Jessica Chastain transforms into televangelist Tammy Faye in new biopic

TORONTO (Reuters) – Actor Jessica Chastain takes on the role of Tammy Faye Bakker Messner in a new drama looking at the rise and fall of the late American televangelist.

"The Eyes of Tammy Faye" tells the story of Messner and her former husband Jim Bakker, who lead a television ministry in the 1970s and 1980s before their vast empire crumbled in a sex and financial scandal.

Known for her heavy make up, which ran down her teary face as she called on viewers to turn to Jesus and donate to the Bakkers’ causes, Messner rebuilt her reputation through a documentary and reality show before her death in 2007.

"It was really fun actually, that s the thing about Tammy, the more I learned about her the more I was like  I wish we were friends. I wish I knew her before she passed away ," Chastain said at the film s premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sunday night.

"She was just kind of like a kick in the pants. She was so funny and so loving and so child-like. It was beautiful to be surrounded in that kind of research."

"Spiderman" actor Andrew Garfield portrays Jim Bakker, who, following the scandal, spent five years in prison. Tammy Faye divorced him and remarried.

The movie is based on the 2000 documentary "The Eyes of Tammy Faye", which helped Tammy Faye rebuild her image.

"I m really hoping when the audience is present watching the film, they ll be introduced to a side of Tammy that they never really understood and actually wasn t allowed to be told years ago," Chastain said.