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‘Spider-Man’ Court Battle Reveals Taymor’s Treatment

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

In their court battle against director Julie Taymor, producers of ““Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark” filed an outline, dated July 1, 2004, representing her densely plotted concept of “Spiderman/Caught.”

“The Dream: a city devastated, a huge battle is raging -- we see glimpses of Spiderman flying from one burning skyscraper to another,” the treatment begins.

The two-and-a-half page, single-spaced synopsis is among dozens of comic book excerpts, scripts and financial agreements filed yesterday in federal court in Manhattan. The treatment is to support the producers’ claim that Taymor isn’t owed author royalties, because there’s little similarity between the original book she helped write and the new one created after she was fired a year ago.

Taymor, 59, was removed from the $75 million musical after critics lambasted it during an extended preview period. She sued producers in federal court in Manhattan on Nov. 8, saying they violated her intellectual property rights by making changes without her permission and didn’t pay royalties.

Her team filed a letter with the court yesterday suggesting that producers were concerned that she would make a scene at the show’s much-delayed opening, on June 14, 2011.

No Disparaging

“As we had anticipated, the sky did not fall in,” Taymor’s lawyer, Seth Gelblum, wrote to the producers’ lawyer, Dale Cendali, on June 17, 2011. “So much for the producers’ fears of disparagement, disruption and undermining.”

A spokesman for Taymor didn’t return an e-mail. A spokesman for the lead producers, Michael Cohl and Jeremiah Harris, declined to comment on the letter.

Taymor behaved with “grace and forbearance” at the opening and throughout the “ordeal” of putting on the show, Gelblum wrote in the letter. He said she alone isn’t responsible for its problems.

“Nevertheless, it is Ms. Taymor who has suffered by far the most in the press, and it is her career that has been damaged,” the letter said.

In her treatment, the Green Goblin is defeated at the end of act one and then mysteriously returns in act two as part of a clique of villains.

“Why? Because he can,” Taymor explains. “Because he is woven out of the imagination and now can return in nightmares and daydreams. But who created these super villains? At first we don’t know or care.”


The treatment, like her version of the show in previews, is centered on a love-hate relationship between Spider-Man and the mythic spider-woman, Arachne.

“She is the weaver of the World’s Wide Web and her ultimate goal is to come out from the shadows to shine once more,” Taymor wrote in the treatment, which she registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, according to court filings.

In a countersuit, the producers said Taymor made Arachne the focus of the musical and failed to make changes they requested. Arachne’s role was later minimized when a new director and writer created a more conventional story that hewed more closely to the source material.

The treatment has an ending that never made it to the stage. Just as Peter Parker, Spider-Man’s alter ego, is about to kiss Arachne “in a full, sexual human embrace,” he flips upside down, and, while suspended by a thread, kisses his girlfriend. Mary Jane, Furious, Arachne attacks him and Peter bites Mary Jane on the neck.

Peter falls into the recesses of the web and Mary Jane, with new spider powers, climbs up and attacks Arachne.

“The story unravels Are we left dangling by a thread?”

And so the treatment ends.

The case is 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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