Big Eyes

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Big Eyes
Big Eyes poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Tim Burton
Produced by
Written by
  • Scott Alexander
  • Larry Karaszewski
Music by Danny Elfman
Cinematography Bruno Delbonnel
Edited by JC Bond
Distributed by The Weinstein Company
Release dates
  • December 25, 2014 (2014-12-25) (North America)
Running time
105 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $10 million[2]
Box office $28.9 million[3]

Big Eyes is a 2014 American biographical drama film directed by Tim Burton, and starring Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz.

In the film, American artist Margaret Keane (Adams) draws portraits of children with large eyes. Her husband, Walter Keane (Waltz), markets them as his own work. In the 1950s and 1960s the portraits become phenomenally successful, and earn the couple a fortune. But Margaret is upset that she is lying and that Walter is taking her credit. She catches Walter in more lies. He becomes drunk and abusive, and she divorces him. On a radio interview, Margaret reveals that she and not Walter had been drawing the portraits. Walter accuses her of lying, she sues him for slander, and the judge asks each of them to demonstrate that they can draw a large-eye portrait.

The film had its world premiere in New York City on December 15, 2014.[4] It was released theatrically on December 25, 2014, in the United States by The Weinstein Company.[5] The film was met with positive reviews, praising the performances of both Adams and Waltz. Adams won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical and was nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her performance. The film was also additionally nominated for two other Golden Globe Awards for Waltz's performance and for Lana Del Rey's performance of the film's theme song Big Eyes.


In 1958, Northern California, Margaret Ulbrich leaves her husband and takes her young daughter with her. They drive to North Beach, San Francisco where her friend DeAnn lives. Having to support her daughter alone, Margaret applies for a job. She studied at an art institute so she is put to work painting illustrations at a furniture factory. On the side, she draws people’s portraits. One day, Margaret catches the eye of Walter Keane, who is selling his street scene paintings nearby. He encourages Margaret to be more aggressive in her salesmanship, complimenting her pieces.

Margaret and Walter go out to a restaurant where Walter tells her about his life in Paris at an art school. While painting outside the Palace of Fine Arts, Walter asks Margaret why she draws eyes so big and she tells him how she was briefly deaf as a child and looked at people’s eyes as a window to the soul. A man recognizes Walter and it's revealed that he is actually a realtor, not a painter. He tells Margaret that he hates his job and all he has ever wanted to do was be an artist. Soon Margaret discovers that her husband wants to get full custody of Jane, calling her an unfit mother as a single woman. Walter proposes to her and they get married in Hawaii. Back in California, DeAnn is skeptical about Walter, given his reputation. Walter later tries to sell his work to an art gallery, in the process interrupting the owner, Ruben, as he tries to make a sale. Ruben points out that Walter only lived in Paris for a week and wonders why he keeps creating Parisian street scenes. Walter shows him Margaret’s Big Eyes paintings, but Ruben dislikes them and kicks him out.

Margaret and Walter go to a popular jazz club in San Francisco where he tries to convince the club’s owner Enrico Banducci to purchase his paintings. Banducci refuses. As Walter tries to promote the artwork at the club, a drunk woman is touched by one of Margaret’s paintings, disappointing him that she isn't interested in his own work. Soon, Walter picks a fight with Banducci, who is knocked over the head with one of Margaret’s paintings. The fight ends up on the front page of the local newspaper. After Margaret bails Walter out of jail, he tells her how he took credit for one of her paintings. The next time Walter goes to the club, it is packed with people, looking to get a sense of what has made the news. Dick Nolan, who has served as the film's narrator, introduces himself to Walter – he has a celebrity gossip column and wants to know more about Walter’s “hobo kid” paintings.

The Big Eyes paintings prove to be a huge success, even starting of a "Big Eyes" movement with many imitators, inspiring Margaret to paint more portraits while Walter handles the media attention. Margaret overhears him impressing some female fans by claiming he painted the Big Eyes. They argue privately, with Walter telling her how he is only trying to sell paintings as buyers pay more when they meet the artist. Trying to convince her about how she should be happy about the money they are making, they are interrupted by a rich Italian industrialist who requests to know who the artist is. When Walter takes the credit, Margaret is left emotionally torn. Walter continues to generate publicity by giving paintings to famous people, even opening up his own art gallery. Margaret continues to feels uneasy about the lie, even lying to Jane about the paintings. She goes to confession at a church and admits she lied to her daughter at the urging of her husband. The priest tells her as a Christian, she knows that men are the head of the household and she should trust his judgment.

When the Keane Gallery opens, DeAnn is there and is suspicious about Walter being attributed as the artist. At home, Walter sees an art critic criticize Keane’s work. Upstairs, Jane almost walks in on her mother painting in the off-limits art room, but is sideswiped by Walter. He asks Margaret about her work and says he’s going to go on television to defend it. She asks him what inspired his Parisian landscapes and if the streets were as lovely as he depicted. He says no as it was after the war – and then gets the angle for why "he" painted the Big Eyes portraits. On television, Walter laments about seeing orphaned children in a war-torn Paris, supposedly inspiring his art. The interview dramatically increases the Keane Gallery popularity, but Walter is annoyed how none of the people actually want to buy expensive paintings. He realizes that they all want to take posters and starts selling the reproductions for 10 cents each. Margaret's conscience continues to plague her and she realizes that she just wants to take credit for her own paintings.

