Big Eyes – Upcoming Film / Behind the scenes
Even growing up in Austria, Christoph Waltz was familiar with the doe-eyed artwork from the American husband-and-wife team Margaret and Walter Keane.
The mass-produced paintings were ubiquitous in the 1950s and ’60s. “I remember the pictures from the 1960s, they were everywhere,” says Waltz. He wasn’t surprised to learn years later the incredible drama behind the scenes with this famous couple. “We train ourselves to look for drama, to go for conflict because those are the stories worth telling. It would be expected that this (situation) too would be something extraordinary.”
This real-life story behind the Keane art-world sensation is the basis of the Tim Burton drama Big Eyes (due Dec. 25), starring Amy Adams as Margaret Keane and Waltz as Walter. The film follows them from the 1950s when the two art enthusiasts meet, marry and get swept up into worldwide stardom — all due to the popularity of the painted waif children with the large, sad eyes.
Walter told the world he did the paintings, but Margaret would later prove that she was the real artist. For years the charade continued, with Walter revelling in the spotlight.
“Margaret really believed that as a woman, people would not buy her art,” says Adams, who donned a stylish blond bob wig to play the part. Walter “convinced her the life they were able to lead was because the artist was a man, who could sell more art at a higher price than a woman.”
But the lie began to corrode their relationship. After the 10-year marriage ended in 1965, Margaret began to publicly claim the work; Walter continually laughed off the claim.
The long-running battle came to a head when Margaret took the charges to a federal courtroom in 1986. Remarkably, the judge allowed a “paint-off” where each was asked to create a painting on the spot. Margaret finished hers in 53 minutes. Walter begged off, claiming to have an injured shoulder.
The court awarded Margaret $4 million in damages.
“This all seems so theatrical, like something you would design for a film. But that actually happened,” says Adams. “Living the lie was something that weighed heavy on Margaret. But she won her name back.”
Walter died in 2000 at age 85, and Margaret, 87, still paints in San Francisco. Adams spent time with her to prepare for the role.
“The handling of the brush and paint, the way that Margaret creates the eyes, that is something I studied at great length,” says Adams. “But I never mastered it like Margaret has.”
I can’t wait to see this film! I love her work and having Tim Burton on board is amazing!
I’m obsessed with big eyes and have always painted and drawn them that way – in art class I always got told off for it! 🙂