Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski
TIGHT on TWO PAINTED EYES. The pupils are impossibly wide.
Imploring. The watery rims spill a single tear.
We PULL OUT... revealing the eyes belong to a child. A young
girl, fingers clasped pitifully. She's forlorn, alone in a
dirty gray alley. We feel shame. Compassion. Sorrow...
Then -- an IDENTICAL girl SLAPS in front of the first one.
Then another! It's a PRINTING PRESS, the creation of a BLUR
of sad children.
A KINETIC montage! HORDES of gazing WAIFS get lithographed,
bundled: Huddling in worry. Floating in space. POSTERS.
We ZOOM into a MAGAZINE AD: A 1960's era come-on -- "IT'S
KEANE! MUSEUM-QUALITY ART, MAILED DIRECTLY TO YOUR HOME!"
A blizzard of NEWSPAPER ARTICLES: "Meet America's Million-
Dollar Painter!" "Keane Masterpiece at World's Fair"
Painted EYES float by. Haunting... questioning...
Old POLAROIDS: A family Christmas, a Keane print over the
mantel. Kids play bumper pool, a Keane print in the b.g.
A blurry black-and-white TV: A talk show HOST holds up a Keane
MUSIC BUILDS. FASTER. Keane brochures. Catalogs. A flyer:
"Now Open! Keane Gallery"
MORE orphan's faces. Hungry, unblinking, beseeching.
A CRESCENDO -- then -- SILENCE.
A single CARD on black:
"I think what Keane has done is just
terrific. It has to be good. If it
were bad, so many people wouldn't like
-- ANDY WARHOL
EXT. SUBURBIA - 1958
A nice, orderly tract of post-World War II housing. Identical
rows of little yards. Young MOMS. Scampering KIDS.
Then, a SUBTITLE: "TEN YEARS EARLIER"
INT. HOUSE - DAY
CU on two concerned eyes. The same eyes as the paintings. We
REVEAL they belong to a real girl: JANE, 8. She sits in her
small house -- a typical young family's, spare and
Suddenly -- Jane's mother MARGARET ULBRICH, 28, rushes through
frame. Margaret is blonde, yearning, fragile. Terribly
upset, she is hurriedly packing.
Margaret throws her clothes in a suitcase.
She shoves Jane's clothes and toys into another.
Margaret barrels through the breakfast nook, which is a mini
art studio -- easel, canvases, paints. She scoops up her
Margaret runs to the door -- then turns. The hallway is lined
with her PAINTINGS. Oils and inks of wide-eyed Jane, who
grows from baby to toddler to child. Hastily, Margaret takes
them down, each frame leaving an empty mark on the flowered
wallpaper. Finally she reaches the last spot -- a WEDDING
PHOTO: Margaret and her HUSBAND, smiling, happy.
Margaret peers -- then leaves it hanging. The door SLAMS.
EXT. HIGHWAY - DAY
Cars roar down an interstate.
INT. PACKARD - DRIVING - DAY
Margaret grips the wheel, uncertain. Jane stares. The car is
all loaded up. REFLECTIONS of passing BILLBOARDS drift across
the windshield. Images of perky, happy-fake Americans.
Margaret bites her lip. Has she made the right decision...?
EST. SAN FRANCISCO - DAY
San Francisco, 1958! A mix of SKYLINES and STOCK FOOTAGE.
EXT. FURNITURE FACTORY - DAY
A weathered building: "G & B FURNITURE SUPPLY." Margaret sits
in the Packard, fixing her lipstick. Jane holds the "WANT
ADS," a few circled. Margaret gets out and straightens her
skirt. Jane smiles.
INT. FURNITURE FACTORY - DAY
A beaten industrial office. Margaret sits anxiously, watching
the BOSS, a tired guy in a cheap suit. He glowers unsurely at
her JOB APPLICATION. Scratching his face. Hmmmm...
We don't get many ladies in here. So
your husband approves of you working?
(quiet; a soft Southern lilt)
My husband and I are separated.
A deadly silence. He squirms uncomfortably.
She presses on.
Sir, I realize I have no employment
experience... but I sure need this
job. I have a daughter to support.
I'm not very good at tooting my own
horn... but I love to paint, and if I
could just show you my portfolio...
He is baffled. Margaret pulls out a large ARTIST'S PORTFOLIO.
She opens it, riffling through the pictures...
I studied at the Watkins Art Institute
in Nashville, then took Illustration
classes in New York. Here's a pastel
I did... here's some fashion design...
a portrait in charcoal... though I
enjoy mixing mediums, preferably oil
She's alive, enthused.
The guy shakes his head.
You do understand this is a furniture
CLOSEUP - MARGARET
A strained smile.
INT. FACTORY FLOOR - LATER
Margaret works on an enamel baby crib. Under stenciled
"Humpty Dumpty," she quickly paints on a cartoonish egg man.
We WIDEN, revealing ten identical, completed cribs behind her.
We WIDEN again -- revealing a DOZEN PAINTERS. All surrounded
by identical cribs. All painting identical Humpty Dumpty's.
EXT. SAN FRANCISCO NORTH BEACH - 1958 - DAY
NORTH BEACH! An exotica of Beatniks, palm readers,
interracial couples and coffeehouses. Ground zero for the
Avant Garde. Margaret waits on a busy corner, a bit dazed,
peering at the parade of fun-loving Hipsters. Primly, she
Margaret turns -- and suddenly grins. Running up is DEE-ANN,
30, a Beat girl in a black leotard and sandals. Dee-Ann
excitedly grabs her, and they laugh and hug girlishly.
Sugar, you made it! You're in North
Deirdre, look at you!
Yeah, I know. But I hit this scene...
and "Deirdre" just sounded like
something my mother would call me.
So are you flipping for all this?!
Are you settled? How's Jane?
Jane -- is swell. She's started in a
sweet little school.
Though... it's hard without her father.
I'm not sure we can do this...
The thought hangs, and Margaret gets emotional. Teary-eyed.
Oh stop that. You're better off.
Between us, I never liked Frank.
You were a bridesmaid!
Exactly. That's why I couldn't speak
up. But if I ever see you wrong off
again, I will tell you.
Now come on. Let's have some fun.
WIDE - They start WALKING. Dee-Ann gestures.
Toss off your middle-class
preconceptions! This is Pompeii!
We're livin' in the volcano!! For
jazz, check up the hungry i. For
Italian, Vanessi's. For salvation,
try the Buddhist temple. For art, the
Six Gallery --
They pass a GALLERY. The displays are stark, Calder-like
MOBILES and found-object SCULPTURES. Margaret stares, unsure.
Do they only show Modern?
Everyone only shows Modern!
In the basement, they've got espresso.
Is that like reefer?
Dee-Ann LAUGHS, astounded.
You've got a lot to learn!
EXT. ART SHOW - DAY
A Sunday ART SHOW. It's picturesque, amateur ARTISTS
displaying their paintings, jewelry, sculpture...
The modern stalls are crowded with trendy BOHEMIANS. Abstract
lines, speckles of color. We drift away... and find Margaret,
alone in her stall with Jane. Margaret sits patiently,
surrounded by Big Eye paintings and charcoal portraits. In
contrast with the neighbors, her work seems... quaint.
A pink, chubby TOURIST FAMILY ambles over. Margaret brightens
Your stuff is cute. How much?
Today's a special: Two dollars.
I'll give you one.
Beat -- then she nods, agreeing. She gestures.
The little BOY sits. Margaret clips a fresh sheet of paper,
sharpens her charcoal... and... goes motionless. Studying the
boy's face. He gazes back.
Then -- inspired, she begins sketching his EYES. Large and
exaggerated. Then she fills in the shape of his head. His
ears. His jaw.
In a rush, his likeness appears. The parents come over to
peek -- then gasp. Margaret is good. She sketches faster.
Focused. Until a LOUD, PLUMMY VOICE drifts in...
Monet? "Monet"?! Whew -- that's a
hell of a compliment. Though, if I
may respectfully disagree, I'm more in
the tradition of Pissarro.
Margaret looks up, distracted. She resumes her work.
C'mon, get closer. Closer! Look at
that sunlight coming through the
mottled leaves. That's a bold yellow!
Curious, Margaret casually peers over...
Holding court in another booth is WALTER KEANE, 40. Walter is
astonishing: Hugely confident. Charming. Waggishly
handsome. And dressed like an "Artist" -- striped turtleneck,
with hands full of brushes.
Walter's stall is filled with oils of Paris street scenes. He
casually flirts with TWO YOUNG COEDS. They admire a painting.
You wanna touch it? Do it! I lay it
on thick -- you're not gonna break it!
I poured myself into that painting.
It's thirty-five dollars.
Walter glances over -- and notices Margaret watching him.
Shy, she quickly turns away, back to her portrait.
Walter smiles rakishly. He's found a new interest.
Excuse me, Ladies.
Walter strides up to Margaret. She peers nervously... trying
to ignore him. She sketches faster. Shading...
Walter watches. Admiring... and discreetly smelling her hair.
Margaret pays no attention. Done, she blows into a can of Fix-
It. Poosh! A fine mist sprays, setting the portrait.
Without fanfare, she humbly turns the picture.
Her customers gape, impressed. She smiles. The guy counts
out four quarters, then happily leaves.
MARGARET AND WALTER
are left together. An unspoken frisson, until --
You're better than spare change. You
shouldn't sell yourself so cheap.
I'm just glad they liked it.
Ahhh! You're past that point! Your
heart is in your work...
He leans in, too close. Margaret shivers. Breathing faster.
What's your name?
Mmm. He grins, checking her out... her loose sexy blouse and
tight black capris. She flushes.
Wouldn't you rather flirt with those
dolls over there?
I like you, Margaret...
He zeroes in on the artworks' signature: "M. Ulbrich"
You know, Margaret Ulbrich, you're
undervaluing yourself. Lemme show you
how it's done.
Walter spins to Jane. He SHOUTS out, like a carnival barker.
Little Girl! How would you like your
portrait sketched by the World-
Renowned Margaret Ulbrich?! Queen of
the Bay! In mere minutes, she will
capture your soul!
Hm. Jane shrugs, unimpressed.
(he grabs a PAINTING)
Don't you wish this were you in this
But that IS me! And that's me...
(she POINTS all over)
And that one started as me, but then
Mother turned it into a Chinese boy.
Huh? Walter peers at Jane... then at Margaret. And then --
it hits him. He grimaces, embarrassed.
Oh, you're Mommy! My apologies,
Honey. I misconstrued the situation.
Well I'll just mosey along, before Mr.
Ulbrich comes back and socks me in the
A gut decision. She stares at Walter, then smiles slyly.
Mr. Ulbrich is out of the picture...!
His face slowly lights up. Ah! Sun breaking through clouds.
EST. FRENCH BISTRO - NIGHT
INT. BISTRO - NIGHT
An enchanting bistro. Wine barrels, laughing, twinkly tivoli
lights. Perfection. Walter flamboyantly enters, escorting
Margaret. Instantly, the STAFF ERUPTS in excitement:
"Monsieur Keane! Ah, Monsieur Keane is here! Bonsoir!"
Bonsoir, gang! Henri! Sorry I didn't
call first. Est-ce que tout va bien?
Je vais bien, merci! Comment allez-
Je vais bien! I'm with a beautiful
woman! Could life be any grander??
They get led in. Margaret is dazzled. Walter whispers.
And I don't even have to pay! I'm set
because I gave the chef a painting.
You know what he said? "Nobody paints
Montmartre like Walter Keane!"
Margaret and Walter enjoy an intimate dinner. The wine flows.
I can't believe you lived in Paris.
Best time of my life...
I've never even been on an airplane.
Well you have to experience these
things! Grab 'em!!
I wanted to be an artist, so I just
went! Studied painting at the Beaux-
Arts. Lived in a Left Bank studio. I
survived on bread and wine...
You're a romantic.
A wistful shrug. He chugs his glass.
Of course, walkin' away from the
bourgeois scene wasn't a snap. I had
to quit my job. Leave my wife. These
choices aren't easy...
She stares at her wine.
I've never acted freely. I was the
daughter. The wife. The mother...
All my paintings are of Jane, because
she's all I know.
You shouldn't knock your work. I'd
give an eyetooth to have your talent.
Margaret is taken aback. He's absolutely sincere.
You can look into someone and capture
them on canvas! You paint people!
(he gestures sadly)
I can only paint -- things. My street
scenes are charming... but at the end
of the day, it's just a collection of
sidewalks and buildings.
Walter goes silent. He has revealed his fears.
ANGLE - MARGARET
She doesn't know what to say. Gently, she takes his hand.
Walter, I'd bet you could paint
Whew... Baby, when you look at me
like that, I could fall hard.
Margaret gulps. Afraid to talk.
This is moving fast. You're my first
date in a long time...
Neither of them speaks. The tension builds --
There is a spark between them...
EXT. PALACE OF FINE ARTS - DAY
A lush green knoll, overlooking the park. Margaret and Walter
have set-up TWO EASELS. They both smoke cigarettes. Margaret
is spattered with paint, stirring colors. Walter paces about,
framing the scene with his fingers.
Jane sits in front of them, playing paddleball. Bonk! Bonk!
Sweetie, could you stop fidgeting?
Mother, after all this time, you MUST
know what my face looks like.
Margaret winces. Walter laughs. She gets busy, penciling in
LARGE OVAL EYES. Then -- quick marks for the mouth and nose.
Impatient, Jane spies on Walter's canvas.
Hey! Your canvas is blank!
Er, you can't rush inspiration --
Jane! Don't bother Mr. Keane. You
know creativity has to well up from
Don't worry. She's not bothering
Walter leaves Jane. He points at Margaret's canvas.
There's something I gotta ask you.
What's with the big crazy eyes...?
I believe things can be seen in eyes.
They're the windows of the soul --
Yeah, but, c'mon! You draw 'em like
pancakes! I mean, they're WAY out of
He's having fun, but she remains serious.
Eyes are how I express my emotions.
That's how I've always drawn them.
When I was little, I had surgery that
left me deaf for a period. I couldn't
hear, so I found myself staring...
Relying on people's eyes...
She smiles shyly. Understanding, he smiles back. Then --
Walter? Hey -- Walt!
Walter spins, startled. A FRIENDLY GUY in a suit strolls up.
I thought that was you!
Oh! Uh... er, hi, Don.
Boy, I'm glad to see you! Have we
heard back from the city, on that
setback? My guys really need the
variance, for the first floor retail.
Walter is mortified. He turns away from Margaret.
Um... we should hear from Permits by
Yeah? Well that's terrif'! I'll tell
Pleased, the guy cheerily strides away.
ON WALTER AND MARGARET
He is stricken. Something ominous just happened.
What was that??
I -- I didn't want you to know...
A long, horrible pause. Walter's face turns gray. We SLOWLY
PUSH IN. This revelation is churning. Agony.
I'm in commercial real estate.
A stunned beat.
You're a -- Realtor?
YES! A hugely successful Realtor!
Top earner in the Downtown office
three years running!
And you're... ashamed?
Of course! Any blockhead can arrange
All I ever wanted was to support
myself as an artist...
I tried to make a clean break, but
couldn't cut it. I'm just a goddam
Sunday painter. An amateur.
Margaret looks at him, touched by his vulnerability.
INT. MARGARET'S APARTMENT - DUSK
End of the day. Golden light slants in through the windows of
this small tidy apartment.
The door opens. Margaret holds it for Walter, who
chivalrously staggers in, carrying all her supplies: Easel,
paints, cans. He carefully puts it all down -- then turns.
Beat. Walter stares at Margaret, their faces caught in the
warm light. Then, enchanted, he kisses her.
