Kate Green/Getty; Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures Jessica Chastain as Tamara Faye Messner
Jessica Chastain‘s physical transformation for her latest role took a toll on her appearance.
In the upcoming biopic The Eyes of Tammy Faye, the Oscar-nominated actress, 44, plays fallen televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker, who died at age 65 in 2007 after colon cancer spread to her lungs.
The film, for which Chastain also serves as producer, tells the story of Tammy and her first husband Jim Bakker (played by Andrew Garfield), as they grew their Christian news program, the PTL Club, into a multimillion dollar industry before it collapsed following a sex scandal involving Jim and then-church secretary Jessica Hahn. Hahn had accused Jim of rape while she was an employee. The incident forced Jim to step down as head of PTL Satellite Network, but he denied the accusations, stating that he and Hahn had a consensual affair.
Chastain’s transformation into Tammy meant several hours a day in the makeup chair applying intense makeup, prosthetics and wigs, which she told the Los Angeles Times likely did damage to her skin.
“I think for sure I’ve done some permanent damage to my skin on this. Listen, I eat very pure, and I take very good care of my skin and I stay out of the sun and all that stuff,” she said. “But it’s heavy. And when you’re wearing it all day, every day — the weight of it on your body, it stretches your skin out. I finally took it off, and I was like, ‘I look 50 years old!’ No, I’m kidding. But it’s fine. It’s for my art.”
bettmann/getty; Dave Benett/WireImage Tammy Faye Bakker and Jessica Chastain
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From an acting standpoint, wearing so much makeup worried Chastain at first.
“You have to reach through the makeup — you can’t let the makeup be the performance,” said Chastain. “[Tammy] was so emotional, and I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to get emotional with all this stuff all over me. Am I going to be able to see people and feel free? I just had to get used to it. So much for me is I have to trick my mind.”
Generally, Chastain spent four hours having the makeup and prosthetics applied each day, but she said the “longest was actually seven and a half hours.”
“[After that] 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,” she recalled. “It was like going on a long-distance flight every day. Because if it takes seven and a half 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 seven and a half 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,” continued Chastain. “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.”
In June, Chastain told PEOPLE about working with her longtime makeup artists Linda Dowds and Stephanie Ingram as well as Justin Raleigh to pull off the final looks.
“Every moment, I had something on my face. I have a dimple in my chin that she didn’t have, so we would seal that up. Her face was more round than mine, so I would have things on my cheeks,” she said at the time. “Their expertise just helped me so much with my confidence in playing her.”
The Eyes of Tammy Faye is in theaters Sept. 17.
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