Four-time Academy Award-nominee Amy Adams had read the ‘BIG EYES’ screenplay early on, but she wasn’t prepared to do it at first. “I thought it was very interesting, but I was at a time where I wanted to play really confident characters and wasn’t sure how I would find my way into Margaret.” However, when she next saw the script, things had changed. “I’d become a mother and had a totally different perspective on the character and I understood — it wasn’t lack of confidence. I was attracted to the story from the beginning, but at the end it was Margaret that I really got pulled into. Margaret is complicated, like most human beings. She’s definitely a little shyer, and she’s very humble. That’s one of the qualities about her that I think allowed her to be manipulated.” Adams did a lot of research to prepare for the role.
“When you have a story that has two very different sides and people who write about it that have different perspectives, it’s really hard to put your finger on what the true story is. I read what Walter said about Margaret, then I read what other people said about her, and there’s not a lot in her own words.” So Adams travelled to San Francisco and spent a day with Margaret Keane at the artist’s gallery. “That was most beneficial, to see this woman and understand that yes, there is this humility, but there’s this strength and this sense of humor. I didn’t want to pry, but I wanted to get an understanding of who she was and how this could have happened. What I came to was her gentle nature.” The actress and the artist spent half a day together. “It makes me nervous when people look at me,” Margaret Keane says, “but she wanted to watch me paint, and she made it painless and was so down to earth. It was wonderful.” Keane was delighted with the casting of Adams, who sports a vintage blonde bob in the picture. “When I first saw her with the wig on it was a shock. It was like seeing myself 50 years ago! She was absolutely perfect.” While Walter Keane was a fixture on the talk show circuit of the era, Margaret was much more in the shadows. “There’s only a little bit of footage of her,” says Adams, “so I didn’t have a lot to pull on who Margaret was.” So Adams based her performance on the elderly woman she actually met, and, she notes, “In the end, you can really only go with the text because everything else, all of our memories, even of ourselves, are skewed. So going with the text, trying to help tell the story but at the same time being mindful of who she was as a person and what’s important to her now. I talked to her about why she would be willing to tell this story. She is a Jehovah’s Witness and that is why she wants to show that these things can happen in our life but we can find redemption at the end of it and strength within ourselves, so I felt like that gave me permission to tell her story, with my artistic interpretation, while understanding her a little better.”
“Margaret became identified with the big eyes and she was able to express her pain and sadness and her questions. I think that’s why people respond, because there is such an openness and a questioning and a vulnerability and this amazing quality that children have and she’s really able to capture that.” Walter appropriated Margaret’s waif paintings and declared them his own, and they came to be known as the “Keane” paintings. As Margaret developed as an artist, she continued to paint “Keanes” attributed to Walter, but she also created elongated psychological paintings of women, often self-portraits, which she signed MDH Keane and publicly claimed as her own.
‘’BIG EYES” is released and distributed by CAPTIVE CINEMA.
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