Fox Searchlight’s new film about the rise, fall, and resurgence of one of the most infamous televangelists continues to take strong shape with its cast. Previously Jessica Chastain and Andrew Garfield had already joined the congregation, but now Vincent D’Onofrio is also entering the film’s pews. He might even be leading them in a prayer or two.
D’Onfrio has been cast as Jerry Falwell, the Southern Baptist pastor who founded Liberty University and turned evangelism into big business during the 20th century. D’Onofrio is likely best known still for his haunting work in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket, but his commanding performance as Wilson Fisk on Daredevil strangely makes his casting in The Eyes of Tammy Faye seem perfect. After all, he’s already played a soft-spoken leader who liked throwing his weight around while feigning a genteel sensibility.
The Eyes of Tammy Faye stars Chastain as the eponymous televangelist, Tammy Faye Bakker. She came to prominence in the 1970s and ‘80s alongside her then-husband Jim Bakker (Garfield). The pair starred on The PTL Club, a televangelist program initially broadcast locally in Charlotte, North Carolina. Jim had become a popular personality amongst evangelical Christians in the 1960s on Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network, but via The PTL Club he and his wife became national stars among the U.S.’ Born Again population. The pair helped pioneer turning sermonizing into a variety show where Tammy Faye would sing and Jim would ask the Dear Lord Jesus to help viewers donate money to the ministry… which came under special scrutiny in 1989 when Jim was convicted on multiple counts of fraud and conspiracy. Tammy Faye, however, had a career after Jim’s fall (and their divorce), and was notably unique in the evangelist movement for her embrace of the LGBTQ community.
The movie The Eyes of Tammy Faye has also cast Gabriel Olds as Pat Robertson, Mark Wystrach as Gary Paxton, and Sam Jaeger as Roy Messner, whom Tammy Fae married after divorcing Bakker.
The movie will be directed by Michael Showalter’s (The Big Sick) and is written by Abe Sylvia (Dead to Me) while being based on a 2000 documentary of the same name by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato. Chastain is also producing the movie through her Freckle Films banner.