Screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski have apparently been trying to get their project, “Big Eyes,” about feuding artist couple Walter and Margaret Keane for years. They’ve finally secured a progressive track, reports Deadline, with Tim Burton set to direct and The Weinstein Company closing a deal to fund and distribute. Christoph Waltz and Amy Adams, fresh off awards attention in the Weinstein-distributed “Django Unchained” and “The Master,” will star.
The Keane story is fascinating. In the 1950s and 1960s, their portraits of wide-eyed children were sold all across the country and turned them, particularly Walter, into stars. “My psyche was scarred in my art student days in Europe, just after World War II, by an ineradicable memory of war-wracked innocents,” Keane told Life Magazine in 1965. “In their eyes lurk all of mankind’s questions and answers. If mankind would look deep into the soul of the very young, he wouldn’t need a road map. I wanted other people to know about those eyes, too. I want my paintings to clobber you in the heart and make you yell, ‘DO SOMETHING!'”
But dispute arose soon enough over who was really the genius behind the images. As Walter’s celebrity grew, Margaret asserted that their work was really the result of her vision. They divorced in 1965. Margaret even challenged Walter to a public paint-off on multiple occasions, but Walter continuously declined.
After Walter accused her of claiming credit for the portraits only because she assumed he was dead, Margaret sued him for slander and that’s when what is sure to be a wacky scene in Alexander and Karaszewski’s script played out: a Honolulu judge demanded the two produce separate paintings for the jury. Margaret whipped one up in under an hour while Walter opted out, saying he was taking medication for a shoulder injury. The judge ordered Walter to pay $4 million for emotional distress and damaged reputation.
This kind of thing seems right up Alexander and Karaszewski’s alley. The two first collaborated with Burton on 1994’s “Ed Wood. Two years later they and director Milos Forman brought the life of of pornography titan Larry Flynt to the screen in “The People vs. Larry Flynt” and struck again with the director in 1999, this time with Andy Kaufman and the Jim Carrey-starrer “Man on the Moon.” They also penned a script about “Ripley’s believe It or Not” franchise founder Robert Ripley, which once upon a time had Burton attached with Carrey set to star. It never happened, though, and is still looking for the right combination.
For now, they can at least check “Big Eyes” off their list as the unique project has found a home with top talent all around. And with Burton (who was nominated for his second Oscar last year, for animated feature “Frankenweenie”) and Weinstein under one roof, well, that should certainly be interesting come awards season.