Adams finds quiet strength in Margaret Keane

By Lindsey Bahr ,AP

LOS ANGELES — Amy Adams didn’t connect with the character of Margaret Keane when she first read the script for ��Big Eyes.��

She cannot remember whether it was right before or right after she’d given birth to her daughter, but for Adams, who was determined to play more confident characters after she got a taste of one in ��The Fighter,�� the story looked to her like victimization.

But then she read it again, later, and everything came into focus.

��Big Eyes,�� which opens Thursday, tells the almost unbelievable true story of one of the most commercial art movements in recent history and the deep fraud that lingered below the surface.

Popular tiny waifs with big eyes were credited at the time to Walter Keane (played by Christoph Waltz), who amassed enormous wealth and notoriety. It was later revealed the paintings were the work of his wife, Margaret, who participated in the deception for decades for her own complex reasons.

Her first step, once she wrapped ��American Hustle�� and officially signed on to the film, was to meet the woman she’d be portraying. Adams wanted to know things that weren’t in the script: Did she have siblings? What did she do when she graduated from college? What was her first marriage like?

The opening scene in director Tim Burton’s movie shows Margaret and her young daughter fleeing a house and a marriage. It’s a bold introduction to a character seemingly stripped of her agency for most of the movie, but, it’s also one that goes unexplained.

Keane is an intensely private person, though she did let the actress watch her paint in her San Francisco studio. Adams quickly realized she’d be best served by watching and observing.

While Adams had caught on to the narrative that Margaret Keane wasn’t, in fact, victimized, she was surprised to learn that Margaret shared her view.

The voice was one of the bigger challenges. At age 86, Margaret Keane doesn’t sound the way she did in her youth, so Adams had to improvise. ��I won’t say who it is, but there is a woman in my life who is quiet and I’m terrified of her, and I know she’s going to know who I’m talking about, but she’s from Texas and she is steely strong but very, very shy, very quiet,�� said Adams. ��She doesn’t talk loud, but boy when she talks, I listen.��

Beyond a nagging hope that Margaret Keane would be happy with her performance, Adams wasn’t nervous about bringing this private person to the masses. ��I actually felt very relaxed. There was something about Margaret that’s incredibly grounding,�� she said.