Broadway Spider-Man producers counter-sue Julie Taymor

Judd Hollander
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The producers of the Broadway musical Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark have filed a counterclaim against Julie Taymor, the show’s former director and her company LOH, Inc.

Taymor, who worked on the project for the better part of nine years, was dismissed from the show shortly before it officially opened on Broadway last June, and filed a lawsuit on November 8, 2011 against the show, seeking payment for royalties due to her since her departure from the production.

In addition to filing the counterclaim, the producers have also filed an antitrust lawsuit against the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, Inc., LOH, Inc. and Julie Taymor.

This lawsuit is in response to Taymor’s similar request to be paid “full royalties as director and collaborator despite the fact that Taymor caused numerous delays, drove up costs, and failed to direct a musical about Spider-Man that could open on Broadway.”

The producers also noted they filed this suit “in order to prevent Taymor from profiting from the work of others and from undermining the Spider-Man musical’s ability to make money, provide jobs, and be shared with audiences throughout the world.”

The 68-page counterclaim, filed on January 17 in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, is filled with salacious quotes from the email correspondence of many notable figures involved in the production, including the show’s composers Bono and The Edge, and also quotes excerpts from press reviews from major New York media outlets comparing the original Taymor book to the revised book by Glen Berger and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who were brought in to make significant changes to the musical.

The show’s producers note in the counterclaim that Taymor had signed a contract to co-write and collaborate on the Spider-Man musical, and when complications with the show began to emerge, she refused “to fulfill her contractual obligations, declaring that she could not and would not do the jobs that she was contracted to do.” Most damning of all, the counterclaim states “The show is a success despite Taymor, not because of her.”

Going into extreme detail, the counterclaim goes on to say that “Taymor refused to develop a musical that followed the original, family-friendly Spider-Man story, which was depicted in the Marvel comic books and the hugely successful motion picture trilogy based on them. Instead, Taymor, who admits that she was not a fan of the Spider-Man story prior to her involvement with the musical, insisted on developing a dark, disjointed and hallucinogenic musical involving suicide, sex and death,” referring to Taymor centering her book around the Arachne character while making Peter Parker, the boy who transforms into Spider-Man, a supporting character.

The producers also assert that Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark is clearly a commercial enterprise, but that Taymor was more concerned with her own personal idea of what the show should be rather than its potential for public appeal, the counterclaim noting “Taymor’s attitude was summed up by her statement that, ‘I don’t give a f#*! about audience reaction!’”

More significantly, the counterclaim notes Taymor’s lawsuit is an attempt to receive monies and royalties due her had she “actually written a book for the Spider-Man Musical that could be opened on Broadway.”

However, since a different book was in place when the show actually opened, the show’s producers say that Taymor’s claims for additional royalties are baseless, noting “any similarities . . . exist by virtue of the fact that they are both based on the same pre-existing works in which Taymor cannot claim copyrights, including, but not limited to, the Spider-Man comic books and the Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 films, which originated all of the main characters in the works at issue in this case, their settings, the Spider-Man origin story premise, and the plot elements that appear in the works.”

This issue is an important point, as Taymor’s lawsuit seeks to stop any future productions of the show (for example, road tours or sit-down productions) unless and until she is paid royalties from the show. The counterclaim noted: “If successful, Taymor will stop hundreds of performers and technicians from getting jobs working on the musical and will prevent new audience members from seeing the show.”

Although the show has grossed approximately $81 million in box office sales since it began in November 2010, it incurs weekly costs in excess of $1.6 million, and will not return its original $75 million capitalization for at least five years in a Broadway run alone.

Meanwhile, in a separate development, the Tony Awards Administrative Committee has ruled that Taymor, not McKinley, will be eligible for consideration for a Tony nomination for Best Director of a Musical for her work on Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark. Taymor is listed on the Internet Broadway Database (ibdb.com) as having written the book, along with Berger and Aguirre-Sacasa, and is responsible for the show’s original direction. Taymor’s name still appears in the show’s Playbill as original director.

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