Margaret smiles, captivated. Caught in his glow. The moment
could last forever...
IN THE DOORWAY
Jane stares unhappily. Threatened.
She turns, startled. Feeling guilty, Margaret rushes from
Walter. Busying herself, she skims through the MAIL.
Jane shakes her head and marches out.
Margaret flips through envelopes -- until one stops her. On
edge, she slowly removes an official DOCUMENT. She scans
it... and her face drops. Crushed. Something terrible...
Walter is worried.
Frank wants to take away Jane. He
says I'm an unfit mother...
Walter is taken aback.
You're a perfect mother.
He told the court Jane doesn't have a
proper home. It's beyond my abilities
as a single woman...
Margaret trails off, shaken.
Walter gulps unsurely. Then, he takes her in his arms. We
SLOWLY PUSH IN.
Walter! I --
(he puts a finger to her lips)
Shh. Don't think of a reason to say
no. 'Cause I've got a million reasons
to say yes.
(he gives a winning smile)
I know it makes no sense!
But just think of the fun we'll
have..! And I'll take care of you
Margaret stammers, speechless. She doesn't know what to say.
Walter pulls out his ace. In a debonair move, he creakily
drops to his knee. He exudes a hammy, wonderful romance:
Margaret, I'm on my knee! C'mon,
whatdya say? Let's get married! We
can be in Hawaii by the weekend.
Walter, I'm crazy about you... but I'm
overwhelmed. Why would we go to
Because you're a princess... and you
deserve to get married in paradise.
CLOSEUP - MARGARET
Margaret shudders, tears in her eyes. Hawaiian MUSIC begins...
STOCK FOOTAGE - DAY
A propeller-driven PAN AM airplane soars through the sky.
EXT. HAWAII - DAY
Hawaii, 1958. Heaven on earth. Blossoming flowers, rare
birds, lush greenery. Margaret is experiencing total bliss.
We widen. She and Walter stand in front of a waterfall,
getting married. Jane is Maid-of-Honor. A PRIEST smiles, and
Walter places a ring on Margaret's finger. They kiss.
EXT. BEACH - SUNSET
Margaret and Walter lie on the sand, making out. Cuddling,
running their fingers along each other's bodies. She stares
up, endlessly happy.
You're right... this is paradise.
Only God could make those colors.
I knew you'd love it.
Oh, can't we stay here forever??
Well, I don't know about forever. But
maybe... I can arrange another week.
EXT. HOTEL GROUNDS - DAY
Thatched umbrellas, Polynesian fun. Margaret is set-up,
drawing PORTRAITS of the GUESTS. Walter regales them as they
wait. Joking, gregariously handing out Mai-Tais.
Margaret finishes a picture. She beams at Walter... then
signs the picture "KEANE."
Walter gapes, astonished at this gesture. Margaret lock eyes
with him. She smiles girlishly, radiating happiness.
INT. CHINESE RESTAURANT - DAY
Old school Cantonese: Dragons and red lacquer. Margaret eats
lunch with Dee-Ann, showing off SNAPSHOTS from the trip.
This is a waterfall... the air was so
fresh you could taste it. Here's an
ancient altar... that statue is Kane,
the god of creation. I said a prayer
to him. Oh! Here's Walter and Janie,
building a sandcastle --
Dee-Ann raises an eyebrow.
This is all happening mighty quick.
In the time you moved here, I've had
two dates. You're already married.
I thought there was a void in my life.
Well... Walter's filled it.
Walter's filled a lot of things. He's
diddled every skirt on the art circuit.
You're talking about my husband!
I know! That's why I brought it up.
Margaret frowns, insulted.
I'm not naive.
(beat; she laughs)
Well, I am naive. But I know the man
I'm marrying. Walter can act rash...
but he's a good provider. And he's
wonderful with Jane.
Look -- we're both looking for a fresh
start. I'm a divorcee with a child.
Walter is a blessing.
Dee-Ann bites her tongue. The WAITER brings over the check.
Sitting on it are TWO FORTUNE COOKIES.
Hm. Margaret stares, utterly serious. She reaches for one...
then impulsively grabs the other. She cracks the cookie. Dee-
Ann waits, curious. Margaret reads... then slowly smiles.
"You are on the threshold of untold
INT. ART GALLERY - DAY
A Modish, happening gallery. The white walls are hung with
ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONISM: Slashing angles of color, painted over
rags and glued bolts. On the floor is SCULPTURE made from
wood and wire.
In charge is RUBEN, a fussy man in a goatee. He's schmoozing
a FANCY LADY. They look at a spattered, distorted painting.
What's brilliant about the composition
is its spontaneity. The image has no
visual center of attention.
It's quite gestural.
Oh definitely! Strongly influenced by
I heard Tab Hunter was in here,
looking at one.
Well... I'm not allowed to say...
He NODS HIS HEAD up-and-down: Yes, you're right.
A car backfires. Ruben turns -- and winces.
Through the windows is Walter, climbing out of his massive
white Cadillac. He's all done up, in beret and scarf. He
opens the giant trunk and removes a pile of paintings.
Ruben cringes knowingly. He whispers:
Oh Christ, don't come in here. Please
don't come in here...
The door SLAMS. Walter loudly barges in.
Ruben, good day! Do you got a minute?
Walter. In polite society, the word
(glancing back and forth)
Uh, I could come back later...
She anxiously hurries for the door. Ruben fumes.
Walter ignores it all and starts laying out his wares. First,
the Parisian street scenes, one after another...
You're gonna love my stuff today.
Haven't I seen that one before?
Nah! That was painted in the Fifth
Arrondissement. This is the Sixth
I don't understand. You lived in
Paris for a week. How can you still
be cranking out paintings?
Walter laughs. He points to his head.
It's all up here.
(beat; a sentimental
He points to his heart. Ruben frowns and points to the wall.
Well, it's not going up here.
Walter, you know we don't go for that
representational jazz! You're too
Hey, Art isn't fashion!
Yes it IS!
People want Kandinsky, or Rothko!
They don't want goopy street scenes.
CLOSEUP - WALTER
Ouch! This stings terribly.
Walter glares at the man, then softly slides aside his works.
Quietly, he pulls out Margaret's Big Eye paintings.
Would they want... this?
Good God! You've entered a new
No... they're my wife's.
Fascinated, Ruben glances through Margaret's oils. Canvas
after canvas of sad kiddies against gray, bleak backgrounds.
Why are their eyes so big?! They're
like big stale jellybeans.
It's Expressionism. Surely you
Well -- I'm just glad you two found
So... what do you say?
Ruben looks up, amazed. Walter seems oblivious.
I say, NO! It's not art.
Not -- "art"??
It's like the back of a magazine!
"Draw the turtle! Send in a nickel
and win the Big Contest!"
How dare you! Lots of people would
Well, nobody who's walking through the
door of this gallery!
Now please! Clear out this clutter,
before the taste police arrives.
Walter's jaw drops.
EXT. HUNGRY I MARQUEE - NIGHT
"The hungry i" -- the hottest nightclub around, so hip it's in
a basement. The marquee says "Cal Tjader, TONIGHT!"
INT. HUNGRY I SHOWROOM - NIGHT
A swinging mob of BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE -- suits, gowns and pearls.
CAL TJADER'S BAND is crazed: Vibes and bongo-driven JAZZ.
Margaret and Walter are squeezed at a table. She nurses a
Grasshopper. Walter's in a foul mood, CHUGGING cocktails.
We'll never break in...! Because
there's a CABAL. A secret society of
gallery owners and critics, who get
together for Sunday brunch in
Sausalito, deciding what's "cool."
They're like Freemasons. No, worse!
McCarthy, in his hearings: "That
painter, I anoint. That painter, I
banish to nowheresville!"
Heartfelt, Margaret disagrees.
I think people buy art because it
touches them --
Heh! You're livin' in fairy land!
People don't get to discover a thing.
They buy art, because it's in the
right place at the right time.
O.s., MUSIC BUILDS. Muddled, Walter turns. He looks -- and
then -- his eyes light up. He is getting an idea...
The band speeds to a climax, the percussion throbbing. Then,
a final, crazed note. BAM!!
The crowd APPLAUDS. The club's owner, ENRICO BANDUCCI, bounds
on stage. Banducci is a theatrical, natty Italian guy with a
skinny moustache and loud personality. He grabs a mike.
Give it up for Cal Tjader! That set
was HUMMIN'! Al-aright, be sure to
stick around for the one a.m. show!
The house lights come up. Banducci hops down, greeting
guests, making his way out -- when Walter glides up.
Hey, Banducci. I love the music
tonight. It's a gas.
Oh. Thanks, thanks.
I'm Walter Keane. I'm a painter.
I was looking at your walls, and
they're pretty plain.
Really? Hm...! Maybe you're right.
What color were you thinking?
Huh? Walter holds his composure.
No -- I'm an artist. I used to be
based on the Left Bank. But now I've
relocated to the "States," and I'm
looking for an... exhibition venue.
Beat. Banducci frowns.
I like my club the way it is. Your
stuff's so hot, go put it in a museum.
Okay! I respect that. You're a
businessman, not a charity! So how
'bout if I, uh... rented your walls?
Hm?! Banducci raises an eyebrow.
INT. BERKELEY APARTMENT - DAY
Walter's swanky pad is CHAOS, filled with cameras and lights.
A PHOTOGRAPHER runs around, tweaking equipment.
Walter's at an easel, putting the final touches on a PAINTING
of a French street scene. He gabs on the PHONE.
Yes! The paintings are available for
public viewing daily, from 7 to 3!
(an awkward beat)
Er, no. 3 a.m. It's in a nightclub.
(he hangs up)
Maggie! It's promotion time! We
gotta lay the racket!
Margaret puts on a smock, a bit dumbfounded. Walter spatters
some paint on his shirt. He grins, then holds up his brush
and SIGNS the painting: "W. KEANE"
Margaret forces a "cheese" smile, with her Waif. FLASH! The
INT. HUNGRY I - NIGHT
CU - A cheery BROCHURE, "Meet the Keanes!" There's a staged
PHOTO: Walter at his street scene, Margaret at her Waif.
Then -- a SHOE steps on it. We WIDEN... revealing the
brochure on the sticky floor of...
THE CLUB! It throbs with frolicking CUSTOMERS. We move
through the pack. To a rear concrete hallway... to a sign
with an arrow: "TOILETS." We go down the hall... into...
A DINGY CORRIDOR
The Keane paintings hang here. The only human in sight is
Walter, forlorn at a card table. Brochures are stacked, and
he wears a sailor coat with a dandyish ascot.
The image is grim. Walter listens to the raucous mob. Until,
THUMP! -- a sloshed MAN stumbles in. Walter brightens and
Ah, beautiful! An art lover! Yes
sir, how may I help you?
I'm, uh, just looking for the john.
A terrible pause. Walter swallows his outrage... then points.
The guy smiles and tosses Walter a BUCK, as a tip. Walter is
stunned. The guy toddles away.
Beat. The Ladies Room opens, and TWO GOSSIPY WOMEN rush out,
oblivious to Walter. He glowers. ANOTHER MAN bounds in,
right up to one of Walter's paintings! He stops at it.
Walter gathers a moment of hope. Does he like it?
Then the man leans down and opens a CLOSET. He removes a tray
of bar glasses, kicks the door shut, and scoots away.
ANGLE - WALTER
He grimaces... beaten. Walter drops his head on the table.
Not noticing a DRUNK COUPLE stagger in. They pass a Waif,
then halt -- taken. They lean in. Enthralled... concerned...
Look at that child. She's so sad.
Is she poor..?
She's forgotten! It just makes me
want to cry.
(she peers at the
signature, then turns)
Are you "Keane"?
Walter lifts his head from the table.
Well you're a hell of a painter.
Walter squints, confused, then beams. Joy! Happiness
bursting like a little child.
Why, thank you...! Thank you so much!
Your work is very powerful. There's
so much emotion in those eyes.
OUCH! Walter's smile collapses.
Is something wrong?
Huh? Uh... no. No. I just didn't
realize you meant... the waif.
(beat; he CHUCKLES)
Oh, I get it...! The artist doesn't
wanna part with his favorite piece...
The man winks, then pulls out a WAD OF BILLS.
Walter stares morosely.
INT. HUNGRY I - LATER
Walter sits at the bar, toasted, drinking. In a dark place.
His misery is interrupted by happy Banducci, groping two GALS.
Hello, Picasso! Nice crowd, eh?
You wouldn't know it from that broom
closet you parked me in.
Hey, it's prime thoroughfare! People
drink, they gotta relieve themselves.
"Location, location, location..."
Walter wallows in self-loathing. Suddenly, he explodes.
It's INSULTING! When people see art,
they shouldn't think of SHIT!
Whoah! Watch it with the purple
language. We got ladies present --!
Banducci PUSHES Walter away.
In reaction, Walter sloppily SMACKS him.
Riled, Banducci suddenly takes a SWING! Walter stumbles, and
Banducci's punch accidently HITS the GIRL.
Ow! She topples. Walter gasps.
He SWATS Banducci -- then RUNS! Cameras FLASH. Wild whoops.
Walter barrels down the hall, Banducci chasing. The brawl's
gone nuts. Walter grabs a Waif and SMASHES it over Banducci's
head. CRASH! Banducci drops.
INSERT - SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER
The front page! A small headline says "BISTRO BRAWL: BANDUCCI
AND ARTIST SLUGFEST." Below are two PHOTOS: Walter mid-punch,
and Banducci unconscious, sticking out of the Big Eye.
EXT. POLICE STATION - DAWN
A neighborhood precinct, quiet at 6 a.m. Doors open, and
Margaret leads Walter out. She's seething. He's bruised,
with a mortified drunk-tank, slept-in-my-clothes swagger.
I've never posted bail before.
Silence. He has no idea what to say. His aplomb crumbles.
I'm -- I'm sorry. Banducci... laughed
at our work. ...So I socked him.
Since when are you thin-skinned?
Artists have to handle criticism.
You're right! I know. But... I was
already in a bad place. I'd had a
couple... and earlier...
I let some guy think I painted your
Beat. Margaret is stupefied.
I don't understand. Why would you do
such a thing?!
It was a misunderstanding. And then,
I didn't want to jinx the sale.
He shrugs feebly. She frowns.
Don't ever do it again.
INT. HUNGRY I - NIGHT
The club is a ZOO. PARTYERS swarm the door, trying to enter.
Suddenly, Walter pushes his way down the outside stairs. The
DOORMAN starts to protest, but Walter somberly waves him off.
Don't give me a hard time. I'm just
grabbing my stuff...
Across the packed room, he spots Banducci with a black eye.
Walter halts, uncertain. A bristling tension...
Until -- Banducci suddenly rushes and GRABS him! Walter
flails, freaked. Banducci DRAGS him into a back kitchen --
INT. CLUB KITCHEN
Banducci shuts the door, looks around... then suddenly LAUGHS!
He grins manically and pulls Walter into a hearty HUG.
Can you believe this? We're sold out,
and I don't even have a headliner!!
Hell, it's a Monday!
Walter blinks, lost. Banducci explains.
Dope, we made the front page!! People
are here, cause they wanna see the
sappy paintings that made grown men
A moment of discombobulation... until -- Walter slowly grins.
INT. CLUB - SECONDS LATER
The two men suddenly tumble into view, SCREAMING.
I'll see you in COURT, you son of a
bitch! I'm suing you for assault!
Slander! False arrest!!
Banducci storms away.
Walter shudders, "upset." CUSTOMERS peer at him... then at
the paintings. Curious, they migrate that way...
