Many high-profile Hollywood superstars choose to share the moments following their Academy Award nomination with a spouse or a possibly a future co-star. Jessica Chastain though, (nominated and considered the Best Actress front-runner for her transformative and simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming portrayal of Tammy Faye Bakker in The Eyes of Tammy Faye) chose a man that indirectly, helped start Bakker herself on a different life course entirely. During this season’s Oscars luncheon, Chastain was on the arm of Reverend Steve Pieters. Pieters appeared on Tammy’s House Party in 1985 and was interviewed by Bakker on-air. While HIV/AIDS was still a topic steeped in homophobia at the time, Bakker had a compassionate discussion with Pieters as he frankly discussed living his life as a gay man with HIV.
Bakker’s groundbreaking interview with Pieters was showcased in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” (based on the RuPaul-narrated 2000 documentary of the same name). “When I saw the documentary and I saw that scene — that incredible moment between Steve Pieters and Tammy Faye — I knew how important it was, because my knowledge of Tammy was just what the media had fed me, this sensationalized version that focused on the drama,” Chastain told NBC News late last year. “That is not really the true story of who she was, and that blew me away.” Chastain (also was an executive producer of “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”) said the interview “was the reason I had to make the film; it was the most important scene.”
Chastain was able to give Pieters a fairy tale moment of his own, where he was able to enjoy moments with other celebrities, including Andrew Garfield who played Tammy Faye Bakker’s husband, PTL televangelist Jim Bakker in the film. Pieters though. found a very personal gift to give to Chastain on that special day as well. On his Facebook page, Pieters said “In the limo, before Jessica Chastain and I arrived at the Oscar’s luncheon, I gave her the actual “God is greater than AIDS” button I wore during my interview with Tammy Faye. Alison found me this beautiful box to put it in for her. Jessica’s eyes welled up with tears and she couldn’t speak for a minute she was so choked up.”
Despite so much of the salacious tabloid-heavy fodder in the story of Tammy Faye, Chastain told People last fall that she wanted to be sure to focus on the Tammy Faye that was an accepting ally of everyone, regardless of their circumstances. “She always made it her mission that everyone understood, no matter who they were, that she was grateful that she got to be around them,” she said. “We spend so much time and attention on how a woman presents herself in the world and not really what a woman is saying or accomplishing or doing, and there’s a lot of judgment. I’m excited now for people to focus on Tammy and the beautiful things that she did.”
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