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.

‘Spider-Man’ Claims Another Victim

Just a day after Julie Taymor announced that she’s suing the production for a million bucks, the Phantom of the Foxwoods Theater caught another poor actor in his tangled web. Matthew James Thomas, who performs the role of Peter Parker in Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark at Wednesday and Saturday matinees, mysteriously injured himself yesterday.

Playbill offers the news but has no details about what happened to Thomas, only that he was injured backstage while transitioning between scenes at the end of the first act. He "was taken to the hospital, where he received stitches, and the production was stopped for approximately 10 minutes." There haven’t been any injuries in a while, so the ten minute break was surely a fun moment in the middle of what critics have called "a bore."

Luckily for the Wednesday matinee crowd, Spider-Man star Reeve Carney just happened to be in the building and took over for Thomas while was at the hospital. Crazy coincidence, huh? What’s stranger: the fact that the show has a separate actor playing the title role during the matinee performances (something that is usually reserved for roles that require crazy talents that would otherwise strain the vocals of the star, such as the upcoming revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s Evita), or that Carney was around, possibly UP TO NO GOOD? Could he have knocked his rival Spidey out of commission so that we could have something to do on Wednesday afternoon?

Well, it’s not likely, but a conspiracy theory certainly spices up this long-winded, boring mess of a show. Matthew James Thomas will be back in the show by Saturday. 

Spider-Man Director Slings a $1Million Lawsuit Web

For better or worse, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark hasn’t been in the press much recently, not compared to its tumultuous beginnings, anyway, when it was reguar front page news. But ousted director Julie Taymor is reigniting the backstage drama, when it was announced yesterday that she is suing the producers of the show, for continuing to use her work without proper compensation, to which we say, fair enough.  

The suit is worth at least $1 million, plus royalties, and despite the new creative team’s re-imagination of the show since Taymor’s departure, the lawsuit contends that the producers “have continued to promote, use, change and revise Taymor’s work… without her approval or authorization and in violation of their agreements with Taymor.”

The show undoubtedly owes much to Taymor, who put seven years of her life into its creation. And while Taymor’s version of Turn Off the Dark was a critical disaster and all-around freakshow, as the creator of The Lion King, the third longest-running show in Broadway history, she still commands respect as a major artist. This could be her lashing out, still not over getting the boot, or, more likely, girl just wants her money. Sue on!   

5 Career Options for a Newly Unemployed Julie Taymor

In case you hadn’t heard, Julie Taymor is all but free from the quagmire that is Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. The speculation is so thick (is she stepping down? did Bono shoo her out?), the sources so numerous, that it’s pretty much a done deal. It’s sad to see to see an artist of Taymor’s talent and conviction fall short of realizing her vision, but Broadway always seemed like an ill fit for her idiosyncratic sensibilities, despite The Lion King‘s success. The question now is, how will this epic professional and creative letdown affect Taylor’s confidence, and therefore her career? Will she rebound with something so mind-meltingly ahead of its time that we won’t be able to comprehend it until 2054? Or will she start directing sitcom pilots for NBC? Here are a few career options for the embattled genius.

Direct Batman: Turn Off the Dark Knight on Broadway. Second time’s a charm, right? The dark themes and Gothic undertones of the Batman saga could be perfect for the woman who directed Titus. The only problem: Batman doesn’t sing, no matter what. It just doesn’t happen. How could Taymor get around this? Hire Trent Reznor to compose an industrial score, and have the Caped Crusader scream his lyrics. Done.

Become Lady Gaga’s go-to video director. Sorry, Jonas Åkerlund, but there’s a new bitch in town. Lady Gaga has a new album filled with music videos just waiting to be directed by someone with the same knack for phantasmagoric visuals as herself. And since Taymor loves setting her compositions to music, this could be the most ideal collaboration since Charlie Sheen and Chuck Lorre, or something.

Step in as the Creative Director at Dior. Thanks to Hitler, there’s an opening at the French fashion house, and although Dior head Sidney Toledano has reportedly found his man, we nominate Taymor. Her outre imagination can help fill the void left by bizzaro designers Alexander McQueen and John Galliano, and she still gets to keep ‘director’ as part of her title, which is all anyone really wants.

