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Julie Taymor Talks Spiderman at LA Theatre Conference

by Melissa Silverstein
June 20, 2011 1:45 AM
2 Comments
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I'm a bit obsessed about the Julie Taymor/Spiderman situation. Mostly I'm obsessed because of what this will mean for her career, but also what it will mean for other women's careers. Since her departure from the show several months ago, the narrative has been created by everyone else by her, mostly by necessity, since it didn't make sense for her to speak while she was trying to negotiate terms. But still, she was made out to be this incredibly difficult person who would not listen to reason and change the show so that it would be more commercial. Hardy any blame was given to the musicians The Edge and Bono who had never written a musical before, and during crucial times when the show was in previews were unable to be in the country because of prior commitments to U2.

Anyone who has read any books about musical theatre knows that some of the best musicals have had songs thrown out in previews and others added that have saved and remade shows. That's what happens. But this didn't happen with Spiderman. I would imagine the producers had advance warning of the schedule conflicts of two of the key creative people, but they made the decision to keep moving forward.

Following her appearance at the opening last week, Julie Taymor was a speaker at the TCG Theatre Conference in LA and had some things to say about her experience with Spiderman.

She talked about how the producers relied on focus groups for story changes and that bloggers and twitter make it very difficult to be creative since you are under a microscope.

Here are some of her comments:

When you’re trying to create new work, and you’re trying to break new ground and experiment, which seems an incredibly crazy thing to do in a Broadway environment, the immediate answers that audiences give are never going to be good.

It’s just in the nature of things that when you’re doing something very new...audiences don’t know how necessarily to talk about it immediately. Which in my world, and in your world, is a good thing. You want people to absorb, they should be entertained, they should have a great time, but they should also be stimulated enough that when they go home or talk to their kids, they are actually digesting, thinking, talking about it.

She brings up some good points but the overall problem is that this is the world we live in and to think that a large scale Broadway musical with the team that was involved would not have attracted a lot of media is naive. We live in a crazy 24/7 world where creativity and newness is not necessarily embraced. It's ironic that Taymor was trying to do something new with Spiderman, when the whole super hero genre has become so common place in our popular culture. In some ways she tried to make an art house film on a studio budget and those things never seem to work out well.

She is a very different kind of artist but she gets punished for it. Here's a comparison. Look at the reception Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life has gotten. It won best film at Cannes. The press was clamoring for it for over a year before it was done writing story upon story speculating about the film befire anyone had any real details.. The love was been poured on, yet it has only grossed $3.8 million and the budget was $32 million. But Malick is an auteur, and not a failure. I'm not saying that Taymor is perfect. Some of the things she has done have left me quite puzzled. The point is that the press is way harder on Taymor than on other people especially guys and it's important to keep that in perspective.

Taymor Tries to Reclaim a Reputation (NY Times)

Julie Taymor talks about 'Spider-Man' at Theatre Communications Group conference (LA Times)

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2 Comments

  • kim | June 20, 2011 11:26 AMReply

    Last night I went to her "Conversation With..." event at the Los Angeles Film Festival.

    She did not talk about Spiderman, other than to make a quick joke about having recently being fired and therefore available for any acting work when she was complimented on her acting in the behind-the-scene pieces shown of her working with actors in "Across the Universe."

    For the evening at LAFF, she prepared 4 pieces that showed how specific projects of hers transferred from stage to film and vice versa. I doubt anyone watching those clips could deny her genius as a director in both mediums.

    Although no one asked her specifically what she was going to do next, she did say she's comfortable working at all budget levels in both film and stage work. The important thing, she emphasized, was having good people to work with. And she also said we have to redefine moviemaking success beyond opening box office numbers.

    I think everyone left the LAFF conversation on solidly on the side of Team Taymor.

  • AV | June 20, 2011 11:00 AMReply

    couldn't agree more
    there's a viciousness to the attacks that are so out of proportion

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