“Big Eyes” may be one of the most eye-widening films of 2014. The biographical drama, created by Tim Burton, tells the story of Margaret D. H. Keane’s famous doe-eyed paintings and the lengths she went to reclaim them after her second husband, Walter Keane, stole credit for her haunting work throughout the 1950s.
Check out 11 things we learned about the real-life artist after the “Big Eyes” film was released on Christmas Day:
1. Margaret Keane Didn’t Initially Care That Walter Had Plagiarized Her Work
“After we started to make it, it didn't make any difference,” Keane said during an exclusive interview with UPI. “All I got out of it was a larger house to keep. And I always did the faces and the eyes and he might touch up the background."
2. Margaret Keane Tried To Teach Walter How To Paint
When Keane confronted her husband about stealing her work, he attempted to learn how to recreate his wife’s alluring images. But according to Margaret, Walter was unable to copy her technique despite showing her husband how.
3. Margaret Keane Felt Imprisoned In Her Own Home
"I was in jail,” she told the Guardian. “He wouldn’t allow me to have any friends. If I tried to slip away from him, he’d follow me.”
Time magazine then revealed that the artist was forced to work 16-hour workdays to churn out profitable paintings. And if Walter wasn’t in the house to supervise her, he would call every hour on the hour to assure the big-eyed pieces were being created.
4. Why She Was Hesitant To Tell The Truth
During an interview with UPI, Margaret revealed that she was reluctant to claim the paintings as hers in fear of her life. "He told me so many times -- like brainwashed me -- that if I ever told anybody he'd have me knocked off," she explained. "I really thought he would.” Margaret added in a statement to the Guardian that she held truth to his threat because he knew “a lot of mafia people.”
5. Margaret Keane Was Relieved After Walter’s Death
“Not until he died did I really feel that I wasn't going to be knocked off,” she told UPI of Walter’s death in 2000. “I don't like to hear people die but it was a relief that I didn't have that fear anymore.”
6. The Truth
Keane explained that decades after holding on to the secret, she finally revealed the truth in 1970 during an interview with a Honolulu-based radio station.
“I was scared to death,” Margaret told the New York Daily News. “I thought, ‘They probably won’t believe me.’” But with a little encouragement from her third husband, Dan McGuire, Margaret found the “courage to do it.”
7. The Paint-Off
After revealing who the true artist behind the big eye paintings were, Margaret challenged her ex-husband to a paint-off in San Francisco’s Union Square. "Give us both paint and brush and canvas and turn us loose in Union Square at high noon, and we'll see who can paint eyes," she said. "I'd like that." However, Walter never showed. Instead his only response to the paint-off was him claiming that Margaret was a “boozing, sex-starved psychopath.”
8. Margaret vs. Walter In Court
Margaret and Walter Keane reunited when she sued her ex-husband for slander. The two were then asked by a judge to recreate the big eye painting in court. Margaret did so within 53 minutes while Walter declined to participate due to a shoulder injury. According to Time magazine, Margaret won $4 million in the suit but never saw a cent, considering Walter had flushed the couple's fortune down the toilet.
9. Margaret Keane's Authenticity Is Still Questioned
According to the artist, there are patrons who enter the gallery still convinced that her ex-husband is the creator. "People would come in the gallery and argue and say, 'No, Walter did these things,'" she said, adding that that the “Big Eyes” movie has helped the skeptics believe she is the true artist behind the iconic waifs.
10. Keane Thought Amy Adams Portrayed Her Perfectly In The Film
"I'm in awe of her ability and talent," Margaret told UPI of the actress who was nominated for a Golden Globe for representing her in “Big Eyes." "She portrayed exactly the way I was feeling. I don't know how she can do it without even saying a word ... just a gesture."
11. What Walter Keane Would Have Thought Of The Film
“He often said, ‘I don’t care what they say as long as they spell the name right,'" she told New York Daily News.
“Big Eyes” hit theaters on Thursday, Dec. 25.