Walter glances sideways. Gauging their reactions...
Until -- a swinging middle-aged guy in horn rims and a suit
lopes up. DICK NOLAN: A man who hides his bored emptiness
under a veneer of booze and broads. Dick leans in.
Yes sir! Whew. That was quite a load
of horseshit you gents were layin' out
Dick Nolan. The Examiner.
Walter freezes up. Until -- Dick grins conspiratorially.
Hey pal, don't lose any sleep. I eat
this stuff with a spoon! It gives me
something to type about, in my column.
(he laughs, relieved)
I thought you only did celebrities.
Well, Banducci's famous -- and you hit
him! So you're a celebrity, once-
Buy me a drink?
Huh? Uh, sure --
Dick smoothly drags him to the bar. Dick waves the bartender.
Gary! I'll have a Ward Eight, in a
frosted high boy. My friend'll have
(he beams, then turns)
So! Walter, tell me about your work --
Well, when I was in Paris...
Jesus, not those! I mean the little
What?! Walter frowns, peeved. He considers this indignity...
then decides to stomach it. He smiles fakely, effusively.
What do you wanna know...?!
INT. BERKELEY APARTMENT - LATE NIGHT
Margaret is asleep. Suddenly Walter bursts in, drunk and
jocular. He FLIPS on the lights.
Ding-a-ling! Wake up, we're a HIT!
Margaret rolls over, groggy. Walter jumps on the bed,
grinning. He tosses her a HANDFUL OF MONEY.
What a night! I sold out all your Big
She rubs her eyes, amazed.
There must be two-hundred dollars...
They adore you! Cause of that
article, the joint was PACKED. And
then, a famous journalist showed up,
and -- I need more paintings! Now!
He hungrily KISSES her. She laughs.
Walter, they take at least a week.
There's layering, shading --
Of course! But, this is opportunity!
Ah, we're gonna make a crackerjack
team: Me schmoozing up the club, while
you're back here, doing what you love!
She stares at him -- then smiles. MUSIC...
INT. APARTMENT - NIGHT
Margaret happily paints away. At peace, lost in her art...
INT. HUNGRY I - NIGHT
Walter sells Big Eyes. Shoving cash into a cigar box.
INT. APARTMENT - DAY
Margaret works, HUMMING serenely. On the easel is a half-
finished blonde girl in a blue dress.
INT. TAILOR'S - DAY
Walter buys a new suit. A TAILOR measures him.
INT. APARTMENT - LATE NIGHT
Margaret finishes painting a sad boy, using a fine brush to
add a watery rim to his eyes. Magically, this detail brings
the picture to life. She's pleased.
Margaret signs "KEANE." There are two finished canvases, the
sad little girl and boy. Margaret smiles, her heart swelling.
She loves them. Then, she looks about. Nobody is there to
share the moment.
Hm. She thinks -- then picks up the PHONE. She dials.
Mrs. Cava, I'm sorry to bother you so
late... but would you mind watching
INT. TAXI - NIGHT
Margaret rides in the back seat, smiling, her gaze faraway.
She proudly hugs the bundled paintings to her chest.
INT. HUNGRY I - NIGHT
The club is pounding. Margaret enters the throng, carrying
her work. She looks up -- and has her breath taken away. The
ENTIRE CLUB, EVERY WALL, IS NOW HUNG WITH KEANE PAINTINGS!
Whoa...! Pure joy envelops her.
Then -- she gets jostled. Margaret notices Walter holding
court with some GROUPIES. She approaches, unnoticed:
...yeah, eyes are powerful. A poet
said they're the windows of the soul.
Margaret smiles, touched. She comes closer....
They hold so much feeling.
You got it! That's why I paint 'em so
I've always done it that way.
CLOSEUP - MARGARET
She GASPS, stunned. The room starts spinning.
If you like this style, I'm working on
a few new pieces. I've got a little
blonde girl in a blue dress that'll
tear your heart out.
ANGLE - MARGARET
Her face goes ashen. Dizzy, she clutches for support.
What to do?? Overcome, she shrinks away... disappearing...
ending up alone in a corner. She cowers, childlike.
ACROSS THE ROOM
Walter LAUGHS at a joke, then backslaps the group. He
jovially strides away... passing by Margaret... when --
He spins -- shocked at her presence.
Hey, uh, what are you doing here? I
Why are you lying?
For once, Walter has no answer.
She bores in, emotions racing. Confused. Hurt.
You're taking credit for something
that isn't yours.
He looks ill. Wheels spinning, looking for an out --
I was... trying to close the deal --
Those children are part of my being!
I'm just a salesman! You know, buyers
pay more if they meet the painter --
They couldn't meet me, because you
told me to stay home!!
He grabs her, pulling her behind a curtain. He's desperate.
Don't blow this! Look, we're makin'
money! Your pocket, my pocket?
What's the difference?!
You take this so lightly --
Not all all! But it's not about ego!
You wanna say you did the street
scenes? Fine! I don't care! Say a
monkey painted it!
She breaks into tears, sobbing.
I'm glad you can dash off your pieces
without any emotional connection...!
Ah, honey! I just wanna share them
with the world!
Would you rather have your children
piled in a closet... or hanging in
someone's living room?
Then -- FLASH! FLASH! FLASH!
Walter turns. And -- his eyes pop, astonished.
AT THE DOOR
Is an incredible sight. Like a moment from "La Dolce Vita," a
fabulously dressed ITALIAN MAN with THREE BLONDES floats down
the stairs, into the club. Cameras FLASH.
Walter gapes, transfixed. He grabs Banducci.
Hey. Who is that remarkably handsome
and confident man?
That's Dino Olivetti -- as in Olivetti
Don't even try, Walter. He doesn't
speak a lick of English.
Walter stares hungrily.
ANGLE - OLIVETTI
glides into the club -- a vision of perfection with his slick
hair and sunglasses. He approaches closer, closer... when he
gets distracted. By one of Margaret's Big Eye PAINTINGS.
Walter gasps. He nudges Margaret.
Olivetti peers at the artwork. Intrigued. Then -- excited.
He starts gesturing and yapping in ITALIAN. The Blondes shout
back. Everyone is getting worked-up.
The big-bosomed Blonde turns to Walter.
Mr. Olivetti is enchanted with the
painting. He would like to know...
who is the artist?
ANGLE - MARGARET AND WALTER
The moment of truth. Margaret opens her mouth... and no sound
comes out. She clenches up. Stomach tight. Mute.
Walter gives her a second -- tick tock tick tock. Then -- he
leaps into Opportunity. He SMACKS his hands.
Walter swoops over and grabs Olivetti in a hearty clasp.
It's a delight to meet you, Signore!
Buon giorno! Have you been an art
lover for long..?
We move in tight on MARGARET, as the SOUND DIALS DOWN.
I call that piece "The Waif." Isn't
it striking? With its juxtaposition
of girl, cat, and stairs... and its
almost Flemish use of underpigment...
The SOUND dims... then goes SILENT.
Margaret stares in shock, unmoving.
Time seems to stop. She is frozen in grief. Until --
Baby! Baby! Can you believe it?!!
Time has passed. Walter happily clutches Margaret.
We made five grand!! Five THOUSAND
And that wasn't even one of your good
Margaret blinks, lost.
In the b.g., Olivetti holds the painting, now wrapped-up in
newspaper and twine. A pleased customer.
Margaret's face darkens.
Don't you mean... one of your good
No. No no! One of -- OUR good ones.
(the spirit of generosity,
he hands her a CHECK)
Look at those zeroes! We've hit the
big time! We are now hanging in the
collection of Italian industrialist
Dino Olivetti! With his patronage
comes credibility! And with
credibility comes RESPECT!
Margaret stares at the check in her hands. At all the zeroes.
What about... honesty?
Aw c'mon! The paintings say "Keane"!
I'm Keane, you're Keane. From now on,
we are one and the same.
Walter pulls her tight. She doesn't resist.
SERIES OF SHOTS:
INT. APARTMENT - DAY
Upbeat MUSIC. Walter frantically tosses all the BROCHURES of
him and Margaret into a FIREPLACE. They burn to ash.
INSERT - NEWSPAPER
We ZOOM into Dick Nolan's SOCIETY COLUMN. Under a caricature
of Dick is a highlighted ITEM. We hear TYPING:
DICK'S HUSHED VOICE
"What exactly is local painter Walter
Keane up to? My spies tell me a big
announcement is forthcoming...!"
EXT. CITY HALL - DAY
Walter proudly hands a painting to the confused-looking MAYOR.
On behalf of the children of the
world, we present this painting to
EXT. PUBLIC BUILDING - DAY
Walter thrusts a painted Ballerina at a SOVIET DIPLOMAT.
In the interest of peace through
culture, we donate this painting to
the people of Russia!
INT. PHONEBOOTH - NIGHT
Dick whispers into a phone.
The Purple Onion. 9:30. Joan
Crawford has a dinner reservation.
INT. PURPLE ONION - NIGHT
JOAN CRAWFORD is eating with friends. Suddenly Walter lunges
into view, startling her. He lugs a painting.
Miss Crawford! In recognition of your
cinematic craft, we bestow this
painting, "The Lion and the Child"!
INT. APARTMENT - DAY
Margaret paints. Walter beams.
Joan said "Marvelous"! MARVELOUS!
That's worth more than 1000 critics!
(he CLAPS his hands)
Hey, maybe she'll come to our opening.
But... isn't it strange? Artists get
shown. They don't build their own
Says who?! Like John Q. Public cares?
He's FED UP with abstract neoformalism!
She responds -- but he sexily puts his finger to her mouth.
He digs real art. Your art! It's
beautiful. You're beautiful...
Walter starts rubbing against her, dancing sensually. She
laughs, embarrassed, her wet paint brushes smearing his chest.
She relents and relaxes. They dance around...
EXT. CITY STREETS - EARLY MORNING
In the shadows, POSTERS of "The Waif" get glued up. Under her
woeful face, it says "KEANE GALLERY 494 Broadway." We WIDEN,
as Walter, Margaret and Jane hastily slap up the posters.
They carry glue buckets and a ladder.
Ruben's gonna choke when he sees this!
Little Jane tiredly glues another poster. She yawns.
I remember when Momma painted that.
Suddenly, Margaret freezes. She hadn't anticipated this.
Margaret looks to Walter. He stares back, waiting.
Are you -- sure? That was a long time
Sure I'm sure! It was in our old
apartment, and you had me sit on a
stool in the kitchen --
No, dear, I'm afraid you're confused.
I painted that one --
No, Mother did! Look! I'm wearing my
L-lots of girls have that dress...
Margaret trails off, sickened. Not knowing how to lie.
Walter takes charge. He kneels, then smiles gently at Jane.
You have a good eye, sweetie. I
painted it, but I was trying to mimic
your mother's style. You know, the
style she USED to paint in.
CLOSEUP - JANE
A loooooong pause. She examines the print. Then... she nods.
Well you did a really good job.
EXT. SAN FRANCISCO NORTH BEACH - DAY
CU on the Waif. We widen, revealing the ENTIRE WORLD has been
hijacked, blanketed by THE POSTERS. People gape -- astonished
Disconnected from it all, strolling alone, is Margaret. She
is burdened by her own thoughts. Regretful...
Across the street, she sees a GOTHIC CHURCH. She stares up,
awed by the beauty. It's Catholic imagery in all its glory:
Saints... Jesus... Mary...
Suddenly -- the bells RING. Hm. Margaret takes a step...
INT. CHURCH CONFESSION BOOTH - DAY
Margaret tentatively enters and kneels. Beat -- then the
grille OPENS. She reacts, discomposed.
Hello. I've -- never really done this
before. I'm not sure how you...
I was raised Methodist. If it's a
problem, I can go --
She starts to stand. The Priest blurts out.
No, no! Please. We don't chase
What is troubling you?
Margaret takes a breath.
I lied to my child.
Why would you do that?
My husband... he pressured me into
I've never lied to her before. I'm
not that kind of person.
Is your husband that kind of person?
Ummm, no. I don't think of him that
way. I mean, he likes to tell
stories... maybe he exaggerates a
little... but he's a good man.
He takes care of us. He wants to make
enough money to buy our family a
But what of the child? Will this lie
bring harm to her?
"Harm"?? Oh! Not at all.
I'm just looking for answers...
The Priest considers this.
Well, the modern world is a
PRIEST'S VOICE (CONT'D)
Occasionally, children need to be
sheltered from certain truths.
N-no. That's not what --
It sounds like your husband is trying
to make the best of an imperfect
You were raised Christian, so you know
what we are taught: The man is head of
Perhaps you should trust his judgment.
INT. KEANE GALLERY - NIGHT
Opening night! The gallery is packed with the IN CROWD: Rich
and drinking. The space is cool -- the walls bright white,
the art hanging under spotlights. JAZZ plays on the stereo.
At one painting, a HIPSTER COUPLE stares at the image of a
sorrowful girl holding an armful of poodle puppies.
I think it's creepy, maudlin and
Exactly. I love it.
We move in tight on the painting. Underneath is a tag:
"BEDTIME, by WALTER KEANE. Oil on canvas."
We drift along, to another painting: "CALICO CAT, by WALTER
KEANE." Then, another: "IN THE GARDEN, by WALTER KEANE."
Every painting is now by Walter Keane.
We move along... finding the Tipsy Man chatting up Dick.
We got in early. We own three.
He tosses his empty to a PASSING LADY. We reveal the waitress
is... Margaret. She carries a tray of pigs-in-a-blanket.
Margaret looks shell-shocked -- faking a happy party face.
A burst of LAUGHTER. Margaret turns.
Walter and a group ROAR at a joke. A SEXY GIRL hands Walter
one of the promo posters. He beams and lays it across her
back... hugging her waist to "steady" himself as he signs.
BACK ON MARGARET
She frowns. Dee-Ann slides into view, slurping champagne.
Hey, baby! Killer party! It's a hap-
pen-ing...! So, where's your stuff?
Oh. Um, we decided that this would be
Walter's show --
Oh "we" did?? And why would "we" do
Well... he's more established.
Please! Is that you talking, or did
you just turn into a little felt
puppet with someone's hand up your
Margaret is befuddled.
Dee-Ann scopes out the artwork.
It's strange... Walter doesn't strike
me as the cute hungry kitten type...
Thanks for coming.
Margaret grabs a drink and hurries away.
Dee-Ann stands there, irked.
Margaret cuts over to Walter. We MOVE IN TIGHT ON THE COUPLE.
He grins and grabs her.
Ah, my sweet! Are you enjoying the
(he gives her a kiss)
Give a hand to my beautiful wife.
Without her, none of tonight would be
The crowd APPLAUDS politely, condescendingly.
Margaret smiles strangely. The Tipsy Man leans in.
Your husband's quite a talent.
Do you paint, too?
Margaret freezes up, terribly awkward.
I don't... know.
A NOSY GUY corners him in front of a painted child.
I'm curious about your technique. How
long did that piece take to execute?
That? Oh, wow. Probably... months.
First the thinking, the sketching, and
then time with just me and the oils.
"Oils"? But isn't that acrylic...?
Huh? Walter glances at the painting, startled.
Oh --! You mean that painting! Uhh,
sorry! It's like a jumble of ideas,
rattling around in my brain!
So where do you get your ideas?
What do you mean?
I mean --
(confused at this confusion)
Why are they... images of children?
Yikes. Walter starts to sweat. He didn't think this through.
Well, er, I've just always loved kids.
Though mostly I was influenced by my
An odd beat.
I remember when she was a baby...
Walter gets a far-off look.
