‘Spider-Man’ Trial Over Script Royalties Scheduled for January

Spider Man
Reeve Carney in "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" in New York. Julie Taymor was the original creator of the play. Photographer: Jacob Cohl/O&M Co. via Bloomberg

Director Julie Taymor and the producers of “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” are set to square off in federal court in Manhattan in January, 2013, 10 years after Marvel Entertainment began negotiating for its superhero to fly on Broadway.

In court today, U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest scheduled a jury trial to start Jan. 7, to resolve Taymor’s claim that she’s owed money as co-author of the show.

Yesterday, producers and the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society announced a settlement regarding her director royalties. The lead producers are Michael Cohl and Jeremiah Harris.

Taymor, 59, was removed from the stunt-filled $75 million musical in March, 2011, after critics lambasted it during an extended preview period. She sued the producers on Nov. 8, saying they violated her intellectual property rights by making changes without her permission and didn’t pay royalties due her as a co-book writer.

In her suit, Taymor claims she’s owed at least $2,917.50 a week from April 17, 2011, to the present, plus damages.

Dale Cendali, a lawyer for Cohl and Harris’s 8 Legged Productions, declined to comment after the hearing. Taymor’s spokesman, Chris Kanarick, didn’t return an e-mail today.

Possible Settlement

“It is my understanding that there is interest from both parties to settle the author dispute,” said Laura Penn, executive director of SDC, which represents directors and choreographers.

In 2003, producers began negotiating with Marvel about staging “Spider-Man” on Broadway, according to Taymor’s suit. The original producing team approached Bono and The Edge of the band U2 to write a score; they approached Taymor to direct. In 2004, she wrote a three-page treatment for the show and the following year she registered it with the U.S. Copyright Office, according to her suit.

All agreed Taymor was to be co-book writer and have creative control over the show, she said in her complaint.

Cohl and Harris took over as lead producers in 2009, according to court papers, after the first team faced “financing difficulties,” according to Taymor’s complaint. (The leader of that team, Tony Adams, had died in 2005.)

Countersuit Filed

In a countersuit filed on Jan. 17 and amended yesterday, 8 Legged Productions said Taymor refused to listen or cooperate after a problematic first preview, on Nov. 28, 2010.

“The show is a success despite Taymor, not because of her,” according to the countersuit, which seeks unspecified damages against her.

Taymor breached her obligations by “refusing to perform her duties as a co-writer of the book” and breached her fiduciary duties, 8 Legged said in the countersuit. It seeks damages to be determined at trial.

As part of the settlement yesterday, Taymor is entitled to director royalties of $9,750 a week, from the beginning of the production until it closes.

The case is Julie Taymor v. 8 Legged Productions LLC, 1:11-cv-08002-RJH, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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