Jessica Chastain's Oscars Luncheon Date Was HIV Activist Steve Pieters

Tammy Faye Bakker interviewed Pieters on television back in 1985.

Jessica Chastain continues to carry on Tammy Faye Bakker's legacy of embracing and empowering the LGBTQ community.

The Academy Award-nominated actress attended this year's Oscars luncheon — the glitzy annual event where the latest batch of nominees mingle and celebrate the past year in film — and she brought HIV activist and gay pastor Steve Pieters as her date.

Tammy Faye Bakker's 1985 television interview with Pieters was a groundbreaking moment for HIV awareness, putting a face to the disease that was tearing through the gay community. Chastain, who is nominated for her portrayal of Bakker in The Eyes of Tammy Faye and is also a producer on the movie, said it was that interview that made her want to tell Bakker's story.

“It’s so beautiful and loving. And it’s such a huge turning point in terms of what people could associate God’s grace with because I feel like she was filled with grace," the actress previously said.

"She wanted to be the first televangelist to interview a gay man with AIDS," Pieters told People last year. "It was a very scary time and there was still a lot of fear about AIDS and about being around a person with AIDS. And I thought the opportunity to reach an audience that I would never otherwise reach was too valuable to pass by."

VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images

US actress Jessica Chastain (L) and Reverend Steve Pieters arrive for the 94th Annual Oscars Nominees Luncheon at the Fairmont Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles, March 7, 2022. (Photo by Valerie MACON / AFP) (Photo by VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images)

When Eyes of Tammy Faye screenwriter Abe Sylvia spoke with Logo last fall, he said Bakker's interview with Pieters showed how classy she was:

You know, that at a time when mass media was teaching us to fear people with AIDS, Tammy Faye Bakker said, “We should be putting our arms around these people.” It was so [antithetical] to what the rest of the religious right was calling us to do, and say nothing of the fact that you know, yes, it was a watershed moment in televangelism. But it was a watershed moment, period. I mean, nobody else was taking this approach to gay men with AIDS at the time. Certainly, there were news reports, but the degree of empathy with which she seeded Steve Pieters as not a pariah, but as someone who deserved to be loved and deserved our support. And that wasn’t just unique to a Christian; that was unique, period. But unique to that time.

Sylvia added that he's Facebook friends with Pieters, and Pieters "loves the film."

Chastain brought Pieters with her to the Oscars luncheon, but this wasn't the first Eyes of Tammy Faye event for him. The activist also attended the New York premiere of the movie as well as a special L.A. screening featuring the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles.

The 94th Academy Awards air Sunday, March 27 on ABC. The Eyes of Tammy Faye is available now on Blu-ray and digital and is streaming on HBO Max.

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