When the producers of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark fired director Julie Taymor last March, you knew there would be no way to make the parting amicable. Taymor’s name remained on the posters and in the Playbill and she would receive certain royalties, but by November, Taymor’s lawyers had filed a lawsuit claiming the director had not been sufficiently paid. Last week, the show’s producers launched a countersuit against Taymor.
Much of the producers’ Jan. 17 filing reps a line-by-line refutation of the claims Taymor’s camp made in a Nov. 8 filing alleging the director hadn’t been paid proper author royalties. The producers respond by asserting that for the “old book” of the musical—as opposed to the “new book” penned by Aguirre-Sacasa and Glen Berger, incorporated after a production hiatus in the spring—the real writing work was shouldered by co-writer Berger.
Producers also argue that Taymor’s copyright claims on story elements don’t hold, since the majority of those elements are drawn from pre-existing sources including the “Spider-Man” comicbooks and films. They additionally bat back at Taymor’s legal attempt to nix non-Broadway incarnations of “Spider-Man,” arguing she has no contractual say in the matter.
Taymor’s influence on the musical was considerable, and she may yet win. But this is not to say she shouldn’t have been fired. Following numerous injuries sustained by the actors in high-wire stunts, the early exits of key performers, and a budget that ballooned to more than $70 million, producers (and apparently songwriters Bono and the Edge) pleaded with Taymor to make changes. When she resisted, she was removed. Regarding this drama within a musical, you can read my review in The Weekly Standard.
This wasn’t supposed to be the storyline. Just go back to Leslie Stahl’s segment on 60 Minutes, in which Taymor, Bono, and the Edge all seem happy and excited; all those creative juices flowing. The episode was from November 2010. As it turned out, opening night would not be until June 2011.