While Julie Taymor‘s Spider-Man musical, Turn Off The Dark, was still some months from opening, way back when there still seemed to be some hope of a relatively easy landing for the show, filmmaker Jacob Cohl started filming all manner of backstage action. As his father is Michael Cohl, the musical’s producer, Jacob was able to get deep access.
The plan would originally have been to make a promotional film, something that could be used to market the play and, had things gone differently, it probably would have been seen by now. But somewhere along the line, likely after all of the disputes and controversies spilled into the public arena, Cohl seemed to change his plans.
Michael Riedel writes in The NY Post:
Cohl interviewed me right in the thick of the show’s travails. It was clear from his questions that he was no longer making a promotional film…
I told Cohl that if his documentary was to be any good — candid, compelling, brutal — he’d have to make it without any interference from his father, Taymor, Bono and The Edge: He would have to be the objective observer of the “Spider-Man” mayhem.
“I know,” he said. “But it’s not going to be easy.”
The film is being edited now, and according to Riedel, Cohl has footage of:
clashes between Taymor and her erstwhile collaborators. He was backstage when an actor tumbled into the pit. He was at meetings where press strategies were hashed out. He was at secret meetings where Taymor’s dismissal was discussed.
Unsurprisingly, Julie Taymor is looking to prevent the release of the film with a lawsuit. Even if her creative decisions and professional conduct could, ultimately, be validated by the footage in Cohl’s collection (and there’s not yet any way for us to know, really, if that’s that’s the case or not) there’s no telling how she might be represented on screen in the finished version.
One of the famous backstage stories from the production has Taymor shouting or, in some accounts, absolutely screaming, “I don’t give a fuck about audience reaction!” but I’ve yet to see this moment put into any real context. I hope that Cohl has this moment on tape, and that he’ll present it unfiltered, complete with any necessary lead up, and aftermath.
I remain convinced that Taymor is a genius of theatre. What interested me about Turn Off the Dark was her, and her ideas, and not so much Spider-Man. The basic notion of a Spider-Man musical has no more appeal to me than it does to most.
But I was interested that Taymor was interested in Spider-Man.
My admiration for Taymor’s work doesn’t mean that I would want to ignore these backstage dramas, no matter who comes out of them looking like an ass. I’d like to think she always had the best of intentions, that she wanted to serve the show, and make it something meaningful and ambitious and remarkable, and I’d like to see this evidenced in Cohl’s film.
But whatever he has on those tapes, I want to see it presented as honestly as possible.
Here’s hoping Cohl is not on a crusade to spin things. There’s a terrible possibility this film, originally born to sell us on a story of superheroics and awful villainy will still be authored to do more or less the same thing…
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