Yeah. Cute little thing. I'd stare
into those big orbs. Sometimes I'd
get out my Brownie and snap a photo...
but... that's not subjective. You
know? It doesn't capture your
feelings. So that's when I started
We hold on Walter, unsure where reality begins and ends...
INT. BERKELEY APARTMENT - DAY
CU on a fuzzy TV SCREEN: A PRIGGISH MAN is griping. The
screen is captioned "JOHN CANADAY, NY TIMES ART CRITIC"
CANADAY (ON TV)
Keane's work is completely without
distinction. He is not a member of
the Society of Western Artists. He
has won no awards. He's only
noteworthy for his appearances in a
certain newspaper's gossip column!
Mr. Keane is why society NEEDS critics!
To protect them from such atrocities!
Walter gapes at the TV, outraged. He suddenly grabs a PHONE.
IN THE LIVING ROOM
Jane is BANGING on a closed door.
Mom! I wanna come in.
Uhh, you can't. Mommy's busy.
(she BANGS again)
Let me in! What are you doing in
there? Why's the door always locked?
Walter enters -- and reacts. He glides over to the girl.
Janie, sweetie, you need to respect
your mother's privacy. Sometimes
grownups need alone time.
Is that the ice cream truck? Why don't
you go get yourself a fudgesicle?
Walter tosses her a dime. She peers warily, then leaves.
He waits a beat -- then pulls out a KEY. Walter discreetly
unlocks the painting room.
INT. APARTMENT PAINTING ROOM - SAME TIME
It's a factory. Big Eyes are everywhere. Margaret frenziedly
works, surrounded by half-done canvases, solvents, easels.
She's in a bathrobe -- a cigarette hanging from her lips.
Startled, she looks up to see Walter.
He gazes at all the art. At the bulbous faces, eyes watery
and submissive, trapped in muddy yellows and dire browns. And
then... Walter grins broadly.
Whew! Out of this world...!
I dunno. I'm not really comfortable
with this. Jane and I used to be so
close... but -- now...
Ah, Jane's grand! She's eating ice
cream! She has new shoes. She has a
Maybe I'm lightheaded from the
turpentine. I've been in here all day.
Well I don't want you feeling like a
prisoner. Take a break!
Walter glances at one PAINTING -- then does a take.
ANGLE - PAINTING
It's a child in a rusty alley, staring, aching for compassion.
And, starting to cry. A single tear streams down her cheek.
Is that a tear...? You've gone deep!
Margaret bites her fingers, worried.
Do you -- like it?
I love it! ...How'd you get the eyes
so lifelike? Is it the highlights?
No. The secret is the shadow. I
shadowed the eyelid.
Margaret smiles shyly. Walter smiles back, full of warmth.
He takes her face in his hands.
I owe you an apology. I was initially
dismissive of your kids, those emotion-
wrenching blobs of humanity... but
they have a real strength.
Is that your best version of
I'm trying! Ah, you know me. See --
this is why I need your help! I want
to go on tv, to defend our art.
You're going to be on television?!
Yes! But... what will I say??
Meaning -- what compels me... to
paint... these paintings??
A bizarre pause. The two of them look around the room. At
all the Big Eyes peering down at them.
Maybe you have an unhealthy obsession
with little girls.
I guess you've painted yourself into a
Funny! Keep 'em coming! You're a
regular Steve Allen. You want heat
this winter? Help me out!
Walter... art is personal.
Walter picks up a picture of TWO LITTLE GIRLS IN TUTUS. He
What would make a grown man paint a
picture like this?!
No answer. He thinks of stories, wheels spinning.
I grew up, surrounded by six sisters.
I grew up in an orphanage?
I grew up... in a world where adults
had vanished, and children and kittens
ran wild over the desolate landscape!
What about your Paris street scenes?
Why do you paint those?
Well, because... I lived it! I
(calling his bluff)
And was it really all sun-dappled
streets and flower vendors?
Huh? Walter stares off at the Waifs. They peer out from
broken windows... chain-link fences...
And then -- he gets it.
Well -- NO! Of course not. It was
after the War. There was destruction
I traveled the Continent. The ravages
INSERT - FULL FRAME TV SCREEN
Walter is on TV, on a LOCAL PUBLIC AFFAIRS SHOW. He's coated
with makeup, sitting rigidly, fingers gripping his chair.
WALTER (ON TV)
My psyche was scarred in my art
student days. Nothing in my life has
ever made such an impact as the sight
of the children: War-wracked
innocents, without homes, without
parents, fighting over garbage...
He sits in a half-circle of PROPER WOMEN, who are spellbound.
WALTER (ON TV)
Goaded by a frantic despair, I
sketched these dirty, ragged little
victims... with their bruised minds
and bodies, their matted hair and
runny noses. There my life as a
painter began in earnest.
Walter sadly looks up to the HOST.
The man is shellshocked. Mute. Walter waits, then sighs.
WALTER (ON TV)
The insane, inhuman cruelty inflicted
upon these children cut deeply into my
being. From that moment on, I painted
the lost children with the eyes.
Those eyes that forever retained their
The ladies are stricken. A few dab their eyes.
EXT. SAN FRANCISCO - DAY
Keane posters get RIPPED off a wall.
RIPPED off a mailbox. PULLED off a construction site!
EXT. KEANE GALLERY - NEXT DAY
Walter strides along, a bounce to his step. He reaches the
gallery -- then stops, dumbfounded. It's PACKED with PEOPLE!
Not rich, but regular folks, gawking at the art.
Wow. A sweet moment... then some TOURISTS see Walter and
happily accost him: "Walter Keane!" "Mr. Keane!" They thrust
papers and POSTERS at him to autograph.
Walter grins and scribbles his signature. Glancing over their
shoulders, he sees Ruben down the block, standing outside his
own gallery. Gaping in disbelief.
Walter chuckles... then flips him off. Ruben's face falls.
INT. KEANE GALLERY - SAME TIME
Walter pushes through, shaking hands, greeting the CUSTOMERS:
Good afternoon! Delighted!
(he reaches the SEXY BLONDE
CLERK and pinches her ass)
How many sales today?
"Sales?" None with this crowd.
Walter's smile drops, surprised.
These people are looky-loos! They
can't afford the paintings. But we
gave away a heap of posters!
Huh? Walter peers, baffled. Suddenly -- a loud FRWWIPPPP!
Walter whirls, startled. Outside, two GIRLS tear a big poster
off the front window.
Walter's eyes widen. Slowly, he turns back. At the counter,
FOLKS and KIDS are grabbing free posters from a box.
Walter stares. Processing this. And then... being struck by
an idea of absolute genius...
INT. STORAGE ROOM - SECONDS LATER
Walter is on the telephone, peering through the doorway.
Hiding from the customers. Spying. WHISPERING.
WALTER (ON THE PHONE)
It's the craziest thing. I started
charging for the posters! First a
nickel... then a dime.
(struggling to whisper)
YES, Maggie! It's cuckoo! So it got
me thinkin': Would you rather sell a
$500 painting, or a million cheaply-
(he LAUGHS, exultant)
WALTER (ON THE PHONE) (CONT'D)
See, folks don't care if it's a copy.
They just want art that touches them!
And then... we could sell it
60's-style MADISON AVENUE GRAPHICS: A still of a HARDWARE
STORE. Mops, light bulbs, then -- BING! -- framed KEANES.
A PHARMACY. Aspirin, candy bars -- BING! -- framed KEANES.
A GAS STATION. Tires, motor oil, and -- BING! -- KEANES.
INT. SUPERMARKET - DAY
An aisle of Sundries: Plastic toys, beach balls... Waifs. A
sign says "WE HAVE KEANE!"
Around the corner, Margaret shuffles along, listlessly buying
banalities: Cereal. Soap. She turns the cart... and runs
into her wall of teary-eyed kids.
Margaret peers, muddled.
Then she turns away -- to a RACK OF PAPERBACKS. They offer
fast hope, inspiration. Margaret seems disconnected. She
runs her hand down the options... a book of Numerology... a
book on Judaism... an Edgar Cayce prophecies manual...
AT THE REGISTER - Margaret gazes up. The CASHIER is a sad
Beatnik Girl. In a haze, Margaret notices the whole market is
full of LONELY WOMEN:
One LADY is her doppelganger -- same age, blonde, gripping a
cart. Next aisle over, a MIDDLE-AGED WOMAN stares into space.
Nearby, a YOUNG MOM wrangles her children.
We shift to Margaret. Face gaunt. Eyes empty. Troubled...
INT. APARTMENT PAINTING ROOM - DAY
Curtains drawn, Margaret frantically SKETCHES. She's cabin
feverish. In her robe. Hair dirty. And -- up to something.
These sketches aren't squat children with round eyes. They're
different: Figures with long lines.
Margaret frowns and rips the paper. She tries again! Another
angular figure -- straight fingers... no!
Again! A woman... reclining. Then an indication of a face:
A slash... and then -- two small almond shapes for eyes.
Hmm. Margaret's face brightens. She likes it.
Margaret rabidly paints. Spurting globs of color. The woman
is blonde, almond eyes cool, lips curled with mystery...
Margaret glances in a mirror. It's a self-portrait. It's
Margaret, aloof. Alone at a table.
Suddenly the door opens. Margaret GASPS, startled, and spins
the canvas away. Walter barges in, dressed like a million.
He HALTS -- making a sour face.
Whew! Something smells in here. You
should open a window.
Margaret blinks, a bit dazed.
What time is it?
I dunno. 6:30, 7? ...Didn't Janie
Margaret shrugs. Walter leans in.
When's the last time you washed your
I've been... busy.
(he notices the turned
canvas; he's intrigued)
What do you got back there? Lemme
No --! It's just... something I'm
working on. It's not for the world.
Walter gives her a funny look.
"The world"? Baby, it's me!
(stepping forward, a bit
I'm your number one fan.
No, please! Walter, it's -- personal.
But we're husband and wife. We
shouldn't have secrets...
Margaret gulps, fretting. Finally, without options -- she
flips over the canvas of the lonely blonde.
And -- Walter is taken aback. His eyebrows raise, shocked.
Margaret bites her lip. Will he go ballistic?
ANGLE - WALTER
He leans right up to the painting.
His expression is inscrutable. Studying the technique. We
have no idea what his emotion is.
It's a completely different style.
Yes it is.
It looks like you.
It's a self-portrait.
How am I gonna explain that?
She shifts about.
I thought... maybe... I could sign it
Hmm. Walter's eyes narrow.
That seems a bit confusing. "Keane"
Yes, I know... but... when people ask
me if I paint, I don't know what to
answer! I just want the pride of
being able to say -- that's mine.
Walter's wheels are ratcheting.
Who'd you tell about the Big Eyes?
Was Dee-Ann here?! Did Dee-Ann see
No! NOBODY saw it!
You tell anybody, the empire
COLLAPSES! Do you wanna give back the
money? We've committed FRAUD!
I KNOW! My God! I live with this
every minute of my life!
Janie used to have a mother who
painted. Now what's she think?! I
lock myself in this room ten hours a
day... and then you walk out with
He scowls, offended.
Janie thinks I'm in here, painting.
C'mon! You haven't picked up a brush
(starting to sob)
We used to paint together! Easels
next to each other, side-by-side --
That was the honeymoon period!
Margaret breaks into tears. Walter tenses.
Jesus, you're so fragile.
I've kept my end of the bargain! I've
(she SOBS harder)
Please! Just let me have this!
Walter recoils, unable to take this. He relents.
INT. APARTMENT LIVING ROOM - ANOTHER DAY
Another PHOTO OP, but big: A CAMERA CREW rushes about. Lights
get set-up. Walter, Margaret, and Jane work at easels.
Walter dabs at a Big Eye. Margaret works on a sad, long-neck
blonde. Jane paints a goofy flower, like any child.
Dick Nolan takes notes.
So you're now called "The Painting
Yep! Walter and his girls! With
galleries in three cities!
I had no idea Margaret painted.
Yeah, we don't talk about it. Sadly,
people don't buy lady art.
What about Georgia O'Keefe?
Dick shakes his EMPTY GLASS, distracted. Walter points.
The bar's over there.
Dick goes to get a refill. Walter shoots Margaret a look.
Yeah, Margaret's a superb artist, in
her own way. I even steal a few tips
from her, now and then!
Behind every great man is a great
True true. So Margaret, where do you
get your ideas?
(a bit tentative)
Oh... from the world around me. And I
love Modigliani's use of line.
ModiWHAT? The Italian joint?
Oh, for Christ's sake, Margaret! Dick
writes a gossip column --
Let's stick to the family angle. Get
a gander at little Janie over there!
Walter steers Dick to Jane, cute at her little child's easel.
What a talent! Look at these Keanes!
If you cut open our veins, we bleed
oil! Er -- turpentine.
Uh, Dick, you know what I'm goin' for.
Make it sound good.
DING-DONG! It's the doorbell. Everyone turns.
Ah! A little treat! The fourth
member of the Painting Keanes!
Margaret and Jane turn, confused. Walter whips open
THE FRONT DOOR
Revealing LILY, 10, a quiet girl in bobbed hair. She holds a
little overnight bag.
A Buick HONKS, and Walter waves as it drives away. Walter
stares at the girl, then puts on big hammy airs.
Lily, honey, how are you?!
He gives her a giant hug. She responds stiffly -- a girl who
doesn't see her father too often.
I'm fine, Dad. I lost a tooth.
Really? Did you get in a fight?
No. It fell out!
ANGLE - MARGARET AND JANE
They gape in bewilderment. Who the hell is this girl??!
BACK ON WALTER AND LILY
Walter admires Lily's mouth.
Well is the tooth fairy somethin' I
gotta deal with, or did your mother
already handle it?
She handled it.
Good! Good good! Well, just go throw
your stuff in the kids' room, then you
can come join the fun!
Lily toddles out.
ON THE GROUP
Margaret and Jane are speechless.
Walter acts like nothing bizarre has happened.
Dick eyeballs all this with major curiosity.
Walter... you never told me you had
Didn't I? Sure. Lil's from my first
Margaret struggles to hold her rage. Disoriented...
Walter! We need to speak.
Margaret gestures: Get in the kitchen! He nods and follows.
Margaret shuts the door, then spins on him.
What is going on here??!
That's Lily. I'm sure I mentioned her --
No you didn't.
Margaret peers at him. How much can she trust?
Did she just move in??
No! Her mom's just going to Vegas for
I'm supposed to have her once a month,
but I don't make her mom enforce it.
TIGHT - MARGARET
Her head is spinning.
How can you keep something so big a
TIGHT - WALTER
He starts to answer... then gives her a look: You are kidding?
Walter squirms defensively.
She's a sweet girl.
I'm sure she is.
I put up with your daughter. I never
said a peep.
Margaret's jaw drops.
I'm gonna pretend you didn't say that.
I'm sorry. Sorry! Please... let's
just try to get through this.
INT. JANE'S BEDROOM - NIGHT
Jane's room, cute with stuffed animals and troll dolls.
Lily is in the corner, awkwardly unpacking her bag. Trying
not to impose on Jane's space. The girls peer at each other.
Dad told me you had a bunk bed.
Jane shakes her head. She feels bad.
Take the bed. I can sleep on the
No, that's not fair! The floor's fine
Jane smiles nervously. She stares at this new girl.
Do you live far away?
I guess... about a twenty minute drive.
"Twenty minutes"?! That's close!
Jane blinks, confused.
But you never see Walter?
No, I see him all the time! He comes
up and visits every week.
Jane is taken aback. Lily sees this.
Doesn't he talk about me?
Huh? Uh... sure. I guess a little.
Jane thinks, fretting.
Does he talk about me?
Uh... yeah. Sometimes.
