For Jay Bakker, The Eyes of Tammy Faye Is Each Loving and Traumatic

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When Jay Bakker heard that Hollywood wished to make one other film about his mother and father, Tammy Faye Messner and Jim Bakker—the previous first couple of televangelism, who constructed a industrial empire round their ministry just for it to crash and burn in intercourse and cash scandals—he referred to as a therapist.

“I’ve always been in therapy, but I said, ‘I think it’s time to go over this stuff again and prepare myself for this coming out,’” says Jay—“this” being The Eyes of Tammy Faye, the biopic opening Friday that stars Jessica Chastain and Andrew Garfield as his mother and father. “Because a lot of trauma happened.”

Jay, who’s a pastor and cofounder of the inclusive Revolution Church, says he has additionally modified his social media settings forward of Friday’s premiere, making some accounts personal and disabling feedback on others. If there was a silver lining to his household’s scandals within the ’80s—which have been coated so rabidly on the time that Jay remembers tabloid reporters providing him cash for gossip as a child—it was that there was no social media then.

The Eyes of Tammy Faye is well-acted and well-intentioned. Chastain was inspired to produce the movie after seeing the 2000 documentary The Eyes of Tammy Faye and realizing how unfairly Messner was handled by the media. But to make that time, the movie, written by Abe Sylvia and directed by Michael Showalter, would additionally must revisit the household’s humiliations, which started when Jay was 11.

©Searchlight Pictures/Everett Collection.

That 12 months it was revealed that Jim had had an affair with a former church secretary and paid her $265,000 to maintain her quiet. Jim was stripped of his ministerial credentials. Then, within the following years, as Tammy Faye battled an habit to Ativan, Jim was convicted of federal costs that he had bilked his followers out of $158 million, and was despatched to jail. (Originally sentenced to 45 years, Jim’s sentence was lowered and he finally served nearly 5 years in jail.)

So whereas Jay believed in Chastain, he says, “At the same time, I was like, Here we go again. This thing never ends. My parents lost everything. My dad went to prison. My parents got divorced. I dealt with that in high school.” After a sigh, he provides, “Nothing surprises me. I’ve had a really strange life.”

In 1990, Kevin Spacey and Bernadette Peters performed Jay’s mother and father in a TV film referred to as Fall From Grace, which was “awful…really, really bad,” says Jay. He remembers Peters having to primarily defend Tammy Faye to tv interviewers who have been nonetheless intent on characterizing his mom as “a clown” and his father as “a criminal.”

Chastain had years to prepare to play Tammy Faye—doing intensive analysis and having conversations with Jay and his sister Tammy Sue about their late mom, who died in 2007. When it got here time for Jay to see the ultimate movie, Chastain was in such a Tammy Faye headspace that she gave Jay a motherly warning about a number of intercourse scenes. In one sequence, Chastain’s Tammy Faye—whereas pregnant with Jay—consummates an affair with Grammy-winning gospel singer and eccentric Gary Paxton.

“I think she was worried about me seeing that,” says Jay, mentioning that the film needed to conflate the precise timeline. (In actuality, Jay was born in 1975, a couple of years earlier than Tammy Faye grew nearer to Paxton, in line with Jay.) But Jay, who preaches the identical forgiveness and acceptance that his mom did, was not involved. His mother and father have been rendered such laughing shares and/or criminals by the media for many years that to him, depictions of his mom and father as sexual philanderers are an enchancment. “Actually, my parents being shown as human beings and sexual beings, I thought, Well, that’s great. People are sexual,” says Jay. “I thought it was very humanizing in a way.”

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