concept Charlie’s Angels spoof Giancola conceived as the ultimate tribute/homage to trashy B-movies. For his marquee attractions, Giancola picked a pair of infamous sexpots: WWE grappler Joanie “Chyna” Laurer (who, in spite of her reputation, was supposedly a dream to work with) and Smith, who put some of her own money into the project, receiving a producer credit and an associate-producer credit for her son Daniel. The production quickly went awry: Smith was possibly using drugs and was a nightmare collaborator. She forgot her lines, made constant demands, and generally behaved, as Giancola complains, like a 2- or 3-year-old. Then her son died, and she rapidly followed.
Giancola understandably had a negative experience working with Smith, whose lack of professionalism was thorough and predictable. but it’s nevertheless troubling that he depicts her death almost exclusively through the prism of how it will affect his film’s commercial chances. Giancola, who narrated, directed, and edited Addicted To Fame, presents himself as a resourceful creator using his experience and ingenuity to make the best of an impossible situation, rather than merely the latest person to take advantage of a fragile, mentally ill woman and her train-wreck fame. Just like Illegal Aliens, Addicted To Love is an exploitation movie, albeit one without even the science-fiction spoof’s sunny, dumbass innocence.