Jessica Chastain opens up about her heartbreaking research into portraying Tammy Faye for the upcoming biographical drama The Eyes of Tammy Faye. The film explores the lives of Tammy Faye Bakker and her husband Jim Bakker as they rise to stardom with their televangelist program The PTL Club followed by her career as a recording artist only for them to fall due to fraud and conspiracy charges. Chastain stars as Tammy Faye alongside fellow Oscar nominee Andrew Garfield as Jim Bakker, Cherry Jones, Vincent D’Onofrio, Fredric Lehne, Louis Cancelmi, Sam Jaeger, Gabriel Olds, Mark Wystrach and Jay Huguley.
Development on The Eyes of Tammy Faye was officially announced in early 2019 when Chastain and Garfield were set to lead the cast and The Lovebirds‘ Michael Showalter attached to direct. It would later be revealed that Chastain had acquired the rights to Tammy Faye’s life story in 2012 and had been working on the project behind the scenes for years, as well as confirming she will do her own singing for the film. Following production later that year, the film is set to make its debut at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival and a wide release a few days after.
With just two weeks remaining until the film’s release, Chastain spoke with ET Canada to discuss The Eyes of Tammy Faye. In looking at her prep work for the biopic, the Oscar nominee called the research “heartbreaking” and detailed spending “hundreds of hours” studying all footage of the titular evangelist Chastain could find. See what Chastain said below:
“The fact that we vilified her for the makeup she wore and how she looked instead of listening to what she was saying about love, what she was saying about religion, about Christians, and about what Christianity is supposed to be about; how she was reaching across and really trying to love those who feel like they’ve been abandoned. It broke my heart that she was never acknowledged for that. She was just made into a joke. Even now when you mention Tammy Faye, people say, ‘Oh yeah, she’s singing and there’s mascara running down her face.’”
Though her time with Jim Bakker has certainly made her a controversial figure in her life, Tammy Faye Messner would later work to reclaim her legacy from the media and would become a positive icon for the LGBTQ+ community. Messner took the time to support said community, unlike most fellow mainstream Christian evangelists of the time, appearing in Gay Pride marches and reaching out to support HIV/AIDS patients during the height of the epidemic. While much of the marketing for the film has highlighted her time with ex-husband Jim Bakker and the rise and fall of their evangelist empire, Chastain’s ongoing dedication to telling Messner’s story as authentically as possible and her highlighting of this redemption for Messner does point towards it being a key point in the film’s runtime.
With the film taking inspiration and reference from RuPaul’s acclaimed documentary of the same name, The Eyes of Tammy Faye is certainly poised to be another win for Chastain in her true-story-inspired filmography. Given her turns in Zero Dark Thirty and Molly’s Game netted the actress major acting awards, the film’s late-2021 release also seems driven with the hopes of seeing her finally bring home the Oscar gold. Only time will tell when The Eyes of Tammy Faye arrives on September 17.
Source: ET Canada