How do you go from being Jessica Chastain to playing former televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker?
With a lot of makeup.
And in new photos released by Fox Searchlight Pictures, the red-haired Chastain is virtually impossible to recognize as Bakker, wife to pioneering TV evangelist Jim Bakker. Just check her out in these stills from the upcoming biopic "The Eyes of Tammy Faye":
Now, before you go thinking the film requires a new makeup artist, bear in mind that Faye was known for using a bit of a heavy hand on the eyeliner, eyelashes and ... well, just about everything. But that shield of makeup, Chastain told People magazine, was not the whole story of Tammy Faye, who died in 2007 of colon cancer.
"I just was so blown away by her and her story," Chastain, 44, noted, explaining she'd watched the 2012 documentary about Bakker, which has the same name as her new feature. "The thing I loved the most about Tammy is her capacity to love. She knew what it felt like to not feel important, and she didn't want anyone to experience that."
Bakker and her husband Jim Bakker (played by Andrew Garfield in the film) were founding hosts of "The 700 Club" and co-founded the TV show "The PTL Club." They were married from 1961-92. Tammy Faye, who was known for being emotional on the show and also for wearing a lot of makeup, went on to marry Roe Messner in 1993. Jim Bakker also remarried and is now 81.
Though they were familiar to many who watched religious broadcasting before the 1980s, but in 1987 everything fell apart when church secretary Jessica Hahn claimed Jim Bakker raped her, which he denied. The scandal opened their doors to examination by the public, and they were excoriated for what was seen as a flashy lifestyle. The scandal expanded to include their finances, some of which were used to reportedly pay off Hahn.
Jim Bakker went to prison, and while there he and Tammy Faye split. Messner also went to prison in 1996, for bankruptcy fraud.
In 2012 the documentary focusing on Tammy Faye Bakker was released, which invited new scrutiny into her role in the scandal, but also was a sympathetic look at her life. She was known for discussing AIDS at the height of the epidemic on the show, and the documentary was narrated by RuPaul.
And Chastain is clearly empathetic with the woman she's portraying.
"Here's a woman that I had an idea of because of what I was fed about her," Chastain said. "People were always making her into a clown and punishing her for the mistakes of her husband, which all throughout history women have been the victim of, atoning for the sins of men."
The film, which is expected to premiere on September 17, also features Vincent D'Onofrio as fellow televangelist Jerry Falwell.