“As a result of all the changes that Taymor could not and would not make, the Spider-Man musical is now a hit,” according to the show’s producers, Michael Cohl and Jeremiah J. Harris, in an interview with the New York Times. “The show is a success despite Taymor, not because of her.”
In late 2010, a new musical, “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” under the direction of Julie Taymor, opened in previews. After just a few performances, the negative reviews started rolling in. It was clear that changes needed to be made. Instead of collaborating with other members of the production team to improve the show, however, Taymor refused.
Wanting to improve the musical, the producers fired Taymor, and replaced her with Philip William McKinley, knowing that his experience with Barnum & Bailey Circus would help “curb the aerial mishaps.” Working with a re-write of the show by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Glen Berger, the producers continued to fight. After the overhaul of the show, “Spider-Man” was put back on stage, and became a hit.
In November of 2011, Julie Taymor launched a lawsuit against the producers. As Patrick Healey told the New York Times, Taymor said that “they were profiting from her creative contributions without compensating her.” Taymor claimed that the producers continued to use about 25 percent of her staging and script contributions, even after the show’s major overhaul in April and May. Taymor also raised contractual and state law claims, including barring the producers from bringing “Spider-Man” to any non-Broadway venues.
As Taymor’s attorney told the Hollywood Reporter, “Ms. Taymor regrets that the producers’ actions have left her no choice but to resort to legal recourse to protect her rights.”
Following the original lawsuit by Taymor, the show’s production team has answered with a counter suit. Taymor wants to be paid full royalties for her work on the show, but according to the Broadway World News Desk, the producers argue that Taymor “refused to fulfill her contractual obligations, declaring that she could not and would not do the jobs that she was contracted to do.”
Taymor’s lawsuit is about receiving money, yes, but that is not all. In a November 2011 Hollywood Reporter article, Eriq Gardner says, “Taymor’s million dollar claims are obscuring the potentially billion dollar ones.” Not only is Taymor requesting to be paid over $500,000 in royalties for the production, but she is also trying to prevent the show from being performed in any venue other than Broadway. Barring these future productions will largely hinder the revenue that the show has the potential to bring in.
As of February 16, a settlement has finally been reached. According to the Chicago Tribune, Taymor will be paid full royalties for her work as director, as well as an “additional coin” for her continued collaborations “if and when the production recoups.” The end of this lawsuit marks Taymor’s official disengagement from the show, and she will have no further involvement. All litigation against the producers has also been dropped.
In a joint statement from producers Michael Cohl and Jeremiah Harris, “we are very happy to have reached an amicable compromise with the SDC [State Directors and Choreographers Society] that will allow us all to move on.” For now, the lawsuit has come to an end, and “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” will continue its success.