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Big Eyes

Big Eyes
File: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. One day, Margaret catches the eye of Walter Keane, who is selling his street scene paintings nearby. He encourages Margaret and compliments her pieces.

Margaret and Walter go out to a restaurant where Walter tells her about his life in Paris. While painting outside the Palace of Fine Arts, Walter asks Margaret why she draws eyes so big and she tells him how she 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. Soon Margaret discovers that her husband wants to get full custody of Jane. Walter proposes to her and they get married.

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.

As a result of the success of the paintings, Margaret and Walter soon move into a grande mansion. Later Margaret finds a stack of paintings with Parisian street scenes all signed 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 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. 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. 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.

A year later on a Hawaiian radio show, Margaret admits that she is the actual painter of the work, making national news. 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. 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. 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. TitlePerformer(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

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

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

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


  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