Write a book about her Spider-Man ordeal. The last time Julie Taymor tried to write a book, it didn’t go so well. But what about a book about why it didn’t go so well? If she’s too emotionally destroyed to appear in public for a while, she can lock herself up in her Manhattan apartment and bang this thing out. Our suggested title: How to Fail in Theater While Really Trying.

Direct and produce U2’s next world tour. Because her, Bono, and The Edge made such a good team the first time.

See Just How Crazy the Spider-Man Musical Will Be

A lot has been written so far about Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark: That it’s the most expensive Broadway musical in history; that it’s the most dangerous Broadway musical in history; that it’s the biggest risk in Broadway history (which, after the first two, sort of goes without saying). But until now, almost nothing has been seen. That all changed today, when Vogue, of all publications, published the first official images of the production’s certifiably insane costumes.

The photos, which hardly look real, were taken by Annie Leibovitz, and showcase just how out-of-their-minds the people involved in this production are. We mean that in a good way. Spider-Man purists probably won’t like what they see (a comic book-obsessed friend of ours commented upon seeing the pics: “Leave it to Broadway to gay everything up”), but our hunch is that Taymor and Co. aren’t staging this with fanboys in mind. And what stake does a fashion bible like Vogue have in getting first dibs on these shots? Well, in this version, Mary Jane doesn’t wear cardigans and Levis – she wears gothic gowns by Marchesa and McQueen. Marvel at the slideshow here.

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Where Celebs Go Out: America Ferrera, Harvey Keitel, Hope Davis

At the premiere of Our Family Wedding:

● AMERICA FERRERA – “My favorite restaurant of the moment is Broadway East, on the Lower East Side.” ● CHARLIE MURPHY – “I’ve been going to this Mexican restaurant in New Jersey. I think it’s called El Torito, whatever. That’s one of them. I go to so many restaurants. This is what I want to explain, so no one’s insulted. I’m on the road 48 weeks of the year in different towns, and I go to a lot of restaurants, so to ask me what my favorite restaurant is, is kind of a hard question to answer. I like going to Baja Fresh in L.A.” ● GRETCHEN ROSSI – “In Newport Beach, it’s Flemings. It’s a steakhouse, and I eat the steak and potatoes and everything that you can imagine on the menu. But I just eat small portions, so that you get a taste of everything.”

● LANCE GROSS – “I love Tao here in New York. I don’t get to New York a lot, but the Cafeteria. I love the Cafeteria. I do all the nightclubs. I don’t even know the names. I just go into them.” ● REGINA KING – “Right now, I’m really loving Osteria Mozza in L.A., Mario Batali’s restaurant. It’s so funny because where he opened was a place in L.A. that there’s been four restaurants that tried to make it there; came; spent a lot of money; closed down. And he has been booming, banging with business, and rightfully so. So, if you go and get the oxtail ragu — oh, my God! Hah! It is so good, and mmmm, the pizza next door is even better, because it’s Nancy Silverton from La Brea Bakery making the dough. I love to eat, clearly.” ● PRAS – “Geez! Right now it’s gotta be Dylan Prime. That’s in my neighborhood. Every time I’m out of town, I always take a trip back to Dylan. I feel like I’ve landed back home. Do you like steak? I love — I’m a big meat eater, despite all the things they tell you about eating charred beef.”