So what's your mom like?
She's pretty. She drives a Buick.
She cries a lot.
Yeah, mine's the same.
Except she drives a Packard.
Lily nods. Jane lowers her voice naughtily.
I have some peanut butter hidden in my
sock drawer. Do you wanna eat it?
Lily smiles: Sure. Jane opens a drawer and removes a jar of
Skippy. The two girls sit on the floor, happily eating the
peanut butter with their fingers.
EXT. KEANE GALLERY - NIGHT
Klieg lights streak the sky! A crazed CROWD is packed INSIDE.
A big sign announces: "NOW APPEARING: AMERICA'S FIRST FAMILY
OF ART - 'We paint truth and emotion.'"
INT. KEANE GALLERY - NIGHT
The place is filled with Big Eyes. Waifs waifs waifs! Cash
registers RING. Money changes hands. "Sold" stickers go up.
Walter works the room.
Yeah, Walter Keane and Gauguin have a
lot in common. They both walked away
from successful careers to travel the
globe, live on a boat...
We move... finding Margaret alone in a small ANNEX. It
displays a few of her sad blondes, alongside Jane and Lily's
paintings of flowers and Mr. Potato-Head. Margaret sits,
seeming like an adult at the children's table.
An urbane RICH MAN glides by... and is taken with one of
Margaret's nubile blondes. He gazes at the lounging figure.
Margaret sits up. Alert, pleased with his interest.
She tingles. Then, happily excited, unable to hold it in:
I painted it!
It's very evocative. ...Sensual...
He smiles flirtatiously. She smiles shyly and shrugs.
He steps forward -- then peers closer at the painting. The
SIGNATURE is a feminine scroll: "MDH Keane"
"MDH"? You're so... mysterioso.
Yes, we don't use my name, since
people don't take women's art
"MDH" are my initials. And more! I'm
interested in numerology... and as you
know, seven is a very good number.
Luckily, my maiden name is Margaret
Doris Hawkins! "M" is the 13th letter
of the alphabet, "D" is 4, "H" 8! If
you add up 1 and 3 in 13, that gives
you 4, making 4 plus 4 plus 8 equals
16, then 1 plus 6 equals seven!
The man's head is spinning. He's lost all interest.
Across the room, Walter sees this debacle. He marches over.
Psst! Maggie! Can I have a second?
(he PULLS HER ASIDE)
Good grief! What the hell are you
babbling about?! Long division??
Could you please help the world and
shut your mouth? You want just one
number in his head: The sales price!
Her face drops, hurt. Acquiescing.
Two SNOBBY ARTISTS smirk and GROAN at this scene.
SNOBBY ARTIST #1
Two nuts that fell from the same tree!
It's insufferable. Why are we
starving, while they print money?
SNOBBY ARTIST #2
Because that nut's a genius! He sells
paintings! Then he sells pictures of
the paintings! Then he sells postcards
of pictures of the paintings.
They stare bitterly. Then, a terrible, shameful idea forms:
SNOBBY ARTIST #1
I'll bet I could bang one out in ten
SNOBBY ARTIST #2
It wouldn't have the dopey sincerity.
SNOBBY ARTIST #1
The customers won't notice...
They peer sheepishly at each other...
EXT. STORE WINDOW - DAY
Ruben is walking past -- then stops, pained. A window display
of Keane Big Eyes shares space with paintings of CUTESY
KITTENS lapping up milk.
We WIDEN, revealing a whole wall of rip-offs! All with odd
anonymous signatures: "Gig." "Eve." "Igor." A cavalcade of
WIDE-EYED ANIMALS AND KIDS... DANCING WITH GUITARS... DRESSED
AS HOBOS... PLAYING IN PAJAMAS. But these children aren't
sad. They're just... blank.
Ruben gasps at the dead-eyed pictures.
Christ. It's a movement.
INSERT - TELEVISION - FULL FRAME
"The Tonight Show" opening CREDITS:
It's "The Tonight Show!" With guests
Jerry Lewis, the Everly Brothers,
artists Walter and Margaret Keane --
The CHANNEL CHANGES: A children's toy commercial (STOCK). A
tear-streaked, crying plastic DOLL, a flagrant Waif rip-off:
FEMALE ANNOUNCER (V.O.)
She's "Little Miss No Name," the doll
with the tear. From Hasbro.
The CHANNEL CHANGES: Spanish TELEVISION. A Keane painting
gets hung in Madrid's National Museum of Contemporary Art.
INT. PAINTING ROOM - DAY
The Margaret sweatshop is going full-blast. Canvases are
everywhere: Melancholy MDH ladies. Woeful Keane kids. Even a
portrait of Natalie Wood, copied from a photo. Margaret dips
a tiny brush, quickly detailing the tear on a child's cheek...
when the doorbell CHIMES.
Hm? Margaret puts down her brush, wipes her hands, then
hurries out. She opens the door... REVEALING THAT WE'RE IN A
DIFFERENT HOUSE. A GIANT, PHENOMENAL 1960s EXTRAVAGANZA.
INT. WOODSIDE HOUSE - SAME TIME
Margaret runs across the marble floors, past the swooping,
Modern lines of a California ranch... all-white furniture... a
kidney-shaped pool glistening blue outside the glass... a cute
TOY POODLE barking at the door.
In the foyer, Margaret opens the front door. And standing
there is Dee-Ann. Dazzled. She laughs with surprise.
My God! I thought I misread the
Yeah. That driveway is long.
(she giggles, embarrassed)
Honestly, I can't believe I live here.
Dee-Ann glides in -- then freezes, agape.
I know! Two acres, a pool, five
Though I thought that was excessive,
since there's only three of us here.
Three? I thought there were four.
Oh -- you mean Lily! No, she doesn't
really live with us. That was just in
Crazy. A fake daughter...
Dee-Ann's eyes take it all in. Astonished.
It's been so long since I've seen you.
I know. North Beach is 30 miles, but
it might as well be 300...
You're probably busy, hanging out with
your new rich buddies.
Oh, please! She's Walter's friend.
(a quiet shrug)
He brings people by... the Beach Boys
were here. But, it's pretty isolated.
Dee-Ann goes silent. Margaret seems dwarfed by the house.
Jane has nice friends. Sometimes I
pick them up at the junior high, and
we all get pizza.
But she's busy... Are you hungry?
Good! I'll whip us up two gin fizzes.
Margaret forces a smile and scurries behind a giant curved wet
bar. She pulls out ingredients: Gin, lemon juice, soda...
When we moved in, I thought a wet bar
was extravagant... but it's surprising
how much use you can get out of it.
Dee-Ann watches the drinkmaking.
He couldn't be happier. He has
everything he ever dreamed of.
And so do you! Fabulous.
Dee-Ann smiles archly. She glances away -- and notices
Margaret's STUDIO, the door half-open.
Oh, is that your studio?
Margaret turns -- and gasps.
No --! You can't go in --
I just want a peek. See what the
workspace of a wildly successful
artist looks like --
Dee-Ann, please! STOP --
Margaret rushes to block her -- but Dee-Ann pushes open the
INT. PAINTING ROOM
A room full of MDHs and Keanes.
Dee-Ann stops, puzzled. She glances at Margaret -- who has
turned white as a ghost.
Immensely curious, Dee-Ann slowly enters. She peers around at
the two styles of paintings...
A strained silence. Finally, Margaret whispers.
W-Walter paints in here too.
Dee-Ann walks about, examining the canvases. Then, her gaze
settles on the Big Eye that Margaret was working on.
Below the easel is the wet brush on the open jar of paint.
Margaret sucks in her breath. Dee-Ann sees this.
Is Walter home??
Margaret has no answer.
The two friends look at each other... Dee-Ann waiting...
wondering if Margaret is going to lie to her...
Both women startle. FOOTSTEPS. Then... Walter strides in!
Margaret's eyes pop.
Walter's pop even bigger. He glares at the ladies.
What the hell's going on here?!!
Uh... Dee-Ann was just... she...
Margaret trails off. Walter thinks, then SNAPS.
You KNOW I don't like anyone seeing my
work before it's done!
Walter rushes to the Waif, then for show grabs up the wet
brush and quickly starts to "finish" the painting.
Suddenly -- an odd expression crosses his face. He eyeballs
the canvas, realizing he doesn't know what to do.
A furtive glance. Then, unbowed, he hastily dips the brush
and slaps a little black onto the shaded background.
Walter spins, victorious.
INT. LIVING ROOM - LATER
The three sit silently, tension thick, sipping gin fizzes.
Walter finishes his drink and pours a fresh one.
INT. FOYER - NIGHT
They are drunk and SCREAMING. Walter pushes Dee-Ann out the
You and your whole non-representational
crowd are FRAUDS!!
SHUT UP! You're so full of shit,
Get outta my house! My big house!
Go back to sellin' your coat hanger
sculptures on Fisherman's Wharf!
Dee-Ann staggers outside, then hops in her car.
Dee-Ann GUNS the engine and squeals away. The car peels down
the very long driveway.
Margaret and Walter watch the car disappear into the distance.
Without looking over, Walter speaks.
I don't want her ever invited here
Margaret nods, terribly sad.
INT. MASTER BEDROOM - LATE NIGHT
Margaret and Walter lie in bed, awake. Arms crossed.
EXT. WOODSIDE HOUSE - ANOTHER DAY
Margaret and 13-YEAR-OLD JANE play on the lawn with the
poodle. Jane laughs as the dog chases in circles.
Go, Rembrandt! Get the ball!
She tumbles, and Rembrandt licks her ear. She giggles.
Okay, honey. I have to go work.
Can I come?
(an awkward silence)
No. I can never come. No! I
shouldn't even ask.
Jane glares glumly.
Margaret peers hopelessly at her daughter... then goes inside.
INT. WOODSIDE HOUSE
Margaret strolls to her studio. WE SEE the poodle scampering
behind her on its cute little legs. She enters the
INT. PAINTING ROOM
Margaret doesn't notice the tiny dog follow her in. She LOCKS
the door, then turns -- surprised.
Where did you appear from? Didn't you
hear? No visitors!
Rembrandt wags his tail, his little eyes bright. Margaret
Is this what it's come to? You're the
only living soul I can tell my secret?
(she lowers her voice)
Well -- I painted them all!
(she shudders with release)
It's TRUE! I did every single one --
She gestures, then catches sight of a Walter street scene.
Well, every one except that street
But I did the rest. Every Big Eye!
And nobody will ever know. But YOU.
Rembrandt pants and BARKS.
Margaret chuckles, then goes to work. She pulls a CURTAIN
across the sliding glass door. At her easel, she squirts a
tube into a well and starts mixing colors.
Rembrandt jumps on the couch.
No you don't! It's nice to have
company, but that sofa is new.
(she pushes him off)
Let's find you some carpet to lay on.
Margaret goes over to a CLOSET. Rembrandt follows, curious.
IN THE CLOSET
Margaret turns on the bare bulb inside. It's filled with old
easels... cans... junk...
I think there's a scrap back here...
She rummages, sliding the junk aside. In back is a TATTERED
Well what's this?
Margaret swings the bulb closer. The crate is covered with
SHIPPING INSTRUCTIONS and international markings.
Margaret's interest is piqued. She tugs at the lid, pulling
it off. Revealing inside a STACK OF STREET SCENE PAINTINGS.
Ten or fifteen of Walter's canvases.
Or so it seems.
TIGHT - MARGARET
She peers closer.
TIGHT - THE PAINTINGS
The top painting is a typical Parisian street scene: Cobble
stones, a man carrying baguettes, an old lady selling roses...
But down in the bottom corner is the signature: "S. CENIC"
TIGHT - MARGARET
She sucks in her breath, shocked. She examines the painting.
Then, she hurriedly grabs the next canvas. It's another
sunlit scene: A quaint Parisian cafe, a man playing accordian,
and in the bottom right corner... the signature: "S. CENIC"
WHAT?! Margaret grabs the next canvas. "S. CENIC"
The next canvas.
The next canvas!
They all are signed "S. CENIC"
Margaret starts hyperventilating.
She thinks, then suddenly bolts from the closet.
INT. PAINTING ROOM
Margaret races, rushing up to Walter's painted street scene,
hung on the wall. We PUSH IN TIGHT, as she shoves her face up
to the canvas, so close we can see the brushstrokes --
As we MOVE IN TO THE SIGNATURE. Simply, "W. KEANE"
Margaret's face is flushed. She gazes at the name... then
rushes back to her work area. She manically hunts: Brushes,
tubes, rags -- and an EXACTO KNIFE.
Ah! She runs back to Walter's painting. Heart pounding, she
grazes the knife up against the signature, then DIGS.
And -- the "W. KEANE" flecks off. Revealing... underneath...
the name "S. CENIC"
CLOSEUP - MARGARET
She trembles, overcome. Music SWELLS. Her eyes spin back --
SERIES OF QUICK FLASHBACKS:
Walter painting at the Palace of Fine Arts. His canvas is
Walter in the apartment, signing his name to a finished piece.
Walter spattering paint on his clothes.
Walter the day we met him. He shows off a rack of finished
paintings at the Sunday Art Show.
BACK ON MARGARET
INT. WOODSIDE HOUSE - THAT EVENING
A grandfather clock says 10:15. Margaret sits gloomily,
staring at the clock. Clutching a drink.
2:30 a.m. Margaret still stares at the clock. She's stewing.
Suddenly, keys in the door. Walter swings in, tanked and full
of life. He skids across the marble, humming to himself --
when -- he's startled by his wife. He jerks.
M-Maggie! What're you doin' up?
Margaret glares. Not speaking. He shrugs.
I had a helluva night. Worked three
or four clubs.
(he winks, loosey-goosey)
Stumbled onto some hot gossip: Madame
Chiang Kai-shek is coming to town!
Straight from Taipei! I think we
should present her with a painting --
get Dick to flack it...
Or the heck with Dick. I met a new
guy at UPI...
Maybe you should give her one of your
You think? I dunno -- I thought you
could whip off a doodle of Chinatown.
With a cute little kid, sort of a big-
eyed slanty-eyed thing...
Margaret's anger is raging. She glares, steely.
No, Walter. She's a dignitary.
Doesn't she deserve a piece that comes
straight from you?
From your experience???
Yeah? Maybe you're right. She
probably doesn't have a Parisian
street scene hanging in her palace.
Margaret nods, as if they've settled something. She turns to
walk away -- then suddenly SPINS.
Unless Madame Chiang Kai-shek already
has a Cenic.
He freezes up.
Suddenly sober, smacked to reality.
"Cenic"...? Uh, what's that?
Margaret stares, eyes sharp.
Cenic is the name of the artist who
did all your early paintings.
(spinning his lie)
Urgh... oh! CENIC!
(he laughs crazily)
Cenic was my nickname in Paris! All
my art school pals loved my scenic
views, so they called me "Scenic"!
But since those Frogs can't pronounce
a hard "e," I became "Cenic."
He looks up at her hopefully.
But she shakes her head.
The more you lie, the smaller you seem.
How DARE you accuse me of lying! I'm
proud of my early Cenics!
Then why do you paint over the name?
Walter gasps, floored.
Margaret bores in.
A bit of advice: Don't use a water-
base over an oil. It flecks off.
You sound crazy! For God's sake.
You've... you've SEEN me paint!!!!
No, I haven't.
I always thought I had... but it's
some kind of... mirage. From a
distance you look like a painter, but
up close... there's nothing there.
CLOSEUP - WALTER
All life drains from his face. His eyes go glazed. He speaks
I studied art in Paris. I went to
school at the Beaux-Arts. The Grand
Chaumiere. I spent hours in the
Louvre, gazing at the greatness of the
He turns. She winces, pained.
