Fired director Julie Taymor suing 'Spider-Man' producers
Bono, left, Julie Taymor and The Edge arrive at the opening night performance of the Broadway musical 'Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark' in New York, Tuesday, June 14, 2011. (AP / Charles Sykes)
Published Tuesday, November 8, 2011 5:01PM EST
NEW YORK - Director Julie Taymor sued the producers of "Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark" Tuesday, saying they violated her creative rights and haven't compensated her for the work she put into Broadway's most expensive musical.
Charles Spada, an attorney who filed the suit on behalf of the Tony Award-winning director, said Tuesday in a statement that "the producers' actions have left her no choice but to resort to legal recourse to protect her rights."
Rick Miramontez, the show's spokesman, was not immediately aware of the copyright infringement lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. Taymor was not available to comment.
The lawsuit seeks half of all profits, gains and advantages derived from the sale, license, transfer or lease of any rights in the original Spiderman book along with a permanent ban of the use of Taymor's name or likeness in connection with a promotional film without her written consent. It also seeks a jury trial to determine her share of profits from the unauthorized use of her book, which the lawsuit said was believed to be in excess of $1 million.
Taymor, who had been the "Spider-Man" director and co-book writer, was fired from the $75 million musical that features music by U2's Bono and The Edge in March after years of delays, accidents and critical backlash.
Philip William McKinley, who directed the Hugh Jackman musical "The Boy From Oz," in 2003, was hired to steer the ship. He was billed as creative consultant when the musical opened in June.
The show has been doing brisk business ever since, most weeks easily grossing more than the $1.2 million the producers have indicated they need to reach to stay viable. Last week, it took in $1.4 million and 86 per cent of the 1,930-seat Foxwoods Theatre was filled.
According to Spada, "producers have failed to compensate Ms. Taymor for their continued use of her work to date, despite the fact that the show has consistently played to capacity or near-capacity houses since its first public performance in November 2010."
The lawsuit said the producers continued to "promote, use, change and revise" her work, including the book of the musical, without her approval. It said that her contracts called for no changes to be made without her consent.
According to the lawsuit, the producers' lawyers belatedly sent Taymor a check for $52,880 on Nov. 4, purportedly as payment of her co-bookwriter royalties for performances of the musical through April 17, the last performance of the show before the revisions.
"The producers, however, continue to refuse to pay Taymor any royalties for performances after April 17, 2011," the lawsuit said. It said she is owed more than $70,000 additional book royalties to date, along with royalties of nearly $3,000 per week for performances.
The lawsuit said nearly one quarter of the new "Spider-Man" book is copied verbatim from Taymor's original book.
Taymor's lawsuit comes less than a week after the Tony Awards Administration Committee ruled that only Taymor will be considered eligible for the show's Tony for best direction of a musical category. The lawsuit said the awards committee rejected the producer's contention that McKinley had changed the musical into a "new" production.
Taymor is also seeking compensation from the union that represents theatre directors. The Stage Directors and Choreographers Society filed an arbitration claim in June against the show's producers over unpaid royalties.
The legal fights are in contrast to the wide smiles and hugs shared by the creative team on opening night. In the months since then, Taymor hasn't spoken at length about the behind-the-scenes turmoil, but has said she is still proud of the show and is not bitter.