Behind the scenes of Big Eyes (2014) and a look at the real Keanes

“Nobody could paint eyes like El Greco, and nobody can paint eyes like Walter Keane.” – Walter Keane, referring to himself in the third person in an interview with Life magazine in August of 1965 (read the profile in its entirety here).

“(Keane’s work) has to be good. If it were bad, so many people wouldn’t like it.” – Andy Warhol, quoted in the same Life article

Like the eponymous filmmaker at the center of Tim Burton’s 1994 biopic Ed Wood, the work of artist Margaret Keane has often been labeled as kitsch. But unlike Wood, who toiled in obscurity before receiving posthumous cult status, Keane’s work enjoyed immense popular success in the 1950s and 1960s as the denizens of postwar suburban sprawl gobbled up her paintings of sad waifish children with oversized eyes.

Burton’s latest, Big Eyes, tells Keane’s story, a so-strange-it-must-be-true tale of her long subjugation to husband Walter Keane, who took credit for his wife’s paintings for decades until a court showdown revealed the truth. Below are a pair of photo galleries – one featuring the real-life Keanes and the other offering a glimpse behind the scenes of the film’s production.

“[Ed Wood] was considered the worst director in the world. But I remember his films; a lot of people do. There was a poetry to them, a weirdness, which made it stand out from other things. There’s a similarity between Ed Wood and Keane — when Wood is making Plan 9 From Outer Space, he thinks he’s making Star Wars. When Keane is painting, both Walter and Margaret think she’s creating the Mona Lisa. As a person who likes to make things, you get caught in a sort of enthusiastic, delusional world of euphoria of making something.” – Tim Burton, from an interview with Rolling Stone


  • Though set largely in San Francisco, the $11 million Big Eyes shot only five days there on location. Most of the film was lensed in Vancouver.
  • Shot on the Arri Alexa by Inside Lleweyn Davis and Amelie cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel
  • Big Eyes screenwriting duo Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (The People vs. Larry Flynt, Man on the Moon) initially intended to direct the film themselves. At various points in development the scribes had Kate Hudson/Thomas Haden Church and Reese Witherspoon/Ryan Reynolds attached to play the leads.

The Keanes

Behind the Scenes


Life, Wikipedia, NY Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Indiewire, Vulture

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