One lawsuit between director, musical resolved
Producers of “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” and the legit helmers’ union, the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, have settled the lawsuit SDC brought against “Spider-Man” on behalf of director Julie Taymor.
The settlement, resolving a dispute over unpaid helming royalties, will see producers paying Taymor the full coin due for her directing duties on the tuner. Still pending is a lawsuit Taymor brought against the “Spider-Man” producers in November over royalties related to her writing contributions as one of the co-creators of the musical.
The settlement also seemingly reps the first step of Taymor’s official disengagement from the big-budget project, which struggled through a long, rocky preview period and creative turnover to become one of the top-grossing productions on the Broadway boards. Producers will pay Taymor her full weekly royalties — in the range of $10,000 per week — for her services as director of the Gotham staging of “Spider-Man,” from the start of performances through the eventual end of the New York run, and will also shell out additional coin to Taymor if and when the production recoups.
SDC has agreed that Taymor’s directing services are officially completed and she’ll have no further involvement in the show in that capacity, although the two sides also made an arrangement for compensation for future productions.
Of the two legal actions, the lawsuit filed with the SDC had seemed the most likely to be resolved in Taymor’s favor. Although the storyline and book of the tuner were altered significantly after Taymor exited the production, major chunks of the show’s original staging — which presumably originated with Taymor — remain.
A tougher battle seems likely over the compensation allegedly owed to Taymor as one of the original co-writers of the book, since much of the tuner’s final product mirrors previously existing iterations of the “Spider-Man” story, including the 2002 Sony pic. That lawsuit was brought by Taymor personally, rather than through a union such as SDC.
As part of the settlement, producers also agreed to drop litigation that questioned SDC’s jurisdiction with regards to the production. Taymor and original choreographer Daniel Ezralow, as well as the more recent additions of helmer Philip William McKinley and choreographer Chase Brock, are all members of SDC.
“The litigation between us is over, and we are hopeful that any remaining issues between the producer and Ms. Taymor regarding her role as author can also be resolved to the satisfaction of all,” said SDC prexy Karen Azenberg.
“We are very happy to have reached an amicable compromise with the SDC that will allow us all to move on,” said Michael Cohl and Jeremiah Harris, both of 8 Legged Prods., in a joint statement.
At the crux of the lawsuit was the falling out between Taymor and the producers that occurred in March 2011, after the much-delayed tuner had played nearly four months of previews and endured a highly publicized spate of performer injuries. Taymor had battled with producers as well as fellow members of the creative team, which included Bono and the Edge of U2, over creative changes to the ambitious, technically complicated musical.
Once producers and Taymor parted ways last spring, new creatives — including helmer McKinley, choreographer Brock and book writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa — were brought on board to retool the tuner during an unusual three-week performance hiatus. The show then resumed perfs in its new version and opened in June.
Although Taymor and producers made nice at the show’s opening night, the subsequent lawsuits pointed to lingering acrimony. The still-pending suit over writing royalties spawned a countersuit by producers. No timeline for that ongoing litigation has yet been firmed up.