MANHATTAN (CN) – Julie Taymor sued the producers of the “Spider-Man” musical for firing her from the much-delayed Broadway show, and hiring creative consultants to make changes she says were unauthorized and infringed upon her work.
In a lengthy federal complaint, Taymor says the musical has earned more than $60 million, and counting, but the producers have cut her out of royalties.
She seeks more than $1 million in damages and royalties.
Earlier in her career, Taymor specialized in avant-garde theater based on Eastern puppetry traditions and experimental films, such as her adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Titus Andronicus.” She popularized these techniques in Broadway musical theater, starting with the long-running production of Disney’s “The Lion King.”
In her 39-page complaint, with 30 additional pages of exhibits, Taymor says she demanded – and was assured – complete creative control over “Spider-Man” before she signed on.
“From the beginning of her involvement with the musical, Taymor insisted that she have creative control over her contributions to the musical, including the book of the musical, and that she have approval over subsequent productions of the musical beyond Broadway,” the complaint states.
“On March 28, 2005, Taymor’s lawyer, Seth Gelblum, Esq., of the firm Loeb & Loeb LLP, confirmed by e-mail to [producers David] Garfinkle and [Tony] Adams that Taymor would serve as the musical’s co-bookwriter going forward with the understanding that Taymor had ‘full customary author approvals over creative and business issues.'”
About 6 years later, Taymor says, she was told she was being “removed” from the production, and that a “creative consultant” would be hired to change her work. She says her lawyers then notified the producers that she did not authorize any changes.
“Following its April 17, 2011, preview performance, Spider-Man shut down for approximately three weeks in order to facilitate the book rewrites and restaging that defendants had been planning without Taymor’s approval,” the complaint states.
Taymor refers to the revised version that opened the next month as the “Infringing Book.”
She says the new book was so similar to the old one that the Tony Awards Administration Committee notified her she would be eligible for a 2012 Tony Award in the category of Best Direction of a Musical.
“In so ruling, the Tony Awards Administration Committee rejected the producers’ contention that Philip William McKinley had transformed the musical into a ‘new’ production and therefore should be eligible for the Best Direction award along with, or instead of, Ms. Taymor,” the complaint states.
The complaint includes nearly 10 pages of the musical’s new and old books, side-by-side, to illustrate their similarities.
Despite its financial, if not critical, success, Taymor says the producers gave her paltry payments for her work.
“On November 4, 2011, the producers’ counsel belatedly sent Taymor a check for $52,880, purporting to represent payment of her co-bookwriter royalties for performances of the musical through April 17, 2011, when the musical had its last public performance before [producer Michael] Cohl, [producer Jeremiah] Harris, [co-bookwriter Glen] Berger, and [creative consultant Roberto] Aguirre-Sacasa implemented their revisions to the Original Book. The producers, however, continue to refuse to pay Taymor any royalties for performances after April 17, 2011,” the complaint states.
Taymor seeks an injunction and damages for copyright infringement and breach of contract.
The defendants are 8 Legged Productions, Hello Entertainment, Goodbye Entertainment, Savior Productions, Michael Cohl, Jeremiah Harris and Glen Berger.
Taymor is represented by Charles Spada and Matthew Coogan, with Lankler Siffert & Wohl.