Have you even been to Paris?
Walter blanches. He shakes, broken up.
He looks away, then staggers to a chair. He falls into it.
Trembling. Not able to look her in the eye...
I wanted... I so wanted to be an
artist. But -- it just never turned
Margaret stares, seething.
Then, without comment, she storms away. She SLAMS the door
Walter doesn't move.
INT. KITCHEN - NEXT MORNING
Margaret makes Jane breakfast, scrambling up eggs.
Jane glances over her shoulder -- and notices Walter in the
living room, asleep on the couch.
An awkward pause. Jane says nothing.
INT. MASTER BEDROOM - LATER
Margaret is making the bed. Straightening the pillows.
In the b.g., Walter silently creeps into view. Shamefully
standing in the doorway. Not speaking...
Margaret knows he's there, but doesn't acknowledge his
presence. Finally, without making eye contact --
I don't want you sleeping in this room
any longer. I -- I can't keep living
There's three extra bedrooms. Go pick
INT. HOUSE - LATER
Margaret sits, unmoving, trapped in the big house. Outside, a
JAPANESE GARDENER trims the hedges.
Margaret stares at the walls, a smothering Walter Hall of
Fame: Framed magazine articles on Walter, smugly posed with
She swallows, then gently opens a dresser drawer. Inside is
an ORIGINAL WAIF from long ago. A small oil of Jane, when she
was a toddler.
Margaret stares... and then her face slowly crumbles.
INT. PAINTING ROOM - DAY
Margaret huddles with a SKETCHPAD. Rembrandt is at her feet.
She's drawing. She looks up, as Walter anxiously enters.
He's holding a drink. He clears his throat.
What are you working on?
A new MDH. Something for me. It's
about a woman trapped in an uncaring
world. I call it, "Escape."
Walter bites his lip, afraid to talk.
I figured out a solution to our
Show me your tricks. Then you can
pass off the Waifs, and we won't be
She looks up in disbelief.
And then -- YOU'LL paint them?
Sure! Why not?
Walter, this isn't paint-by-numbers!
You think it's easy?! It took me
years to learn --
But you know me! I'm a quick study.
And I've got the basics...
He trails off, unsure where this is going.
Trying to rouse her, Walter rushes to an easel and throws up a
blank canvas. She eyeballs him.
If you knew the basics, you wouldn't
be at the easel. You have to sketch
Walter tightens, feeling stupid. He lets go of the canvas.
Margaret stares, deciding. Then, she tosses him a PAD.
Walter catches it. Slowly, he crosses over...
ANGLE - MARGARET AND WALTER
They peer at each other, like a Mexican standoff. Then, he
nervously picks up a pencil.
So...? What's first?
I dunno. You tell me. You're the
It's a -- Keane.
Oh, a Keane! How witty.
You know, when we met all those years
ago, I never would've imagined in my
wildest dreams that one day --
YEAH YEAH! Point taken. I'm standing
here naked and humiliated in front of
you. Look... can we just do a crying
She gazes at him. Fingering her pencil...
Trying to jump-start things, he starts to draw a circle --
How old is the subject?
Huh? C'mon, it's a head --
It matters! A young child's head is
round. An older child's head is oval!
He feels pressured. Hand shaking, he draws a crooked circle.
The child is this old!
You're trying to make this difficult --
NO I'M NOT! Every line is a decision!
It's easy to talk about art, but it's
not easy to MAKE art!!
INT. PAINTING ROOM - MONTAGE:
Margaret easily outlines a head, then two circles for eyes.
Walter tries copying, but his eyes are misshapen.
Again, Walter copies, but he's wobbly. Angry, he scratches it
Margaret tries to help, guiding his hand. Insulted, he pushes
her off. He CRUMPLES the page.
NEW TACTIC: Walter grabs her sketch. He puts it on a LIGHT-
TABLE. Despairing, he starts to trace it..
Walter finally paints. We can't see the canvas, but he's very
meticulous. His expression quite earnest. He adds a final
flourish... and then... a flicker of pride crosses his face.
We slowly MOVE AROUND... to REVEAL HIS PAINTING. And...
it's... absolutely dreadful. Kindergarten quality.
Then, he furtively glances at Margaret's work. Comparing...
The realization slowly sinks in. He has no ability.
A sadness swells into fury... and suddenly Walter GRABS HIS
CANVAS and SMASHES IT AGAINST THE EASEL. CRASH!! The canvas
SHREDS. The frame blasts into pieces!
Walter spins. He glares at one of Margaret's finished
Waifs... then explodes, even more enraged. HE PICKS UP
MARGARET'S PAINTING AND STARTS TO SWING IT AT THE WALL --
Huh? He lurches, startled.
ACROSS THE ROOM
Margaret stares him down.
Sweaty, chest heaving, Walter staggers towards her. His face
scowls, untamed. He clenches his fist, like he might attack
Then -- he SCREAMS and smashes her CANVAS. BAM!!! The
painting RIPS apart. Walter KICKS his foot through the
remains, then spins and charges from the room.
INT. KEANE GALLERY - DAY
TOURIST FAMILIES mill about. Suddenly the door SLAMS open.
Walter bolts in, wild-eyed. A bit deranged.
The families gawk -- glancing from Walter to his photograph
all over: "WALTER KEANE! THE WORLD'S TOP-SELLING ARTIST!"
Walter ignores them. He rushes a buxom REDHEADED CLERK.
Oh, you know. Mondays --
Walter MUTTERS strangely. He snatches some paper and starts
scribbling. Then he runs into the
Walter agitatedly paces, circling the stacks of PRINTS.
How many posters are back here?
Exactly? I dunno, 3,000 or --
Does the printer owe us more? Do we
Uh, let me --
What about the OILS?! Are there more
at the warehouse?
Mr. Keane, I'd have to make a --
For the LOVE OF MUD! What am I PAYING
The girl freezes, rattled. Walter spins, flipping out.
Hypothetical question: If you were a
man, would you marry Kim Novak or my
Okay! Different question! If I got
crippled and had to stop painting, how
long before the gallery ran out of
inventory and went belly up??
Do you want a glass of water, Mr.
Walter sighs. His thoughts drift away...
What's it all mean? Why are we put on
this earth? A 100 years from now,
will people even know we existed...?
I -- I don't understand. You'll
always be famous. You were on the
Jack Paar Show...
(she glances away)
Er, excuse me, sir.
The girl hurries away, to ring up some customers.
Walter silently watches. At the register, the Tourists buy a
print. A "Madonna and Child," MDH-style.
BAMMM! Walter's eyes bulge, like he's been stung.
It's not even mine! It's one of hers.
Aching, he staggers off. Sweating, woozy, he sits at a table.
Distracted, he glances down at a newspaper...
INSERT - NEWSPAPER
There's an article on the 1964 NEW YORK WORLD'S FAIR. A
headline says "CONSTRUCTION RACES TOWARD APRIL OPENING"
TIGHT - WALTER
His eyes narrow, piqued. World's Fair??? He leans in...
INT. BISTRO - NIGHT
A return to the charming bistro Margaret and Walter went to
all those years ago, on their first date. The Maitre'd BEAMS.
Ah! Monsieur and Madame Keane!
Delighted! Always such an honor!
ANGLE on the Keanes. They are sullen. At wit's end.
AT THE TABLE - LATER
They stiffly sit at their old table. He snarls, eyes black.
This doesn't change anything.
(trying to hold her ground)
I know the truth.
Who cares?! This is all your fault!
Maybe it's time to shake things up.
Start puttin' my name on the MDH's.
Margaret is astonished. A fury crosses her face.
NO! Absolutely NOT!! I still hate
myself for giving you the Waifs!
Quiet! Lower your voice --
Oh, I'll talk as LOUD AS I WANT --
NO YOU WON'T! Or --
I'll have you whacked!
She jerks, flabbergasted.
If you tell ANYONE, if you squeal,
I'll take you out! I -- I know
people. Remember Banducci's cousin?
The liquor wholesaler?
Pause. Margaret breaks into tears.
You're threatening me...?! Fine, kill
me! My God, I've kept our secret for
years! I've never once --
Do you know what it's been like for
me? I don't have any friends. I've
lied to my own child...
Margaret shudders, distraught. Mascara runs down her cheeks.
Walter squirms, uneasy with this.
Christ, wipe your face! You look a
It's life imitating art! A crying
He hands her his handkerchief. She dabs at her eyes.
A looming quiet.
What do you want, Walter? Everything
with you is calculated. We're back
where we had our first date...
Walter's eyes widen.
We MOVE IN TIGHT on them. He drops his voice. Dead serious.
Look, I don't deny I need you. You're
the one with the gift.
Right now there's a shot... God, I'm
shaking I'm so excited. The New York
World's Fair. 70 million visitors.
Opening day, I unveil my MASTERPIECE!
She is flummoxed.
Exactly! What have I been missing all
this time?! Da Vinci has his Mona
Lisa... Renoir has his Boatmen's
Lunch... but where's my defining
You sound insane. Artists don't
announce a masterpiece --
Why not?! Didn't Michelangelo know he
was hittin' a homer, when he was on
his back painting the Sistine Chapel?
He worked on that for FOUR YEARS!
She empties her drink.
And here's the best part. It's for
Unicef! Unicef is sponsoring the Hall
of Education. Aw, we can finally give
back to the children of the world!!
Margaret stares, wavering...
STOCK FOOTAGE: The 1964 WORLD'S FAIR READIES TO OPEN. Men on 109
cranes hammer away. Fantastic, futuristic pavilions rise.
The Hall of Education gets erected...
INT. PAINTING ROOM - DAY
ANGLE - An INSANELY BIG, BLANK CANVAS. It's 8 feet across,
filling half the room. Margaret is in the throes of hastily
creating the MASTERPIECE.
Sketches are tacked everywhere. Margaret is chain smoking,
sleep-deprived. The DESIGN is a staggering multiracial CROWD
of children, mournful, extending to the horizon.
Walter enters, silently scrutinizing.
It's too big. Why'd you promise them
Because it has to encompass all
children. All races! One hundred
stricken faces! Marching to infinity!
The ultimate Walter Keane!
At least that's what I told Life
Margaret ignores this. Walter does a rehearsed turn.
Oh, a publisher says it's good timing
to put out a coffee table book. You
know, classy: "Tomorrow's Masters."
So they need my... uh, early
portfolio. My artistic evolution...
Margaret's eyes pop.
That's it. We PUSH IN... as she struggles to contain her
frustration. Suddenly -- she SNAPS.
You're right! Where are your
preliminary sketches?? All that time
in art school, and somehow we waylaid
your youthful experiments! The half-
finished charcoals, the struggles...
(a bit off-balance)
I know you're being sarcastic, but
these are all good ideas. Berlin war
orphans... early self-portraits...
Her eyes narrow.
Get out of here. I'm trying to work.
She brusquely spins away, back to the canvas.
He shoots her an uncertain, dirty look. What just happened?
INT. HOUSE - NIGHT
Teenage Jane wanders through the house. Shouting.
Mom, what's for dinner?
Mom! Are you home...?
Nothing. No sign of Margaret.
Jane tries the door of the PAINTING ROOM. As always, it's
locked. Hm... Jane sneakily glances around. Opportunity.
Quickly, she stands on a chair and reaches above the door
sill. She feels around... and finds a KEY.
Ah! Hurriedly, Jane UNLOCKS the door and lets herself in.
INT. PAINTING ROOM - SAME TIME
The room is a madhouse of WAIFS. Jane takes it all in. Her
Then, heavy breathing. She turns. Margaret is asleep, curled
up under the almost-finished Masterpiece. Jane leans in.
Slowly, Margaret rouses -- then suddenly:
W-what are you doing in here --?
This is -- Walter's studio!
You have to leave!
Jane peers sadly at her mother.
Mom... I know.
Jane, you don't know anything!!
Jane's face tightens. Insulted.
I'm not a child anymore.
Angry, Jane runs out. Margaret stares after her -- completely
remorseful. She knows she did the wrong thing.
Suddenly, she runs after Jane and grabs her tightly.
Overcome, Margaret starts weeping. Jane starts crying too.
INSERT - LIFE MAGAZINE
A gargantuan spread. The LIFE ARTICLE is titled "The Man Who
Paints Those Big Eyes." We PULL OUT...
INT. NEW YORK TIMES - DAY
Starchy John Canaday reads the article, gaping in utter
disbelief. His desk says "JOHN CANADAY, SENIOR ART CRITIC."
He also has Walter's BOOK, "Tomorrow's Masters Series." We
WIDEN, revealing he's in the busy New York Times NEWSROOM.
Four... five... SIX pages! Is there
something here I'm missing?
He's like -- the Hula-Hoop! He just
won't go away...!
He flips a page -- then his jaw drops.
"Will be unveiled in the Grand
Pavilion of the Hall of Education...
internationally celebrated artist has
been selected... will represent the
aspirations of children worldwide --"
Oh this is ABSURD!
He GRABS for his phone.
INT. WORLD'S FAIR HALL OF EDUCATION - DAY
A panel flicks, and the huge empty space lights up. It's
overwhelmingly cavernous, a bright, freshly-painted Space Age
spectacular. Up high hangs The Masterpiece and its 100 kids.
A sign says "TOMORROW FOREVER."
Below, two tiny figures walk in: Canaday and an obtuse CIVIC
LEADER. Canaday stares up in horror. Utterly stupefied.
And WHO was on the selection committee?
Oh! Well there wasn't a "committee,"
per se. We just had a luncheon with
me, Ed, Jerome, Jerome's wife...
CIVIC LEADER (CONT'D)
Though technically, we didn't invite
submissions. Mr. Keane just contacted
Canaday reacts, smoldering.
INT. NEW YORK MANSION - DAY
A STRING QUARTET PLAYS at a GRAND PARTY. It's completely
fabulous -- an old-money mansion filled with stuffy BLUE
BLOODS, all tuxes and gowns.
In the doorway appear Walter and Margaret. They're dressed to
kill. Walter's radiant -- but Margaret looks like she's about
to emotionally disintegrate. Suddenly, he WHISPERS.
Stop. Let us appreciate this moment.
This is what we've worked toward our
whole lives: Rarified air. Inside
this house are the movers and shakers.
Until today, we've always been on the
outside, looking in. But when we
enter... we will belong.
I was happier selling paintings in the
He gapes, appalled.
You are one crazy bitch.
Walter spins and grandly enters. He grabs two CHAMPAGNES from
So maybe you have problems with the
choices we made... but -- c'mon!
Wednesday, the World's Fair opens.
Thursday, our book goes on sale!
Friday, I file for divorce.
Aw, why are you always so miserable?
Well, I'm gonna enjoy my afternoon!
The HOSTESS is a bejeweled dowager. Walter makes a beeline.
Mrs. Teasdale! Walter Keane. I just
want to thank you for hosting this
absolutely enchanting soiree.
Walter takes the woman's hand. She smiles stiffly, silently
horrified. She glances around for help.
She catches a SOCIETY MAN's eye, and he hurries over.
Hey, Keane. Have you seen the Times?
Er, no. Honestly, I've been so busy
all day preparing for this lovely --
I think you should read the Times.
The Man gestures. Perplexed, the Keanes follow him into a
INT. DEN - SAME TIME
The room looks like a hunting lodge. On the desk are all the
DAILY PAPERS. Walter grabs the NEW YORK TIMES -- then gasps.
INSERT - NEW YORK TIMES
It's open to a reproduction of "Tomorrow Forever," above a
stare, then turn pale.
