The Eyes of Tammy Faye – behind the veil of the naive wife of a televangelist
THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE is an intimate look at the extraordinary rise, fall and redemption of televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker. In the 1970s and 80s, Tammy Faye and her husband, Jim Bakker, rose from humble beginnings to create the world’s largest religious broadcasting network and theme park, and were revered for their message of love, acceptance and prosperity. Tammy Faye was legendary for her indelible eyelashes, her idiosyncratic singing, and her eagerness to embrace people from all walks of life. However, it wasn’t long before financial improprieties, scheming rivals, and scandal toppled their carefully constructed empire.
Jessica Chastain, who plays Tammy Faye, is also the Producer of this narrative film, which is based on the 2000 documentary of the same name.
In Theatres from Searchlight Pictures.
TAMMY FAYE’S STORY ON SCREEN
Over thirty years ago, it seemed just about everyone had an opinion about Tammy Faye Bakker, when in reality, no one really knew the woman behind the television personality. As a child of the 80s, producer and star Jessica Chastain first became aware of Jim and Tammy Faye when their empire crashed and burned to the ground, all before a national televised audience. Instantly recognizable with her iconic makeup and larger-than-life personality, Tammy Faye’s face was plastered across every tabloid in the grocery checkout line.
Years later, after watching Fenton Bailey’s and Randy Barbato’s (THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE, RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE, PARTY MONSTER) acclaimed documentary of the same name, THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE (2000), Chastain was surprised to learn that Tammy Faye was more than just a magazine headline: Bakker had genuine integrity and faith, and she saw how misogyny and tabloid culture played a significant role in her very public humiliation.
Seeing the documentary inspired Chastain to tell a more complete story of a profoundly compassionate woman who was way ahead of her time. She approached Bailey and Barbato who were immediately taken by her passion and vision for the project. “The documentary was a glimpse behind the curtain,” says Chastain. “We could see her without all the societal judgment. She was just so filled with love. Her story was rich and complex, and it played out over three decades. I hadn’t even started Freckle Films yet, but I just reached out to the documentary filmmakers and bought the rights.”
Documentary filmmakers Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato of World of Wonder Productions had also always felt a strong connection with Tammy Faye. Says Bailey and Barbato, “She had the spirit of an outsider and the fearlessness of a drag queen, she was our kind of girl. We had always assumed that everything about her and Jim in the press was true. Meeting her, however, revealed such a sweet and caring person. What you saw was what you got, literally. She was completely honest, authentic and up-front. As we came to understand the story of what had happened to her, we could see that the reality was far more nuanced and complex than had been portrayed in the media. Jerry Falwell’s jaw-dropping treachery in the so-called Christian community was shocking. We felt people deserved a more three dimensional portrait of her.”
About the Author
Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.