At the opening of A Behanding in Spokane on Broadway:

● HARVEY KEITEL – “A candy store in Brighton Beach, in Brooklyn. It was called Ali Baba & the 40 Thieves.” ● ANTHONY MACKIE – “Hey, book that is black! I love to go down to STK. One of my very favorite restaurants is Three Sisters, on Madison and 124th — the best Caribbean food you can find in New York. ● JENNIFER MORRISON – “I have had no chance to discover that yet because we just opened last night. Where in L.A.? I love Madeo restaurant. We eat there all the time. Dan Tana’s, some of the usual spots. I’m a huge fan of spaghetti and meat sauce. It’s my weakness, anywhere I go.” ● ZOE KAZAN – “I love your magazine! I haven’t been going to a lot of bars or clubs lately. I’ve been going to theater hangouts, like the West Bank Cafe or Bar Centrale. In my neighborhood, I love Buttermilk Channel, which is a restaurant in Cobble Hill or Frankie’s 457. I like the fried chicken at Buttermilk Channel.” ● MARTIN MCDONAGH – “Angus McIndoe.” ● HUGH JACKMAN – “Oh, c’mon!”

● DANA IVEY – “I don’t want to give it away ’cause too many people will go there. I don’t want to say because it’ll be infiltrated by everybody, and I won’t get a seat! No, but Joe Allen’s is always good. That’s one of my faves. Oh, they have this great, great salad that I really, really like — trevisano, something, I can’t remember, but that’s what I get every time.” ● HOPE DAVIS –Buttermilk Channel in Brooklyn.” ● JOAN HAMBURG – “You mean in this neighborhood? I love to go to Orso’s. Oh, I like a lot of places. I like Blue Hill downtown. I got a list!” ● SARAH PAULSON – “One of them is a secret. I don’t want anybody else to know about it, so I won’t talk about that place. I love a place called Café Cluny, on 12th Street and West 4th Street, down in the Village. Any favorite dish? The burger and the Cluny. It’s a giant martini, which is always really good. I’m, kind of, like a person who only goes to places that are in the neighborhood I happen to be standing in, in the moment, which is what’s so great about New York — you’re bound to turn around and hit something great.” ● MARCIA GAY HARDEN – “Oh, God, we never go out. Honestly, we don’t go out. Our living room, our kitchen, our dining room. What about in L.A.? Oh, God, I wouldn’t say L.A. before New York! I couldn’t possibly say L.A. before New York. Okay, wait! We like Settepani in Harlem. We love Orso. We love Orso.” ● STACY KEACH – “It’s a tough one, isn’t it? There’s so many. Joe’s restaurant in Venice. Everything is good, but I, particularly, like steak ‘n eggs, yeah. In New York, there’s so many wonderful restaurants, and we just got here. And every time I come back to New York, I discover new places, so I’m hesitant to give you names of places.” ● PABLO SCHREIBER – “The old standards are the — what’s the place over here on 46th where we go after the show? It’s right above Joe Allen’s. Yeah, I, always forget the name of it ’cause they have no sign. [That would be Bar Centrale. -ed] That’s my favorite place for after-dinner drinks. I went to a great Greek restaurant last night, called Molyvos, on 7th Avenue between 55th and 56th. That place was pretty delicious. I had the whole fish. It was a black sea bass, and they did it perfectly. I’m a father of a 16th-month-old kid, so I don’t get out much these days.” ● DAVID HYDE PIERCE – “No, I don’t have any. I don’t have a lot of places to talk about like that.” ● LILY RABE – “I love Maialino. It’s in the Gramercy Park Hotel. It just opened. It’s amazing. Yes, it’s really good. And I love Café Cluny. Morandi. Those are my favorite places to eat. And the Breslin is also really incredible. The Breslin has this pork belly that’s one of the most memorable things I’ve ever eaten in the city.” ● JULIE TAYMORE –Craft, Maialino, Bobby Flay’s restaurant Mesa Grill.” ● TOM WAITS – “Oh, gee, I eat at home. I eat at home.” ● PAUL DANO – “Eton’s — it’s a dumpling place in Brooklyn. Po. Franny’s — all Brooklyn.” ● ANTHONY ANDERSON – “I really don’t hang out much in New York because of the work schedule that we have. But when I do, I find myself having a drink at Tillman’s. My favorite eatery would have to be Abe & Arthur’s.” ● GRIFFIN DUNNE – “I’m mostly upstate these days, so I’ve got little holes up there that I hit, in Duchess County. What do I want to plug? Gigi’s, an Italian restaurant — very, very good. I think that’s in Rhinebeck, yeah.”