Julie Taymor Is No Longer a U2 Fan
Julie Taymor has been back in the headlines in the last few weeks following her million-dollar lawsuit against the producers of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, the Broadway musical she spent nine years creating with musicians Bono and The Edge of U2. In a new interview, Taymor reveals that she was blindsided by her firing, and she also claims that her rockstar colleagues were not always present during the show’s extensive preview period.
Taymor spoke to Esquire, and it sounds like she’s reasonably upset at being the scapegoat for the show’s failings. She had started working on the show in 2002, and had giant ideas for the production from the beginning: "I wanted Spider-Man to be in a tent on top of Madison Square Garden… I thought if it was on Broadway, people would think it was just another musical, but we were very careful never to call it a musical." Taymor, of course, has an experimental theater background–her early work with puppetry is what got her the the directing gig for The Lion King–so it’s somewhat unsurprising that her high-concept ideas might not work with a comic-book adaptation for mainstream Broadway audiences, especially when producers invested millions of dollars into the project.
But what’s troubling is how Taymor has been characterized as a villain herself in this real-life Spider-Man saga. Each article about the show back in the early days of previews suggested that she was a nutty director trying to control a failing production. The news of her firing came after reports that she refused to compromise with producers regarding changes in the show, an allegation that she claims is false. "This thing that I refused to do the big changes and so they let me go? No. There wasn’t [an ultimatum]… That was not something that was brought up to me."
Meanwhile, Bono and The Edge both criticized her personally; Bono complained that he "felt artistically impotent," while The Edge called her "overwrought" and "exhausted." Yet they admitted they were not personally in the theater to give input into the production, and Bono did not personally put any of his money into the project. Of course, the reviews of the "reimagined" version of the show, which opened in June, were just as bad as the reviews of Taymor’s version, and nothing particularly positive has been said about the music from Bono and The Edge.
It seems easy to go after Taymor, but I can’t help but point out that she has taken the brunt of the criticism while being the only female creative at the top of the billing. So why is she solely labeled as the uncooperative member of the Spider-Man team? It seems likely that the grounds of her lawsuit are valid (she admits that she was only paid $120K for the nine years she worked on the show), and that when the show eventually closes, it will be remembered for the creative visual elements–the design, the flying–rather than the book or the music.