As a result of so much success, Margaret and Walter soon move into a grande mansion. DeAnn comes to visit, where she forces her way into Margaret’s art studio and has her suspicions confirmed that Margaret is the true artist. Walter kicks her out and tells her to never return. Later Margaret finds a stack of paintings with Parisian street scenes all signed by S. Cenic. She scrapes off Walter's signature from one of his hanged paintings, again revealing an original signature by “S. Cenic.” She confronts Walter about his lie, pointing out that he paints over the name and realizes she’s never seen him paint. He admits that he always wanted to be an artist, but never really had the talent. Days later, Walter learns of the 1964’s New York World’s Fair and demands Margaret paint something to put on display. When she refuses and threatens to reveal herself as the real artist, he tells her that he “knows people” to have her whacked. Margaret slaves away in her painting room on the piece, angry at the overwhelming obligation. That night, Jane uses a key to get into the painting room. There, she sees her mom working on the “masterpiece” for the World’s Fair, where she tells her that she has always known that her mom is the real artist.

Walter soon throws a party to celebrate his success, but becomes furious when he reads a scathing review. He angrily confronts him during the party about the emotion that was put in the painting. However, Canady tells him that his work is kitsch and lacks genuine emotion. Infuriated, Walter tries to stab the critic with a fork. In the aftermath of the attack, the painting is removed from the UNICEF pavilion at the Fair. Back in California, Walter is still raging, now drunk, and starts throwing matches at Jane and Margaret, almost setting them on fire. Fleeing from the home, Margaret drives off with Jane and declares that they will start a new life in Hawaii.

One year later, Margaret and Jane settle into a life in Honolulu. Walter calls Margaret on the phone, saying he will not agree to a legal separation unless she signs over the rights to every painting she has ever produced. Jane tells her that she needs to make some friends, but she is too paranoid to let anyone come over due to her fear that her secret will become known. One day, two Jehovah’s Witnesses come to the home and convince her that honesty is important. The next time Walter receives some artwork, it is signed MDH Keane.

On a Hawaiian radio show, Margaret admits that she is the actual painter of the work, making national news. Walter goes to Dick Nolan, claiming Margaret has gone insane. Margaret is furious and the Jehovah’s witnesses encourage her to fight for the truth. Margaret then sues both Walter and the newspapers that printed his version of the story for libel and slander. The court quickly dismisses the libel lawsuit, citing that Margaret has been corroborating his story in nearly 700 articles for over ten years. The newspaper editors’ expensive lawyers leave and Walter realizes he still has to defend himself against slander without representation, but decides to represent himself.

At the trial, Walter tries giving a speech to the jury, but is chastised by the judge for not asking Margaret questions. He asks why she would go along with the scheme and she said she was forced into it and he had her dominated. She felt she didn’t have any other options and giving away her paintings made her feel like losing a child. Walter convinced her without his salesmanship and promotion skills, they would never make money and be able to support the family. She calls him a "Jekyll and Hyde" and reminds him of threatening to kill her if she ever told the truth. After Walter nauseates the jury and judge with a long talk about his perks of fame, the judge declares that the way to prove who painted the Big Eye paintings is for them each to paint. He provides basic art tools and gives them an hour to replicate their work. Margaret works steadily while Walter is hesitant and soon claims that his arm hurts. It soon becomes clear that Margaret is telling the truth.

Outside, Margaret shows off the painting she did in court and tells a reporter she is calling it “Exhibit 224.” We learn that Margaret won the case on all points – defamation, emotional distress, damaged reputation. She says she doesn't care about money, but only wants credit for her work and feels that she has gotten her art back. A fan asks her to sign a copy of “Tomorrow’s Masters” and she does, finally autographing her own work.



Writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski negotiated over the life rights with Margaret Keane and wrote Big Eyes as a spec script. In October 2007, it was announced that development was moving forward with Alexander and Karaszewski directing their script and nightclub operator Andrew Meieran fully financing an under-$20 million budget through his Bureau of Moving Pictures banner.[6] Kate Hudson and Thomas Haden Church were set to star, and filming was to begin in June 2008, but was pushed back over prospects from a new Screen Actors Guild contract.[7][8]

In September 2010, it was announced that Tim Burton had also become involved as producer for the film,[9] and principal photography was scheduled to start in April 2012 with Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Reynolds attached to star.[10] By 2013, Burton had taken over directing reins and Big Eyes was set up at The Weinstein Company with Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz starring. Filming began in July 2013.[11]

Big Eyes is Burton's first film since Edward Scissorhands to be edited by someone other than Chris Lebenzon, who had other commitments with Maleficent the same year.


