The Eyes of Tammy Faye is set for a September 17, 2021 release date. The highly anticipated biopic will follow the story of eccentric Christian televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker whose celebrity husband, Jim Bakker, was convicted of felony fraud charges in 1989.
The official trailer has been released by Searchlight Pictures and already has us buzzing; star actress Jessica Chastain is nearly unrecognizable as Tammy Faye, utterly transformed for the period drama. But country fans will note another exciting cast member: Mark Wystrach, the lead singer of Midland, appears as the music producer Gary Paxton. Watch the colorful preview below.
Tammy Faye Bakker
Born Tammy Faye LaValley in 1942, she eventually left home to attend North Central Bible College in Minneapolis, Minnesota where she met fellow student Jim Bakker. The couple married in 1961 and moved to South Carolina, where Jim preached and Tammy performed Christian songs. Soon, they became founding members of The 700 Club in Portsmouth, Virginia. Working alongside co-founder Pat Robertson, Jim became the televised program's first permanent host. Together, the couple also co-hosted the children's show Jim and Tammy. But they left the organization in 1971 to pursue their own program, The PTL Club.
The PTL, or Praise the Lord, Club was a televangelist Christian program which showcased the Bakkers' extravagant lifestyle and preached "prosperity gospel": essentially, the belief that prayer can make you rich. The movement has been galvanized and monetized by TV preachers like Joel Osteen. The HBO TV show The Righteous Gemstones also explores this glitzy concept.
With the success of The PTL Club, the Bakkers opened a theme park called Heritage USA in 1978. And in the following decade, Tammy Faye set herself apart from other Christian commentators by welcoming a member of the LGBTQ community on-air. At the height of the AIDS epidemic, Tammy Faye interviewed a gay minister Steve Pieters who was suffering from the disease. It was a watershed moment of television when Tammy Faye appealed to her generally fundamentalist fanbase, saying:
"How sad that we as Christians, who are to be the salt of the earth, we who are supposed to be able to love everyone, are afraid so badly of an AIDS patient that we will not go up and put our arm around them and tell them that we care."
But not long after, the PTL empire came crashing down. In 1987, Tammy Faye's husband Jim allegedly raped the company secretary Jessica Hahn and as that dispute was investigated, new scandals were uncovered. Jim Bakker was indicted on 23 counts of fraud and one count of conspiracy; his leadership position was passed on to Jerry Falwell. After Bakker was convicted of all charges, he was sentenced to 45 years in federal prison. He and Tammy Faye divorced in 1992. That same. year, she remarried to Roe Messner and became Tammy Faye Messner. But she died just four years later of colon cancer.
'The Eyes of Tammy Faye'
It's no wonder why the first trailer for The Eyes of Tammy Faye has gotten fans excited. The character-based drama promises to provide an intimate look at the unusual life. And in addition to Jessica Chastain's total transformation, Andrew Garfield will co-star as Jim Bakker, as well as Vincent D'Onofrio as Jerry Falwell, Gabriel Olds as Pat Robertson, Sam Jaeger as Roe Messner, and Mark Wystrach as Tammy Faye's possible love interest Gary Paxton.
Back in 1987, The LA Times reported that Tammy Faye Bakker's apparent crush on Paxton the "flashy country singer... wounded her husband's pride and may have pushed him into his now-famous fling with a church secretary." The pair recorded music together and had an extremely close relationship -- though it was not necessarily romantic. With such dramatic ramifications though, it will be fun to watch this affair of the heart play out on-screen. Wystrach, a former Grammy nominee, is most famous for his role in the country band Midland but he's acted before in Kamen Rider: Dragon Knight and Johnny Christ. Now we'll see how he holds up against an Oscar contender like Jessica Chastain!