Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski: “Tim Burton has become a brand”

Meeting with the writers of Ed Wood and Big Eyes, back this Sunday on television.

In March 2015, Première had met Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski to talk about Big Eyes, which was about to be released in theaters. On the occasion of the replay of Tim Burton’s film on Arte (followed by a documentary on its main actor Christoph Waltz), we are republishing this interview.

First: You wrote three great biopics in the 90s (Ed Wood, Larry Flynt, Man on the Moon) at a time when the genre was not yet dominating Hollywood, as it does today. How did you experience this inflation?

Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski: We feel a little responsible! When we started, the biopic was reserved for great men – Abraham Lincoln or Mahatma Gandhi… With Ed wood, we decided to focus on the second division. To celebrate the marginalized. “You probably don’t know this guy, but you’ll love spending two hours with him. A bit like this show, Behind the music. They don’t talk about Pink Floyd, but about this group which one day opened for Pink Floyd and then broke up before recording their second track… We launched the idea that everyone potentially had right to his biopic. And today, it is indeed the case …

Is that why you got interested in Margaret Keane this time? To turn the tide by leaning on a popular artist?

Not at all ! Margaret Keane may have been very famous in the early 1960s, but she had been completely forgotten since. It’s like Larry Flynt, who everyone thought was a common pornographer before we wrote our movie, or Andy kaufman (hero of Man on the Moon), reduced to his funny appearances in the series Taxi. We do tons of research to reveal the complexity of our “subjects”, but by the time the film hits theaters, viewers have already read plenty of press articles paraphrasing our scripts. It’s like an electron microscope: the only way to see the object is to shine a spotlight on it, but by shining a spotlight on it, you change the nature of the object.

Is Tim Burton an impostor or an artist?

Twenty years ago, in Ed wood, Tim Burton portrayed a wacky outsider. Today, it tells the story of Margaret Keane, a kitsch painter whose works have become a staple product by being printed on mugs or posters. The two films are a dazzling summary of his career, right?

Without a doubt. Tim was this weird young guy from Burbank with very personal obsessions. Along the way, he knew how to make his fads universal and he became a brand … You would have to ask him what effect it has. But basically he’s still this Ed Wood guy: genuinely passionate, constantly enthusiastic, a fan of old horror movies. An Ed Wood with more talent.

The film explains how Walter Keane took to Margaret’s canvases to put his name on them and earn all the honors. A parable of the relationship between the screenwriter and the director?

Especially the relations between the artists and the studios. They are the ones who have the copyright of Big eyes, not us. And it’s true that we look a bit like Margaret: locked in our little office, forced to scrape paper from morning to night …

And other than that, have you seen any good biopics lately?
(long, very long silence) Um… Boyhood, does that matter?
Interview Frédéric Foubert

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