TORONTO, ON — For nearly a decade Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain has wanted to bring the story of televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker to the big screen. Chastain says she was inspired by a documentary that shares the name of her movie, "The Eyes of Tammy Faye."
“I was introduced to this woman who was so filled with compassion and love and it was like I really didn't know the real Tammy,” Chastain said. “I just knew a version that the media has portrayed which was sensationalized.”
Jim and Tammy Bakker made headlines in the 1980s when allegations of adultery and fraud rocked their PTL ministry. Tammy Faye Bakker remarried in 1993 and died in 2007.
Oscar nominee Andrew Garfield plays Jim Bakker. He says he didn't want his Bakker to come across as a “mustache-twirling villain”.
“I was fascinated that he could stand on camera and ask people for money,” Garfield said. “But what I discovered was he misled himself. He misled others but he was deluded. But he came to it very honestly. He really, really believed that he was Christ's builder on earth.”
To play the title role, Chastain spent as many as seven hours a day in make-up. Her dedication astounded co-stars.
“Just the physical cost of doing this is so tremendous because she is encased in latex, wigs, pregnancy pads, nails out to here,” Cherry Jones said. “I don't even know how to describe what it must feel like.”
Chastain said there never was a moment when she saw Tammy Faye Bakker in the mirror, but that’s not what she was after.
“It wasn't so much about seeing her,” she said. “It was more about feeling her, you know? Like an energy thing. Something shifts. But yeah it definitely felt like there was a moment when she took over.”
Chastain, who received a standing ovation after a screening of "The Eyes of Tammy Faye" at the Toronto International Film Festival, said this is the best role she’s ever played and the most challenging.
“Everything pushed me out of my comfort zone,” she said. “It all felt like a leap of faith, pardon the pun, but that's why I wanted to do it, and that's why I was scared to do it and those are the projects that you actually grow and learn from.”
"The Eyes of Tammy Faye" is Rated PG-13.