INSERT - REVIEW
A BLIZZARD of WORDS assaults us:
"Lowest common denominator"
MARGARET AND WALTER'S
faces drop, terribly hurt.
How could anyone... say something so
(a seething fury)
What do YOU care?! That's MY name
being dragged through the mud!
Walter CRUSHES the newspaper. He spins on the guy.
Is he here?
Er... yes. Which is perhaps why it
would be best for everybody if you --
Walter STORMS out. The guy futilely chases --
INT. LIVING ROOM - SAME TIME
Walter barrels in. The ROOMFUL OF GUESTS are all staring.
WHO WROTE THIS SHIT?
Walter scans the crowd... and spots a cluster. Ah-hah! There
is Canaday. Possessed, Walter strides over. Canaday stares,
defiant. It's tense -- until he clears his throat.
Mr. Keane, this is not the venue.
Perhaps you'd like to write a letter
to the editor.
Walter's throat tightens. He steps right into the guy's face.
Women GASP. Tension bristles -- like a fight's about to erupt.
What are you afraid of??
Just because people like my work, that
means it's automatically bad??
No. But that doesn't make it art
Walter shudders. Canaday asserts himself.
Art should elevate -- not pander!
Particularly in a Hall of Education!
You have no idea!
Why does a man become a critic --??
Because he can't create! You don't --
Ugh! That moldy chestnut --
Don't interrupt! You don't know what
it's like! To put your emotions out
there, naked, for the world to see.
What emotions?! It's synthetic hack
(he loses it)
Your "masterpiece" has an infinity of
Keanes -- which just makes it an
infinity of kitsch!
Crazed, Walter grabs a FORK off the buffet.
He lunges, like he's about to STAB Canaday!
A few MUSCULAR MEN start to break through, to help.
looks around -- then quivers, realizing he's out of control.
Shamed, he slowly drops the fork.
People breathe a sigh of relief.
is mortified. This is all too awful. Silent, she watches
Walter back out of the party...
INT. WORLD'S FAIR HALL OF EDUCATION - DAY
"Tomorrow Forever" gets TAKEN DOWN. Burly WORKMEN slide the
painting into a huge WOODEN BOX.
INT. KEANE HOUSE - NIGHT
The house is dark. Walter is raging, in an alcoholic fury.
What's wrong with lowest common
denominators?! That's what this
country was built on!!
He KNOCKS over a lamp. Crash!
I'm gonna sue EVERYBODY! I'll sue
that pansy critic! And the World's
Fair! And -- Unicef!
Yeah! I'll take down Unicef, and all
their precious little boxes of dimes!
Walter RUSHES BY. In a dim alcove, we make out Margaret and
Jane, huddled in the shadows.
Jane looks up at her mother with wide, frightened eyes.
Suddenly -- Walter LUNGES at them!
They SCREAM, startled.
But I can't sue you, can I?
(in Margaret's face)
You were the ultimate betrayal! You
FAILED me with that painting!
Suddenly, he pulls out a BOOK OF MATCHES. He lights a MATCH
and waves it sinisterly --
You crossed over from sentimentality
He THROWS the match at them.
He lights ANOTHER MATCH.
You like making me look bad?? You
enjoy people laughing at me??!
He PUNCHES the wall, then tosses the match. Fwoosh!
He throws ANOTHER MATCH.
Margaret grabs Jane and starts running.
They rush into the blackness.
Walter squints woozily, then starts to CHASE --
The ladies run for their lives.
Violent THUDS behind them!
Margaret reaches the Painting Room. She YANKS Jane inside,
then SLAMS the door!
Walter staggers up.
LET ME IN!
INSIDE THE PAINTING ROOM
Margaret LOCKS the door. She backs away.
Walter tugs the door. He POUNDS it, crazed.
Lemme in, you BITCHES!!
INSIDE THE PAINTING ROOM
Margaret and Jane shudder.
All around them, Big Eyes stare down from above.
In his haze, Walter remembers the hidden key. Raging, he
drunkenly pulls over the chair, then stands on it.
But he's too wobbly -- and falls.
INSIDE THE PAINTING ROOM
Margaret hugs Jane.
Mom, what are we gonna do??!
Walter laughs crazily and lights another MATCH. It flickers.
You got all that paint and turpentine
in there? Well I'm gonna burn you up!
He pushes the lit match through the KEYHOLE.
You're gonna blow like an atom bomb!
INSIDE THE PAINTING ROOM
The match drops on the floor -- then goes out, harmless.
That's it. Margaret makes a decision.
Determined, Margaret runs to the curtained wall. She whips it
aside -- revealing the sliding glass doors.
INT. LIVING ROOM - MINUTES LATER
Walter is lighting another match -- when he spins. Through
rheumy eyes, HEADLIGHTS orbit across the front window.
He peers, confused...
INT. CAR - DRIVING - NIGHT
Margaret and Jane drive fast. Adrenaline pumping. Lights of
the city flash across their faces.
I'm sorry I wasn't the mother I could
have been. I -- I should have done
this years ago...
But where are we going?
We don't even have any clothes!
Where we're going, we won't need much.
Jane freezes, not sure whether to believe.
Margaret smiles softly. We slowly PUSH IN to her.
Yes, Hawaii. Because it's paradise.
There's flowers, and birds, and
And... we're going to make a new life
EXT. HAWAIIAN HOUSE - DAY
Hawaii, paradise indeed. A dense, tropical forest of deep
greens and giant blooming flowers.
Margaret stands on the porch of her small, lovely house,
breathing in the clean air. She looks lightened.
In a clearing, Jane plays with some LOCAL TEENS.
INT. HAWAIIAN HOUSE - SAME TIME
The house is simple. In one light-filled corner is an EASEL.
Margaret is painting Nature: Splaying ferns. Wild succulents.
In the window, a BIRD flies by, its plumage a dazzling red.
Margaret thinks -- then takes out a tube of RED PAINT. She
starts to apply the vivid color onto her canvas...
When -- a RINGING PHONE. Margaret reacts, startled.
This is unexpected. And unsettling. It RINGS. RINGS.
RINGS. Finally, she hurries to her one telephone, mounted on
the kitchen wall. She slowly answers it.
WALTER ON THE PHONE - WOODSIDE
He is strangely controlled and forboding.
Boy, you were sure hard to track down.
Thought I might never find you...
(a menacing chuckle)
I'm a little agitated. I got the
strangest papers in the mail today.
Margaret tries to stay cool.
It's a decree of legal separation. I
would appreciate if you signed it.
Aren't you acting too rash?
Walter, our marriage is over.
Granted, our romance may have seen its
better days. The bloom is off the
But I'm looking out for both of us.
What about Keane Incorporated?! We're
a professional couple. Like Roy
Rogers and Dale Evans.
Walter, I want a divorce.
Whew. It hurts to hear you say those
Silence. He is feigning "hurt feelings." Struggling for a
response. Finally, his thoughts sharpen up, smart and shrewd.
I sure hate that it's come to this.
Well... I SUPPOSE I can agree to a
split -- as long... as you assign me
all rights to every painting ever
If that's the price.
Walter is surprised. Greedy, calculating, he wonders if he
can push her further...
Uh -- okay. And... then, we have to
consider future revenue stream.
My God, Walter! How much more money
do you need?
It's -- the marketplace! I gotta stay
fresh. Surely you understand?
You want me out of your life, here's
my term: You'll have to paint me 100
more waifs. 100 more Walter Keanes!
Margaret's face drops, pained. But she doesn't object.
EXT. HAWAIIAN HOUSE - DAY
Margaret loads BUNDLED, WRAPPED PAINTINGS into a dusty pickup
truck. Jane comes running by, barefoot.
Would you like to go into town? I'm
stopping by the post office.
No, I'm gonna surf with the gang.
Margaret tightens up.
Your friends are a bit... wild.
Loosen up, Mom! You're impossible!
You move me all the way to Hawaii.
Then I actually make some friends, and
all you do is complain about them.
Maybe you need to make some.
Y-you know I can't have people over to
That's right! Or they'd see the
Margaret has no response. Jane runs off.
INT. HAWAIIAN HOUSE - DAY
Margaret is alone, pouring a drink. She mixes in some ice --
then sees something odd.
OUTSIDE THE WINDOW
Coming down the long driveway are two FIGURES. Two small
WOMEN, patiently walking toward the isolated house.
Margaret stares, puzzled. The women come closer. They are
Asian, dressed in formal dresses. Curious, Margaret creeps
over, spying on them...
They walk up and ring the bell. DING-DONG! An unsure beat...
then Margaret opens the door. The ladies smile politely.
ASIAN LADY #1
Hello. We're visiting everyone in
this neighborhood with an important
message. No doubt you're busy, so
we'll be brief.
Margaret stares at them deadpan, highball in her hand.
ASIAN LADY #2
We have something to share with you
about the wonderful things that God's
Kingdom will do for mankind.
Margaret's face darkens.
I'm not interested.
She starts to close the door... but they continue.
ASIAN LADY #1
Do you mean that you are not
interested in the Bible, or in
religion in general?
I'm not interested in whatever you're
The lady glances at Margaret's glass. She smiles gently.
ASIAN LADY #2
But we're not selling anything. We're
just here to share the good news.
From where I'm standing, I don't see
much good anywhere. Just a lot of
pride, and thievery, and people
treating each other poorly.
ASIAN LADY #2
Yes! Exactly! That is the good news!
What? Margaret is lost. The ladies grab the opening.
ASIAN LADY #1
Bad things in the world are a sign.
They show us that earthly Paradise is
ASIAN LADY #2
Do you know what it says in Timothy
(she pulls out a BIBLE and
quickly thumbs to a page)
"In the last days, critical times hard
to deal with will be here. For men
will be lovers of themselves. Lovers
of money. Self-assuming, haughty,
blasphemers, disobedient --"
Sounds like my ex-husband.
Margaret laughs. Surprised, the women laugh, too.
Margaret peers at them. At their Bible.
Would you like to come in?
The three women sit. Margaret gazes...
It's been so long since I've been
happy. But, I don't even know why I'm
telling you... two complete strangers.
ASIAN LADY #1
It's our mission to comfort those in
mourning. Jehovah wants us to help
So you're -- Jehovah's Witnesses?
The ladies nod.
I've explored so many religions. But
they all had their flaws...
ASIAN LADY #2
Then they're wrong for you. Read your
Bible -- you might be surprised by the
answers it gives.
Margaret, you can't go down a path
unless you know, in your heart, it's
the right one.
And how do you know...?
ASIAN LADY #2
Because our beliefs are supported by
the Scriptures. Jehovah is the God of
Margaret glances over at a half-completed "Keane" on the
easel. A strange pause.
What does that mean, exactly?
ASIAN LADY #2
Honesty leads to self-respect. A
feeling of well-being.
Margaret is piqued. Her eyes widen. Like a Keane.
INT. HAWAIIAN HOUSE - NIGHT
Margaret is enthralled, avidly perusing a happy-looking
booklet, "The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life."
It says here a worshiper of Jehovah
must be honest in all things.
I just can't believe you let people in
I have nothing to hide!
It also says no lies. "Speak truth.
Let the stealer steal no more."
Margaret and Jane lock eyes.
INT. WOODSIDE HOUSE - DAY
Loud JAZZ plays. Back home, Walter is living a Man's, Man's
World. He's partying, drinking and dancing with two cute
HIPPIE CHICKS in bikinis.
The place is like a WAREHOUSE, Keane PRINTS stacked everywhere.
Shit, this is crazy! All these
copies... you're like Warhol!
Nah, Warhol's like me. That fruitfly
stole my act! "The Factory"? I had a
factory before he had a soup can!
The girls scrunch their faces, lost.
Then -- DING-DONG! Walter peeks out the window, then grins.
Ah! It's my art supplies.
INT. PAINTING ROOM - SECONDS LATER
Alone, Walter eagerly pries open a GIANT CRATE. He pulls out
padding. Wadded Honolulu newspapers. Then... a PAINTING.
Ah! A new WAIF, surrounded by colorful tropical plants.
Walter smiles triumphantly -- until -- his happiness melts
into confusion. Then horror.
We ZOOM INTO the painting's SIGNATURE. It says "MDH Keane."
INT. HAWAIIAN KINGDOM HALL - DAY
The JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES sing a joyous, high-spirited PSALM:
"Tremble not before your foe,
Let all lovers of truth know!
That my reigning Son, Christ Jesus,
From the heav'ns has cast the foe.
Soon will bind the Devil, Satan,
Letting all his victims go!"
Margaret and Jane are singing happily.
INT. HAWAIIAN HOUSE - DAY
Margaret pours her liquor down the sink.
Margaret tosses her cigarettes in the trash.
Margaret swells, feeling a burst of power. Then a VOICE:
Oh yeah! We got a special guest
today. A world-famous celebrity who
just called up and asked to come in..!
INT. RADIO BOOTH - DAY
Angle on BIG LOLO, a gregarious Hawaiian D.J. in headphones.
She's malihini! Moved to the islands
a couple months ago... so let's give a
big aloha to Margaret Keane!
He pops in a cart. Canned APPLAUSE plays. We reveal across
from him... Margaret. He grins.
So is it true your husband Walter is
the top-selling painter in the world?
We SLOWLY PUSH IN to her. Tentative, she speaks.
No... Big Lolo. Everything you just
said is false.
Margaret takes a deep breath. Working up her courage.
One: Walter is no longer my husband.
(a long pause)
And Two: He's not... a painter.
The D.J. is confused. He checks his notes.
But, am I... mixed-up? Ain't he the
guy who does the crazy eyes?
No. Though he's been taking credit
for ten years.
I'm the only painter in the family.
Margaret slowly smiles.
And then... a calmness comes over her. Like a cloud has
INT. RADIO STATION HALLWAY - DAY
Margaret and Jane walk away. Jane beams proudly, then gives
her mother a warm hug.
Then -- LOUD CLICKING:
INT. NEW YORK TIMES - DAY
John Canaday stands over a WIRE SERVICE TELETYPE MACHINE. He
stares at a printout, incredulous.
You have got to be kidding!
INT. CHINESE RESTAURANT - DAY
TIGHT - The San Francisco Examiner. A small headline says
"EYE DID IT! CLAIMS WIFE"
We PULL OUT, revealing Dee-Ann. She grins in disbelief.
I knew it!!!
INT. SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER - DICK'S CUBICLE - DAY
Dick Nolan reads the article -- and SPITS UP his martini.
INT. HUNGRY I - DAY
Banducci CACKLES, terribly amused.
INT. ART GALLERY - DAY
Ruben SHRIEKS at the article.
Who would WANT credit?!
INT. COFFEE SHOP - DAY
Walter sits in his favorite haunt, eating lunch and reading a
NEWSPAPER. Suddenly -- he GASPS.
Holy mother of GOD!
Walter JERKS UP -- feral -- like an animal sensing danger.
He whirls and looks around. Paranoia ratcheting. Is
everybody staring at him? Walter starts shaking in horror.
Then -- he jumps and BOLTS OUT.
INT. BAR - NIGHT
Walter sits with Dick. Walter's desperate, sweaty.
Margaret's gone berserk! You gotta
help me! I need a story, a wire story
-- national! -- to calm things down.
Dick peers shrewdly.
I don't know... Walter. What she has
said is pretty inflammatory.
But it's nuts! It doesn't even make
sense. When I was studying art at the
Beaux Arts in Paris, she was still a
kid in Tennessee!
Dick reacts. Walter whips out the "Tomorrow's Master's" BOOK.
Look! These are my early sketches.
(he flips pages, like a
See?! Berlin orphans, 1946!
But... how could she...
Exactly! It's impossible! We didn't
meet for another nine years! After
she busted her first marriage.
