Moving on from the debacle that was “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” Julie Taymor has gone back to an old friend — Shakespeare.
The director recently finished a film version of her recent stage production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which begins with a bed at the center of the stage. She had previously directed film versions of “Titus” and “The Tempest.”
With a slew of new projects on the horizon, the 62-year old visionary director who helped make “The Lion King” the most successful box office title in history has buried the web-slinger. But the sting isn’t entirely gone.
Taymor felt she was made the scapegoat for the controversy surrounding “Spider-Man,” Broadway’s most expensive show. The musical had delayed openings, numerous injuries to actors on stage and a shake-up led to Taymor being fired and the show rewritten, though she maintains nothing changed from “her work in progress.”
The Associated Press caught up with Taymor at the Toronto International Film Festival to discuss the ups and downs of her career:
Do you feel that you were misrepresented in the “Spider-Man” coverage?
I don’t know. I wasn’t really represented. I think yes, misrepresented or nonrepresented. Part of it was, “What are you going to say when there’s that onslaught (of media coverage)?” I decided that people were hungry, there was a feeding frenzy. I don’t necessarily think that the whole story was reported. It wasn’t, but let’s move on. I’m happy to have moved on. It was four years ago, but it’s an incredible battle wound. … The final thing was my production in every way visually, but not what I had hoped it would be.
What was your proudest moment as a director?
I think “The Lion King” in New York and South Africa. Opening it in Johannesburg for an audience that inspired the music and never seen that kind of theater before. They came with their blankets — the whole thing.
Throughout your career, you’re been quite innovative on stage. Will you stop at anything to get it right?
You’ll go as far as humanly possible, both financially and what’s acceptable … as far as coming up with the ideas, I dream my dream. I try to come up with what will be the essential image, the essence. For “Midsummer,” I thought and it was a bed. It’s not that complicated.
“Midsummer” is quite visual. Have you always seen the world onstage as a visual place?
I’ve done a lot of Shakespeare, as you know. His language is visual, so it gives you the clues. It’s very inspiring to jump off of those images that Shakespeare puts in language. And in tradition Shakespeare, of course, it was a bare stage, so the audience used their imagination to fill in the blanks. But I think you can do both. You can have the language and support the language, as we do in our day and age, with powerful imagery.
How have you balanced your strong visual approach to working well with your actors?
Sometimes people want to box you and say, ‘Oh she’s a visualist and that’s more important than the actors,’ but I don’t think that’s true, obviously, from my point view: the greater the actor, the easier it is for the director.
What’s next for you? Will you be working with composer Elliot Goldenthal again?
Well, I have to get this movie out, and Elliot and I have a movie musical, “Transposed Heads,” which is in the financing stage. I’m very excited about that. It’s all new music. We’ve done it in the theater, but we’ve changed it completely. And I have another large-scale film, a romantic-action picture, that, hopefully, we will be making within the year. And this is the new things, two long-form television series, and hopefully a musical for the stage, but I can’t talk about it yet, but I would really love to do another musical.
Can you tell me anything about the TV shows?
One isn’t signed yet, and the other is based on Erica Jong’s book, “Fanny.” She is sort of a female Tom Jones, being the true story of Fanny Hackabout-Jones. It’s a really sexy, bawdy romp with a fantastic character who is both a prostitute and a writer. It’s going to be a wild mixture of style. Animation, live action, really unusual.
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