“Any time you’re taking on a real-life person there is additional pressure,” says Linda Dowds, the makeup department head for the Tammy Faye Bakker biopic, “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” starring Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain. “With Tammy Faye, I think there is a whole generation that just knows her from those late night sketch shows. Mascara running down her face and all of that. I never found one piece of footage… where here makeup was all running like that. It really was something that was created in the comedy world.” Watch the exclusive video interview with Dowds and hair department head Stephanie Ingram above.
“The Eyes of Tammy Faye” is directed by Michael Showalter and premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in September. Oscar nominee Andrew Garfield stars opposite Chastain as Tammy Faye’s husband, Jim Bakker, the controversial televangelist. “She’s larger than life, every which way,” Dowds says of Tammy Faye. “Her makeup is large. It’s bold, it’s colorful and there’s a lot of it. But I never wanted it to go into the world of caricature.”
The film depicts its subjects’ history over multiple decades, from when they first met in Minneapolis, Minnesota to their marriage and ultimate divorce. “The most challenging was the look at the very end,” reveals Ingram. “When she takes the hair piece off and she’s got short, sparce hair underneath. That underneath wig was a bit of a challenge to make work and then I had to figure out how to sew the hairband onto another wig. The 80’s look was my favorite. They don’t make wigs like that anymore. In those days they were more synthetic than they were human hair. I ended up sewing a wig to another wig and then I set it on perm rods to make it curly.”
“The aging was essentially through prosthetics,” explains Dowds. “In term of building up a little more jowliness and making the cheek areas a little bigger. All of that came through pieces. The difference in aging from a purely makeup standpoint was the young, fresh-faced Tammy. Then there’s the middle ground with lots of pinks. She loved all that stuff. But as she got older, the wigs got deeper. Her face got fuller. Her wardrobe got darker, deeper tones. So did her makeup. So she went from these lovely, bright, bold colors into something that seemed deeper.”
Tammy Faye’s mother, Rachel LaValley, is portrayed by Emmy winner Cherry Jones in the film. Her look took an entirely different technique to pull off correctly. “I did two different wigs,” Ingram explains. “The younger one obviously had more hair in it, but also, I colored it. Then I permed it with an actual perm, which then pulled the color out, which was that ashy color. That was exactly how her mother used to wear it.”
Dowds has won three Primetime Emmy Awards for her work on “Grey Gardens” (2009), “The Kennedys” (2011) and “True Detective” (2014). Ingram has worked as Chastain’s personal hairstylist on multiple projects including “Miss Sloane” (2016), “It” (2017) and “X-Men: Dark Phoenix” (2019).
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