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Jessica Chastain wins best actress Oscar

Jessica Chastain has won the Academy Award for best lead actress for her mascara-laden title role as the on-air preaching partner and wife of Christian televangelist Jim Bakker in The Eyes of Tammy Faye, chronicling the couple’s rise and fall.

The Oscar triumph for Chastain, 45, virtually unrecognisable in heavy makeup as Tammy Faye Bakker, followed a Screen Actors Guild Award for her performance and capped the third Academy Award nomination of her career.

She was previously nominated for an Oscar for 2012 portrayal of a CIA analyst on the hunt of Osama Bin Laden in Zero Dark Thirty and her 2011 supporting role as a Southern socialite in the 1960s racial drama The Help.

Chastain’s latest film charted the real-life story of evangelical power couple Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, who built their PTL Club television ministry into a worldwide Christian broadcast network during the 1970s and ’80s.

But their lucrative empire crumbled in a series of highly publicised sex and financial scandals in 1987, ending with Jim Bakker’s conviction and imprisonment on multiple fraud charges and the couple’s divorce.

Tammy Faye later married and took the last name of developer Roe Messner as she rebuilt her reputation through a documentary and reality show before her death from cancer in 2007.

Chastain has said she spent several hours a day on set in the makeup chair having facial prosthetics applied and recreating the famously heavy eyelashes that streamed mascara when Bakker cried on camera.

Assuming Bakker’s rapid-fire speech and girlish, Midwestern-accented voice, Chastain also made her big-screen singing debut in the film, performing a number of Bakker’s gospel tunes.

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