Jessica Chastain won the best actress Oscar for her performance as televangelist and queer icon Tammy Faye Bakker in the biopic “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.”
During her speech, Chastain addressed several issues plaguing the nation, including “discriminatory and bigoted legislation,” a nod to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
“We’re faced with discriminatory and bigoted legislation that is sweeping our country with the only goal of further dividing us. There’s violence and hate crimes being perpetuated on innocent civilians all over the world. And in times like this, I think of Tammy and I’m inspired by her radical acts of love,” Chastain said in her speech. “We’ve talked about love a lot. And I’m inspired by her compassion, and I see it as a guiding principle that leads us forward. And it connects us all in the desire that we want to be accepted for who we are, accepted for who we love, and to live a life without the fear of violence or terror. And for any of you out there who do in fact feel hopeless or alone, I just not you to know you are unconditionally loved for the uniqueness that is you.”
Chastain also thanked director Michael Showalter, co-star Andrew Garfield and her hair and makeup team.
“To be included in the conversation with you is such an honor. I have to thank Michael Showalter, my director, who created a space that inspired creativity and love and courage,” Chastain said. “And the incredible hair and makeup team — Linda, Stephanie, Justin — who really helped me find her. Producers Kelly Carmichael, Rachel Shane, G.G. Pritzker, David Greenbaum, Matthew Greenbaum, all of Searchlight for shepherding the film. The brilliant Andrew Garfield. Thank you so much for bringing out the best in me by showing up with the best of you.”
While best actress was considered one of the most wide-open categories of the evening, Chastain was still a favorite to win after she took home best actress at the SAG Awards and the Critics Choice Awards. It is Chastain’s first ever Oscar, after earning nominations for supporting actress for 2011’s “The Help” and actress in 2012’s “Zero Dark Thirty.”
Along with Chastain’s win, “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” also won the Oscar for makeup and hairstyling largely on the strength of Chastain’s striking transformation in her role. That category was among the eight that were presented before the live Oscar telecast, sparking weeks of controversy and an organized silent protest by the nominees and winners on Sunday.
Based on the 2000 documentary of the same name, the movie charts Tammy Faye’s marriage to Jim Bakker (Garfield) as the two evolve from traveling preachers to national television stars under the umbrella of Jerry Falwell (Vincent D’Onofrio). Tammy Faye struggles to reconcile Falwell’s political conservatism with her support for the LBGTQ community amid the burgeoning AIDS crisis, while her career is ultimately undone by Bakker’s infidelities and conviction for fraud.
Chastain was nominated with Olivia Colman (“The Lost Daughter”), Penélope Cruz (“Parallel Mothers”), Nicole Kidman (“Being the Ricardos”) and Kristen Stewart (“Spencer”).