When I saw the trailer for The Eyes of Tammy Faye, I knew that Jessica Chastain was making a big play for an Oscar. Chastain has been nominated for Oscars before and never won, but the role of Tammy Faye Bakker hits a lot of sweet spots for the Academy. She’s playing a historical figure (recent history, but still), it’s a true story about crime and religion, and Jessica had to do a huge physical transformation for it. Jessica recently chatted with the LA Times about what it took to play Tammy Faye and just how much makeup she actually had to wear. Some highlights:
Her fear: “I was scared the people were going to make fun of me. And there’s going to be a lot to make fun of if I fail because it’s so out there. I’m swinging for the fences here.”
Her impression of Tammy Faye: “I had been fed that she was a terrible human being — a clown and a joke. The media taught me that she used people and stole their money. I had this judgment against her, and I realized it’s so fascinating how the media can give everyone a collective memory that may not really be the truth. It’s not right. I wanted to do something about it to honor her.
Jessica’s religious background: “I don’t know. I don’t have a religious background. I’m definitely someone who believes that everyone is deserving of love and you do unto others as you would have done unto you. I’m not connected to any organized religion, but I definitely am a faith-based person. I think working with Terrence Malick on “The Tree of Life” created that in me. There was so much he gave me to read and explore from different religions. And this idea that there’s something collectively greater than the individual — I find that to be a beautiful thought. I’m super interested in exploring different forms of faith. And I have some disagreements with some of the things she thought….but I absolutely connect to this idea that God is love.
On Tammy Faye’s relationship to makeup: “This was a conversation we had, all of us as a group, the studio and everything — up until the final moment: Do we need to explain why she wears so much makeup? And for me, no. It’s nobody’s business. It makes her feel pretty. That’s enough. This is how she wants to present herself in the world. Why do we need to justify it? And instead of judging someone for wearing too many pantsuits — especially women — women get judged on our appearance, unlike men. We’re wearing too much makeup. Not enough makeup. Too short of skirts. Our hair’s too crazy. It’s like, you know what? Everyone just needs to shut up about how a woman is presenting themselves in the world.
What it was like in the makeup chair: “I am so lucky that I get these four hours to listen to Tammy before I go on set. I still have the AirPods that are covered with makeup….The longest was actually 7 ½ hours. And I got to set and I was so panicky. I started to have hot flashes because it’s so heavy and hot. I was afraid. It was like going on a long-distance flight every day. Because if it takes 7 ½ hours to put on, it’s going to take at least two hours to get off. It was concerning to me. I was worried about my circulation. By the time I got on set that first day that was 7 ½ hours, I was like, “I have no energy left.” And she’s supposed to show up with so much energy. That was the ’90s look — the very end. That’s the most prosthetics I’ve worn. Even the bronzer and the foundation are so much darker, the lashes are thicker. The makeup gets heavier as she gets older….I think for sure I’ve done some permanent damage to my skin on this.”
Whether Chastain believes that Tammy Faye was involved with her husband’s crimes: “What matters to me is that she was never tried. There was never any evidence that said she knew. What matters to me is that society and the media found her guilty based on what? Based on her mascara?
[From The LA Times]
I really like what Jessica says about accepting Tammy Faye’s love of makeup for what it was, and not trying to explain it or make jokes about it within the film. She wore heavy makeup because she liked to wear heavy makeup. And I do think Jessica became a believer in Tammy Faye and her innocence throughout the film. I mean, going from my memories, Tammy Faye was just as much of a con artist as her husband, but maybe Jessica has a point? I don’t know.
PS… Jess is pretty mad that the LA Times quoted her accurately! She wants people to know that the makeup artists were wonderful.
Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, ‘The Eyes of Tammy Faye.
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