Abe Sylvia interview: ‘The Eyes of Tammy Faye’ writer
“I was obsessed with the documentary when it first came out,” admits Abe Sylvia, the screenwriter of “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” based on the 2000 documentary of the same name. “I saw it four times and was drawn to this reimagining of the legacy of Tammy Faye Bakker. Many years later, I’m driving along and I get this call from (producer) Rachel Shane and she says, ‘Are you familiar with this documentary?’ and I said, ‘Am I? Am I?’ I jumped right in.” Watch the exclusive video interview with Sylvia above.
“The Eyes of Tammy Faye” stars Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain as the title character along with Oscar nominee Andrew Garfield as Tammy’s husband Jim Bakker and Emmy winner Cherry Jones as Tammy’s mother Rachel Grover. Directed by Michael Showalter, the film depicts the turbulent life of the controversial televangelist and her family.
“I remember being very taken at a young age by this sort of sparkly, histrionic woman who was larger than life and rather shameless,” Sylvia says of Bakker. “It was probably many years later that I realized there was a transference. There was an identification with her that she was suffering the sling and arrows of humiliation by society. I think as a gay kid, since the beginning of time, we’ve transferred our shame and our inability to live authentically onto these larger than life women.”
For Sylvia, Bakker earned even more sympathy from him as he dove into research. “I think I came in rather judgmental,” he admits. “As I did my deep dive, she judged no one. So I had to take a step back and say, this can’t be a pageant of humiliation where we crack jokes about the way she looks for two hours. That was sort of an a-ha moment. This woman continued to love through insurmountable personal adversity. After the fall of PTL she was cast out by her church and to the day she died she said she still had love for Jerry Falwell (Vincent D’Onofrio) despite what he did to her. That’s a really big person.”