January 17, 2012 4:03pm PT by Eriq Gardner
'Spider-Man' Producers File Nasty Countersuit Against Julie Taymor
Producers of Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark, the most expensive production in Broadway history, have filed a countersuit against the show's former director, Julie Taymor.
In a filing today in New York federal court, Michael Cohl's 8 Legged Productions alleges that Taymor failed to live up to her obligations by declaring that "she could not and would not do that she was contracted to do, thereby causing significant unneccessary expense, delay and other harm."
Taymor, an Academy Award-nominated director who was let go from Spider-Man in early 2011, filed her lawsuit back in November, alleging that she was owed royalties and that the producers were continuing to use her copyrighted contributions without permission. As part of Taymor's lawsuit, she asked for a permanent injunction barring the defendants from using her Original Book without compensation. If successful, Taymor could cause producers billions of dollars in damages.
Now, the producers have hit back hard -- blaming Taymor for some of the show's infamous delays and big expenses.
According to the counterclaims, Taymor is alleged to have refused to develop a musical that followed the original, family-friendly Spider-Man story, depicted in the Marvel comic books, and instead wished to create a "dark, disjointed and hallucinogenic musical involving suicide, death, and sex."
Taymor's version is said to have relegated the Spider-Man character to a supporting role in favor of a young woman character named Arachne.
The producers use this allegation to take a shot at Taymor -- saying that the character represented a way for Taymor to insert herself in the show. According to the counterclaims, Arachne "was so full of hubris that she boasted that her skills were greater than those of the gods and declared, 'I’m the only real artist working today.'"
The producers go on to spell out their dispute with the director. They allegedly wanted a musical that would appeal to broad audiences, but allegedly, "Taymor's attitude was summed up by her statement that, 'I don't give a fuck about audience reaction!'" Taymor is alleged to have independently and unilaterally registered the copyright and that in doing so, she misrepresented to the copyright office the work involved. That's the basis for why the producers believe her copyright registration is invalid.
Cohl and his partner Jeremiah Harris quite literally present themselves as the heroes in the saga of Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark:
"Due to Taymor’s actions, which caused numerous delays and tremendous cost overruns, by 2009, it looked like the Spider-Man Musical would close before it had even one preview performance.... Although many producers would have simply given up on the production, the Producers engaged in superhuman efforts to save the Musical, including raising tens of millions of dollars—much of it their own—to fund the ever-increasing costs of the production."
Taymor is further alleged to have refused to colloborate with U2's Bono and The Edge on necessary changes to save the show, and that her inadequacies are what drove the producers to hire a new writer. "The show is a success despite Taymor, not because of her," says the counterclaims, which seek a declaration that Taymor is not a joint author of the original book and that the producers have a right to take the musical to non-Broadway venues.
The producers are also seeking unspecified monetary damages against Taymor for her alleged breaches of contract and breaches of fiduciary duties. And in case Taymor has any plans to interfere with the future of Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark, the producers want an injunction ordering her to cancel her copyright.
If we hear from Taymor about her response to the new development, we'll update.