In Esquire, Taymor Says She Was Unfairly Maligned by U2 Leaders Over 'Spider-Man' Woes

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By Patrick Healy, The New York Times

In a new interview with Esquire magazine, the theater director Julie Taymor accuses Bono and the Edge of U2 - her former collaborators on the Broadway musical "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" - of maligning her as exhausted and overwrought as a bogus explanation for ousting her from the production in March and then overhauling the show as they saw fit.

Edge, who wrote the music and lyrics for "Spider-Man" with Bono, had previously used those two adjectives to describe Ms. Taymor's state of mind last winter. Of those adjectives, Ms. Taymor told Esquire, "I think that those were important to paint a picture of a director who you needed to release in order to make this big change. I had to be characterized that way in order for something to happen." After her firing, "Spider-Man" shut down for three weeks to insert new dialogue and scenes that Ms. Taymor's former colleagues had been secretly preparing and sharing with the producers during the winter.

Bono, at least, had no idea about her energy or psyche last winter, Ms. Taymor said, because he was mostly absent while she was making changes to "Spider-Man" during preview performances.

"There's no doubt by the end of February, when I felt all of this stuff happening, that I was exhausted by that, but not by the show and not by the inspiration that I was getting from the actors," Ms. Taymor said. "What was exhausting was the fact that the producers were absent." She added, "Those people weren't there, so how does Bono know? I'm sorry."

Ms. Taymor chose to give her first interview about "Spider-Man" to Esquire for its Americans of the Year issue in December; it goes on sale Nov. 22. She is now suing the show's lead producers in federal court over royalties and copyright infringement, while also pursuing a separate arbitration claim through her directors' union over back pay and royalties.

Calling last winter and spring "very dark times," Ms. Taymor saidher firing in March came as a "complete shock" - in part because she believed the $75 million musical, by far the most expensive in Broadway history, was "really working" at that point. The show's lead producers, Michael Cohl and Jeremiah J. Harris, were more critical of the show in private, and they viewed Ms. Taymor as resistant to cutting characters and scenes that some theater-goers found confusing or ominous.

Ms. Taymor, a Tony Award winner for "The Lion King," whose roots are in experimental theater and mask-making, told Esquire that Bono, Edge, and others knew her brand of artistry when they recruited her to direct and help write the "Spider-Man" script.

"I say they asked me to get involved, they've seen my work," Ms. Taymor said. For the record, she added that she would not want to go through the nine-year process of creating "Spider-Man" again with the colleagues and friends who ultimately abandoned her. "Not with this group of people," she said, "not with these producers."

Rick Miramontez, a spokesman for the "Spider-Man" producers, said on Monday, "No one from the production has read this article, so there is no comment." Esquire provided an advanced copy of the article to the Times.

After more than six months of preview performances, the most ever on Broadway, "Spider-Man" opened in mid-June to mixed-to-negative reviews; Ms. Taymor attended opening night and made a good show of affection with Bono and Edge. The musical is now one of the top-selling shows on Broadway, usually grossing between $1.4 million and $1.6 million, but its unusually high weekly running costs and $75 million capitalization cast doubt on its long-term profitability on Broadway.

© 2011 The New York Times Company

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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on November 15, 2011 3:13 AM.

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