SPIDER-MAN Producers Respond to Julie Taymor's Lawsuit & File Countersuit
The producers of the musical SPIDER-MAN Turn Off the Dark today filed an answer and countersuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Tuesday against Julie Taymor and her company, LOH, Inc. The producers' answer responds to the complaint that Taymor and LOH filed on November 8, 2011, in which they assert that the current version of the musical infringes Taymor's alleged copyrights and also raise certain contractual and state law claims, including a claim seeking to bar the producers from bringing SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark to non-Broadway venues.
The producers' counterclaims assert that although Taymor was contracted to co-write and collaborate on the musical, she refused "to fulfill her contractual obligations, declaring that she could not and would not do the jobs that she was contracted to do." Despite the fact that it was clear the show was not working and needed a major overhaul, the counterclaims allege, Taymor repeatedly refused to collaborate on changes with other members of the production team, even after the initial scathing reviews came out during the preview period.
According to the counterclaims, although "many producers would have simply given up on the production," the producers then "engaged in superhuman efforts to save the Musical," including investing many additional millions of dollars in the show. The counterclaims explain that because of "the delays and increased expense due to Taymor's actions," the producers had to hire other individuals "in order for the show to survive, and for it to continue to provide jobs to the cast and crew and allow investors to recoup their investment." The counterclaims also explain that a new bookwriter, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who was experienced with comic books was hired to work with Glen Berger, an experienced writer and the existing co-bookwriter, to create a new book. They worked for months "to write a new book for the Musical and to perform the services that Taymor was originally contracted to do," say the counterclaims. The musical's cast and crew, say the counterclaims, rehearsed the new show during the day while performing the old show at night under the direction of experienced Broadway director Philip Wm. McKinley, who had directed the award-winning show The Boy From Oz, starring Hugh Jackman. As the counterclaims assert, the producers even took the unprecedented step of closing the show for three and a half weeks so it could reopen with the new book. "As a result of all of the changes that Taymor could not and would not make, the Spider-Man Musical is now a hit. The show is a success despite Taymor, not because of her."
Taymor's recent lawsuit, say the counterclaims, is simply "an attempt to put Taymor in the same position she would have been had she fulfilled her obligations under her agreement and actually written a book for the Spider-Man Musical that could be opened on Broadway." Although Taymor "was well aware that a New Book was being implemented for the Musical" and "even was present on opening night when the New Book was performed," at no point during that time "did Taymor ever indicate that she thought the New Book violated her rights or seek to enjoin the show."
The producers also detail in their answer that Ms. Taymor's copyright claims are baseless, as Ms. Taymor's three page 2004 treatment and the old book of the Musical, which she claims she co-wrote with Mr. Berger, are not substantially similar. Rather, "any similarities . . . exist by virtue of the fact that they are both based on the same pre-existing works in which Taymor cannot claim copyrights, including, but not limited to, the Spider-Man comic books and the Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 films, which originated all of the main characters in the works at issue in this case, their settings, the Spider-Man origin story premise, and the plot elements that appear in the works." Moreover, the producers' answer asserts that Taymor's treatment bears little resemblance to the show that is currently playing on Broadway. For example, in Taymor's treatment, Spider-Man bites Mary Jane turning her into a Spider-Woman, who then attacks Arachne, but nothing similar appears in the musical.
And as the producers' counterclaims also allege, "Taymor-after refusing to perform her contractual obligations necessitating the hiring of a new writer to do the work she would not and could not do-is now attempting to further injure the Musical's investors and its cast and crew by seeking to enjoin future productions, even though she has long been aware that other venues for the Musical had been contemplated. If successful, Taymor will stop hundreds of performers and technicians from getting jobs working on the Musical and will prevent new audience members from seeing the show."
Also today, the producers filed an antitrust lawsuit against the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, Inc., LOH, Inc. and Julie Taymor in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The lawsuit is in response to Ms. Taymor's similar request to be paid "full royalties as director and collaborator despite the fact that Taymor caused numerous delays, drove up costs, and failed to direct a musical about Spider-Man that could open on Broadway," and despite the fact that she was terminated over three months before the musical officially opened on Broadway and after the show was dramatically changed. The complaint alleges that "Taymor is an independent contractor, not an employee," and as such, "the SDC's attempt to 'represent' Taymor with respect to her work on the Musical is nothing more than a unlawful conspiracy among independent contractors." Specifically, the complaint alleges that the defendants "conspired and agreed, in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act . . . to fix minimum royalty rates, health and pension benefits, and other non-bargained for compensation for Taymor's services as Spider-Man's director, collaborator and mask designer at supracompetitive levels." In light of Ms. Taymor's actions, the producers say they "had no choice but to assert" their counterclaims to Ms. Taymor's suit and bring the antitrust lawsuit "in order to prevent Taymor from profiting from the work of others and from undermining the Spider-Man Musical's ability to make money, provide jobs, and be shared with audiences throughout the world."