Former Spider-Man musical director sues producers for idea theft

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Dec 15, 2012, 11:18 AM EST

Director Julie Taymor left the massive Broadway production of Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark back in March, but she's still tussling with the show's producers in court. After filing a claim for royalties from the show earlier this year, Taymor has now filed a lawsuit accusing the production of violating her creative rights by continuing to use her work on the show without paying for it.

OK, so it's not exactly idea theft, but Taymor—who rose to Broadway fame as the director of the blockbuster Lion King show—is basically alleging that her creative input while she served as the show's director is continuing to make money, and she wants a piece of what it's pulling in.

"Ms. Taymor regrets that the producers' actions have left her no choice but to resort to legal recourse to protect her rights," said Charles Spada, Taymor's attorney.

To say that the $75 million production—which features a book co-written by Taymor and music and lyrics by Bono and the Edge of U2—got off to a rocky start is putting it mildly. The show was setting Broadway budget records back when it only cost $50 million, but continued delays and creative reworkings kept driving up costs, and Taymor grappled with cast injuries during the show's high-flying stunts and more than a few negative reviews of preview shows.

Those previews started back in November 2010, but the show didn't officially open until June of this year, well after Taymor was gone. Despite all of that, the show is now a hit, still drawing big crowds, and Taymor believes that's at least in part because of the work she did.

A lawsuit like this isn't without precedent in the theater world, and the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers even contends that directors and choreographers are justified in hoping for a share of the income generated by the productions they work on. The society actually filed an arbitration claim on Taymor's behalf back in September, claiming she was owed $500,000 in royalties from the show, but the result of that claim still isn't clear.

Taking a share of the income for the work you do is the sort of deal film directors have had for a while now, so why not Broadway directors? The results of this lawsuit might determine not only whether Taymor gets a piece of this show, but also how other Broadway directors will make deals.

(via THR)