Hell, she busted OUR marriage!
Sleeping around with whatever trash
she could find!!
Dick's head is spinning.
I-I, but... why would Maggie do this?
She's unhinged! She left me and moved
into the jungle. She fell in with a
bunch of religious zealots:
I really don't know much about them...
Oh! These people are gone! Solid
gone! They don't celebrate Christmas,
they can't salute the flag... they
won't even let Janie go to the prom!
Dick is startled.
INT. HAWAIIAN HOUSE - DAY
Margaret sits with a GROUP of her Witness friends. She is
sorrowful. Confused. Clutching ASSORTED NEWSPAPERS.
He made me sound crazy!!
ASIAN LADY #2
Just rise above it.
But how can I?! He claims I copied
HIM! That he taught ME how to paint!
(reading the NEWSPAPER)
"She used a slide projector to trace
my work and fill in the colors."
ASIAN LADY #1
And which part of that is untrue?
ALL OF IT!
When I finally told the truth, I felt
good about myself for the first time
in years!! I'm not going to let him
take that away.
Nobody is sure what to say. Until -- Jane pipes up:
Hey. Is Jehovah okay with suing??
EXT. HONOLULU FEDERAL COURTHOUSE - DAY
The mighty courtroom steps are SWARMING WITH PEOPLE. It's a
circus. LOCAL TV NEWS CREWS do standups:
Seventeen million dollars!
The art world is abuzz! Is it
possible that the decade's top-selling
painter can't even paint??!
Or is Mrs. Keane simply a bitter ex-
wife, trying to steal her husband's
fame and fortune?
Today in Federal Court, lawyers
present their opening arguments in the
case of Margaret Keane vs. Walter
Keane and Gannett Newspapers. A trial
that could produce the largest libel
and slander award in Hawaiian history.
Margaret, Jane, Margaret's LAWYER, and her FRIENDS walk up.
Margaret glances over -- and spots FEMINIST SUPPORTERS smiling
at her. They hold up signs: "Stand Up and Be Counted!"
Margaret is bewildered. She hurries in.
AT THE CURB
Walter and a POSSE OF LAWYERS exit a towncar. The REPORTERS
charge over, as Walter puts on a confident face.
Mr. Keane! Are you at all concerned
about the charges?
I'm angry as hell! But I'm lucky to
have the mighty Gannett News Company
watching my back. I expect to have
this whole trial dismissed by noon.
Truthfully, my only concern is that
somebody get this woman some
psychiatric care. She needs it!
INT. FEDERAL COURTROOM - LATER
The EIGHT JURORS watch attentively. Walter sits with the
table of slick Gannett lawyers. The lead lawyer stands in
front of the irritable Chinese JUDGE.
Margaret Keane is a public figure.
And as such, she has to prove that our
newspapers published statements, aware
of probable falsity.
But there is no evidence that our
editors could have known that the
assertions were untrue.
We would like to submit 692 articles
and interviews in which Mrs. Keane
credits Mr. Keane as the painter of
the so-called "big eye" children.
His Associate hands two massive bound PILES OF NEWSPAPERS AND
MAGAZINES to the BAILIFF.
Walter grins, eating it up.
The Judge stares sourly at the piles.
How many years back do these go?
Mrs. Keane has been making these
statements since 1958.
This is a very strange case. These
paintings hang in museums all over the
world, attributed to Mr. Keane. And
regardless of the truth, Mrs. Keane
has contributed immeasurably to the
The Judge stares off... then makes a decision.
It seems impossible that Gannett's
actions would ever meet the legal
standard for libel. So -- the charge
against them is dismissed.
The Lawyer smiles, relieved.
Thank you, Your Honor!
Walter peers, comprehending... and then, a realization slowly
kicks in. His face turns to horror.
The Lawyer nods humbly, then spins away. He smirks at Walter.
Good luck, Keane.
AT THE DEFENSE TABLE
The ENTIRE LEGAL TEAM jumps up and begins packing their
Walter sputters in astonishment.
"Good luck"? W-where the hell are you
We were charged with libel. You're
charged with slander.
Just dance your way out of it.
The Lawyers file out, leaving Walter alone at the table.
He looks very small and pale. The Judge peers quizzically.
Mr. Keane, you appear to be without
counsel. Would you like a
postponement, in order to get your
affairs in order?
Walter glances over at Margaret. She stifles a laugh.
He glares daggers. Then, cocksure, foolhardy, he jumps to his
I've always taken care of myself, Your
Honor. And I don't need a bunch of
rent-a-suits to defend my good name!
INSERT - WIRE SERVICE TELETYPE MACHINE
Words type out: "AP - HONOLULU - KEANE TRIAL TAKES STARTLING
INSERT - ANOTHER WIRE SERVICE MACHINE
More words type out: "UPI - HONOLULU - HE'S A PAINTER... AND A
INT. DICK NOLAN'S OFFICE - DAY
Dick frantically types at his typewriter.
I'm concerned about my old pal Walter
Keane. The Hawaiian heat may have
cooked his brain! The only thing he
knows about courtrooms and lawyers
comes from watching Perry Mason on
INT. COURTROOM - LATER
Walter stands down front. Like a Broadway star, center-stage.
I'm the sole creator of my art. This
is my total life. My contribution to
the world --
Mr. KEANE! I've told you, you must
ask the witness questions! If you're
acting as your own attorney, you
cannot make statements at this time.
Oh. Right! Ah, sorry, Your Honor.
It's hard to keep this all straight...
Walter gathers his thoughts -- then turns to the WITNESS
STAND. Sitting in it... is Margaret.
Mrs. Keane. It seems impossible that
you'd expect anybody to swallow your
fantastic story --
Walter grimaces. He tries again, choosing his words.
Mrs. Keane. You seem like a lucid
woman. Reasonably intelligent... So
how could you possibly have gone along
with such a far-out scheme?
We slowly MOVE IN ON MARGARET.
This is her moment. And then -- quietly, she speaks.
I was forced into it. You had --
She stops, bothered by this awkwardness. She looks away from
Walter, to the Jury instead.
He had me dominated. He would rant
and rave if I didn't do what he
wanted. I was afraid. I didn't see
any option, so I went along. I felt
(like a TV lawyer)
I want to remind you you are under
The Judge SLAMS his fists down, enraged. Walter jumps.
Margaret turns back to the Jury.
I just gave in. I allowed him to take
credit for the big eyes. They
reflected all my feelings... and... it
was like losing a child...
I was weak. I didn't feel I could
leave and support myself and my
daughter. He said nobody would buy
the paintings without his personality.
Maybe he was right...
You were very talented at being
charming. You were a genius at
salesmanship and promotion.
Hm! It sounds like you've described
two different men. One a sadistic
ogre... and the other a delightful bon
Margaret stares him in the eyes.
That's you, Walter. Jekyll and Hyde.
What an outrageous statement! I
demand we strike that from the record!
(he SLAMS his fist)
(she loses her temper)
No! You're outrageous! Constantly
criticizing! Wearing me down! Saying
I'd be "knocked off" if I ever told
The Jury GASPS.
Walter throws out his hands.
Your HONOR! I ask for a mistrial!
Both Keanes starts QUARRELING. The Judge STANDS.
HEY! This is not a domestic squabble!
Or -- maybe it is. But the rest of us
have no interest in watching you two
go at it.
Walter calms himself, contrite.
I'm sorry for the emotions. I'm an
The Judge stares harshly.
IN THE BACK OF THE COURTROOM
Two SKETCH ARTISTS are busy, drawing the trial. One guy pokes
the other one, to show off his work.
His SKETCH is a typical courtroom drawing, except everyone is
drawn with big ridiculous Keane eyes.
The second guy GIGGLES. His buddy grins, then quickly erases
the silly eyes before anyone sees it.
INT. COURTROOM - LATER
Margaret is back at the litigant's table, with her lawyer.
Walter stands, at his table. He shouts out.
I call as my witness... Mr. Walter
A strange beat. The Jurors glance at each other.
Walter reacts, like he just heard his name. He strides
jauntily over to the witness stand.
The BAILIFF gives the Judge a weird look. Then, he pulls out
a Bible. Walter slaps down his hand.
Do you swear to the tell the truth,
the whole truth, and nothing but the
truth, so help you God?
Walter bounces out, a bit manic. He runs back to his lawyer
table, then spins to address the empty witness stand.
Mr. Keane. There has been a lot of
innuendo and contradictory testimony
about the genesis of the "big-eyed
waifs." Would you mind clarifying to
this court, once and for all, who
spawned these paintings?
Walter sprints back into the witness stand. He sits, then
reacts coyly, as if he's surprised.
Why -- I created the children.
Walter starts to stand again -- but the Judge SLAMS his bench.
The choreography is not necessary.
Just sit down and testify.
Oh. Walter sits, then gathers his thoughts...
We slowly PUSH IN. He smiles, wistfully...
I've had a wonderful life. I've been
an artist, a world traveler, a friend
of untold celebrities...
(he gets misty-eyed)
But when I look back at it all, when I
peer into my heart and define what
it is that I was dedicated to the
hungry children of the world.
It all began in Berlin. After World
...the orphans were clutching the
barbed wire. Their bodies lacerated,
their fingers scrawny, their eyes big
and helpless. Imploring me, begging
me... "Do something!"
...and then Miss Joan Crawford walked
up to me...
Miss Natalie Wood walked up and said,
"That is the greatest single painting
I have ever seen in my entire life."
The Judge is bored out of his mind.
I was born in a small town. My father
made upholstery for the automobile
Walter stops, surprised.
B-but, I'm not finished --
Actually, you are!
(he blows his stack)
I cannot stomach one more wild tangent
or shaggy dog tale. You're not
testifying -- you're filibustering!
The Federal Courts are overburdened
enough, without your docket-clogging
We can stay here until we grow old and
die... but it's obvious that this case
boils down to your word versus Mrs.
NO! It's not a mistrial!! In my
opinion, there's only one way to clear
up this thicket. You are both going
Walter gasps, stunned. All color drains from his face.
ANGLE - MARGARET
Her face lights up. She slowly breaks into a satisfied smile.
INT. COURTROOM - LATER
The doors SLAM open. The Bailiff leads in a crew of COURT
DEPUTIES, all carrying ART SUPPLIES: Easels, brushes, paint...
Awright, bring those easels down.
Careful, don't bump anything... watch
it with those paint cans, I got some
newspaper on the floor down front...
The Jury is fascinated.
Margaret watches, quite eager. In the gallery, Jane grins.
But Walter is horrified. Trying not to tremble.
The Bailiff directs the deputies, setting up TWO EASELS, back
to back. On each easel is placed a small square canvas.
The Judge addresses the room.
Now, I'm not looking for a
masterpiece. I don't know much about
these things -- I'm a jurist, not an
art critic -- but, is one hour enough?
Margaret nods: Sure.
Shaking, Walter barely moves his head.
Okay then. You've both been provided
with identical supplies... so --
without any further business... Mrs.
Keane, Mr. Keane, the court is yours.
Margaret glances at Walter. What will he do?
Walter's face is grimly blank.
Margaret proceeds. Slowly, she pushes her chair from the
table and rises.
Walter doesn't move.
Margaret walks over to the closest EASEL, then sits. She ties
on a smock over her checkered dress.
crane their necks, intently curious.
takes a pencil. She peeks over at Walter -- who's still glued
to his seat. His face tight, his expression queasy. Staring
off to some faraway place.
Margaret looks up at the CLOCK. 3:20.
Okay then. Totally calm, in a motion she's done so many
times, she focuses on the canvas and starts outlining a Waif.
Everybody watches. Effortlessly, she pencils the EYES. They
are enormous. The largest orbs she has ever done.
looks ill. Wracked with uncertainty.
The Judge turns to him.
I'm... setting the mood.
Getting the... muse to strike...
Well, your muse has 58 minutes.
fills in more detail. Ears... nose... then, little fingers
clutching a fence. The child is peeking over it, staring
right at us...
is melting down. In total crisis...
second hand sweeps around. It's 3:34...
look from Margaret to Walter. Why isn't he moving??
finishes penciling. She leans back, satisfied with the
composition. Then, she reaches for... the PAINT.
She unscrews a tube and squirts it on the palette. She rests
it on her lap and starts mixing a flesh tone...
gapes at Walter, befuddled.
feels all eyes on him. He has to do something.
Hesitantly, visibly shaking, he rises from the table.
Margaret notices this.
Walter braces himself, trying to look confident, then takes a
step. Suddenly -- he SQUEALS.
Walter contorts his face in AGONY.
He grabs his shoulder.
Mr. Keane! Are you all right?
No -- it's --
Ah shoot! My old shoulder injury just
flared up. I've got a bad muscle --
I've been taking medication for the
Walter shrugs pathetically --
I -- I don't think I'll be able to
The courtroom reacts.
peers at Walter, knowingly.
She's not surprised. This was his only way out.
A look between them -- and then she cocks a half-smile and
turns back to the canvas. She squirts out some white oil
paint, then begins painting the eyes.
sinks down in his chair, beaten. All life gone.
He stares at the emerging canvas, eyes wide, and we PUSH INTO
WALTER'S FACE. He is witnessing the end of his empire... the
destruction of everything that makes him who he is.
We push in TIGHTER... TIGHTER... until the screen fills with
his two eyes.
Big. Sad. And filling with tears.
EXT. FEDERAL COURTHOUSE - DAY
The doors open, and Margaret comes tumbling out, victorious.
She has WON!
She's surrounded by Jane, her friends, and a MOB OF REPORTERS.
They all SHOUT: "Mrs. Keane! Margaret! Congratulations!!"
Thank you! Thank you so much.
What are you going to call the
She smiles, clutching the finished Waif.
They all ROAR with laughter. A Reporter does a stand-up:
The jury found in favor of Margaret
Keane on all points. She won on
charges of defamation, emotional
distress, damaged reputation --
IN THE BACKGROUND
Walter drifts out, disheveled and lost. He stares hazily...
angrily at the crowd.
What a group of idiots... a quagmire
This doesn't change a thing!
We slowly PULL AWAY, leaving him tiny in the shot. Forgotten.
BACK AT MARGARET
She hugs Jane. The Reporter jumps in.
Margaret! Do you feel vindicated by
the high award?
Oh... it was never about the money.
And honestly -- I doubt Walter will
The Reporter chuckles. Margaret turns serious.
I just wanted credit for what I had
done. The justice is... I got my art
My prayers have been answered.
Margaret takes Jane's hand and starts to walk away.
Among the eager fans, a PORTLY LADY steps out, holding a BOOK.
She smiles nervously.
Margaret! Could I possibly have your
Margaret looks down -- and realizes the book is Walter's
volume of "TOMORROW'S MASTERS"
Margaret stares at it in wonder, then quickly signs the cover.
CLOSEUP - MARGARET
We hold. She slowly smiles in pride.
INT. MARGARET KEANE GALLERY - DAY
A brand-new gallery of Margaret's art. The walls are covered
with NEWLY-PAINTED Waifs and MDH's. We GLIDE through the
gallery... down the corridors of children and women...
These paintings of big-eyed children are different. They're
in magnificent colorful gardens, surrounded by joyful splashes
of red, orange, green...
"Walter never accepted defeat, insisting he was the true
artist for the rest of his life. He died in 2000, bitter and
penniless. He never produced another painting."
"Margaret found personal happiness and remarried. After many
years in Hawaii, she moved back to San Francisco and opened a
new gallery. She still paints everyday."
We move CLOSER to one child, into the face, until the eyes
fill the frame. And then... finally, we tilt down. Revealing
that the child is smiling.