With “Big Eyes”, Tim Burton examines the scam in which Margaret Keane participated in spite of herself, manipulated by her husband Walter who claimed the authorship of his paintings for years. A feature film whose discovery was not easy for the painter.
Big eyes : the return of Tim Burton to the biopic
In 2014, Tim Burton abandoned the fantastic register after Dark shadows and Frankenweenie. With Big eyes, the filmmaker signs a new biopic, a genre he had tried 20 years earlier with Ed wood. And for the occasion, he finds the screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, who had already signed the script of the feature film on the “worst director of all time”.
Originally, the two authors are supposed to stage this project centered on Margaret Keane. But as Larry Karaszewski explains in an interview for the Sag Harbor Express, they are struggling to get it started. They then propose to Tim Burton to no longer officiate as a producer, but also as a director.
A godsend, since the filmmaker is well acquainted with the work of the painter, who is for him familiar since childhood. In a promotional featurette, he confides:
Keane’s work was omnipresent in Burbank. For me, it was a suburban art in the sense in which he had invested it. There were some at my grandmother’s, in dental and medical offices, with friends… It was something very present in the world where I grew up. Not the original canvases, the reproductions.
I remember being challenged by these children whom I found a little worrying. I think that’s why they marked me. They exert a kind of magnetism that is difficult to verbalize.
Played by Amy Adams, awarded a Golden Globe for her performance, Margaret Keane is famous for his portraits women and children with disproportionate eyes. But until 1970, her paintings are attributed to her ex-husband Walter Keane, played by Christoph Waltz. Also bringing together Krysten Ritter, Jason Schwartzman, Danny Huston and Terence Stamp, Big eyes returns to the history of this deception.
Margaret Keane overwhelmed by the film
For more than ten years, Margaret Keane participated in the scam set up by her husband. An involvement due to “his humility” according to Tim Burton. Pushed to the limit by Walter Keane, the artist decides to divorce in 1965 and flies to Hawaii with her daughter, where she remarries with the writer Dan McGuire.
In 1970, she finally revealed to be the true author of his paintings and sues his ex-boyfriend. Until his death in 2000, the latter continued to claim authorship of Margaret Keane’s works.
Fan ofEdward Scissorhands, the artist met Tim Burton a few years after his debut, and notably painted a portrait of his ex-wife Lisa Marie. Seduced by the personality of the filmmaker, she trusts him for his approach to Big eyes. Asked by the agency United Press International in December 2014, Margaret Keane claims to have been won over by the film. However, she admits to having lived emotional shock by discovering it, since he plunged it back into an extremely complicated period.
The painter – who makes a cameo on a bench in San Francisco in the feature film – says about it:
I just wasn’t prepared for the emotional reaction I got. It was overwhelming. It was the worst part of my life and it was very traumatic. After a few days I started to realize how awesome he is, because he had such an effect on my daughter and me.
In addition, Margaret Keane is full of praise for Amy Adams. She says in a featurette about the actress with “phenomenal” talent :
When I saw her with the wig on, it shocked me. I had the impression of seeing myself again 50 years ago. I was amazed to see her transform like this.