Big Eyes: Music From the Original Motion Picture
Soundtrack album by various artists
Released December 23, 2014
Genre Film soundtrack
Label Interscope Records

It was reported in November 2014 that singer Lana Del Rey would contribute with two original songs to the soundtrack. The songs "Big Eyes" and "I Can Fly", which Lana Del Rey wrote and performed, were leaked in December 2014; the soundtrack album and both songs were officially released on December 23, 2014.[12]

No. Title Performer(s) Length
1. "Big Eyes"   Lana Del Rey 4:41
2. "Bludan"   Cast of Big Eyes 3:15
3. "Doxy"   Miles Davis & Sonny Rollins 4:55
4. "Hey Now"   The Red Garland Trio 3:41
5. "Tropicville"   Cast of Big Eyes 3:10
6. "Rik-A-Tik"   The Lively Ones 3:02
7. "A Minor Goof"   Cal Tjader 3:54
8. "I Can Fly"   Lana Del Rey 5:48
9. "Opening"   Danny Elfman 3:59
10. "Who's the Artist?"   Danny Elfman 2:56
11. "Margaret"   Danny Elfman 3:03
12. "Walter"   Danny Elfman 4:49
13. "Victory"   Danny Elfman 4:59
14. "End Credits"   Danny Elfman 1:12


Box office[edit]

As of March 29, 2015, Big Eyes has grossed $14.5 million in North America and $13.5 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $28 million, against a budget of $10 million.[3]

In its opening weekend, the film grossed $3 million, finishing in 15th place at the box office.

Critical reaction[edit]

Big Eyes has received positive reviews, particularly for Waltz and Adams' performances, the script and Burton's direction. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a rating of 72%, based on 158 reviews, with an average rating of 6.7/10. The site's consensus reads, "Well-acted, thought-provoking and a refreshing change of pace for Tim Burton, Big Eyes works both as a biopic and as a timelessly relevant piece of (feminist) social commentary" on the difficulty women often have achieving recognition in a male dominated world.[13] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 62 out of 100, based on 40 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[14]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Association Date of ceremony Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
British Academy Film Awards February 8, 2015 Best Actress in a Leading Role Amy Adams Nominated [15]
Best Production Design Rick Heinrichs, Shane Vieau Nominated
Casting Society of America January 22, 2015 Studio or Independent Comedy Jeanne McCarthy, Nicole Abellera, Coreen Mayrs, Heike Brandstatter Nominated [16]
Critic's Choice Awards January 15, 2015 Best Song Lana Del Rey for "Big Eyes" Nominated [17]
Golden Globe Awards January 11, 2015 Best Actor – Comedy or Musical Christoph Waltz Nominated
Best Actress – Comedy or Musical Amy Adams Won
Best Original Song Lana Del Rey for "Big Eyes" Nominated
Independent Spirit Awards February 21, 2015 Best Screenplay Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski Nominated [18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "BIG EYES (12A)". British Board of Film Classification. December 10, 2014. Retrieved December 10, 2014. 
  2. ^ "Big Eyes". The Numbers. 
  3. ^ a b "Big Eyes". Box Office Mojo. 
  4. ^ "Harvey Weinstein Praises ‘Big Eyes’ Screenwriters-Producers at Film’s Premiere". Variety. 
  5. ^ "Press Conference For The Weinstein Company's "BIG EYES"". Yahoo. 
  6. ^ Fleming, Michael (October 15, 2007). "Alexander, Karaszewski think ‘Big’". Variety. Retrieved October 24, 2014. 
  7. ^ Fleming, Michael (February 5, 2008). "Kate Hudson to star in ‘Big Eyes’". Variety. Retrieved October 24, 2014. 
  8. ^ Fleming, Michael (April 2, 2008). "Church to play Keane in ‘Big Eyes’". Variety. Retrieved October 24, 2014. 
  9. ^ Mike Fleming (2010-08-19). "Tim Burton Reunites With 'Ed Wood' Scribes For 'Addams Family' And 'Big Eyes'". Retrieved 2014-09-21. 
  10. ^ Sneider, Jeff (January 22, 2012). "Witherspoon, Reynolds land ‘Big Eyes’". Variety. Retrieved October 24, 2014. 
  11. ^ Fleming, Michael (April 2, 2013). "Tim Burton To Direct ‘Big Eyes'; The Weinstein Company Putting Finishing Brush Strokes On Deal For Painting Saga". Retrieved October 24, 2014. 
  12. ^ "Big Eyes: Music From the Original Motion Picture". iTunes. December 23, 2014. Retrieved January 3, 2015. 
  13. ^ "Big Eyes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved April 25, 2015. 
  14. ^ "'Big Eyes' Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved December 28, 2014. 
  15. ^ "BAFTA Nominations: ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’ Leads With 11 – Full List". January 8, 2015. Retrieved January 9, 2015. 
  16. ^ "Casting Society Unveils Artios Film Nominees". January 6, 2015. Retrieved January 6, 2015. 
  17. ^ "2015 Golden Globe Nominations". Rotten Tomatoes. December 11, 2014. Retrieved January 1, 2015. 
  18. ^ "2015 Film Independent Spirit Awards Announced". Rotten Tomatoes. November 25, 2014. Retrieved December 18, 2014. 

External links[edit]