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Julie Taymor, former director of the Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, has filed her response to the producers’ countersuit over her departure from the show. The Academy Award-nominated director describes what 8 Legged Productions had to say in January as “over thirty pages of highly sensationalistic, false and misleading allegations aimed at blaming Taymor, as a co-author of the musical, for problems encountered in development of the musical and assassinating her character and professional reputation.”
In today’s filing, Taymor looks to set the record straight and reveals new details about what happened behind the scenes of the most expensive production in Broadway history.
In the producers’ counterclaims, 8 Legged Productions portrayed Taymor as full of hubris, someone who wouldn’t work with others and allegedly refused to develop a musical that followed the original, family-friendly Spider-Man story. Instead, Taymor is said to have wanted something much darker, even inserting herself into the show.
Taymor responds that she was not fired for refusing to “cooperate.” Instead, she offers a bullet-point list of the real reasons she was terminated, including to:
• appease existing investors who were anxious about the show;
• encourage additional investments to fund a suspension of preview performances while structural changes were made;
• sway critics’ opinions of the musical by fostering an image that the show would be “re-imagined” and that its technical and substantive problems were behind it;
• mask the producers’ own failures to ensure the technical viability of the staging of the book as originally conceived; and
• avoid the financial obligation of complying with Taymor’s royalty rights, which had long ago been agreed upon.”
Taymor goes on to tell her own narrative about what happened before the show officially opened. She says that everyone involved in the show, from producers Michael Cohl and Jeremiah Harris to U2’s Bono and The Edge, approved her co-authored book years before the first public performance. She cites public interviews they made back then that testified to the high quality of the work.
But the director swings the blame back on the producers for the musical’s initial failings.
For instance, Taymor says she had plans for a coup de theatre ending in which a giant web descends from the ceiling of the theatre. This was successfully demonstrated at a technical workshop, she says, but the design team couldn’t make the $1 million special effect work. Afterward, Taymor went to Cohl to tell him about the pressing problems and needed changes, but she alleges that he “failed to ensure that the problems plaguing the show’s final scene were remedied.”
As the show entered its preview period, Taymor says she made clear her willingness to make changes. But the tight schedule and “sheer technical complexity” of the show limited the scope of what was possible, she insisted. Taymor sent e-mails to the producers urging them to cancel some preview performances, but Taymor says that producers wouldn’t permit further cancellations so that larger-scale changes could be worked on.
In her new court filing, Taymor also singles out Bono and Edge for particular criticism. She says they failed to attend rehearsals and she cites e-mails beseeching them to deliver improved lyrics and music. “I have been at it on [Spider-Man] nonstop,” reads one of those e-mails. “We need you. It is not easy to change anything, but now I think it is a matter of lyrical and musical changes “
Taymor says that Bono and the Edge were out on tour with U2 at the time, and that caused damage. According to Taymor’s court brief, “The producers’ effort to hold Taymor responsible for damages for failing to make improvements to the show as an author ignores the reality that the conduct of Bono and Edge — the musical’s other primary creative team members — severely hampered timely improvements to the musical.”
Taymor discusses the technical mishaps that injured actors, which she blames on a company that didn’t install proper equipment, and the ways producers “conspired” to make changes to the musical’s book without her knowledge.
Eventually, she gets to “Plan X,” a secret plan to rewrite the book and reorder the show to avoid the technical challenges with staging the finale. Taymor says she had approval rights over changes but that the defendants went behind her back and finally cut her out. This all happened, she says, through a series of discussions and meetings without her knowledge. Taymor says that that the producers, Bono, Edge and others worked on a “twin track” approach, letting her pursue her own efforts as they secretly began to implement Plan X.
But regardless of the reasons she was fired, she says that the Spider-Man musical as it exists today is still hers in authorship. According to the filing:
“In the end, the producers have not created a ‘re-imagined’ production. The revised musical currently performing on Broadway is substantially the same production that Taymor directed before she was dismissed in March 2011. This technically complicated musical took years to write, design and develop. The producers’ current suggestion that they have created a ‘new’ show after a mere three-week shutdown is false and incredible.”
8 Legged recently settled a separate lawsuit with Taymor’s union, the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, and there’s been some speculation that this suit would be resolved soon as well. But Taymor was under deadline to submit an answer and apparently chose the opportunity to respond to nasty allegations that were hurled her way in January. Here is Taymor’s complete answer to counterclaims.
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