Discussion with Director Julie Taymor from 360/365
Notes by Rebecca Banach
Director Julie Taymor has never followed the rules. In a discussion held at Rochester’s annual 360/365 film festival moderated by local film critic Jack Garner, Taymor said she “always jumped off the cliff instead of just standing on the cliff.” Her latest film, William Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’, is a perfect example of this. Taymor casts Helen Mirren as ‘Prospera,’ a female rework of the original male character.
Her previous film, “Across The Universe,” was a musical with the songs of The Beatles, release in 2007. It’s visually stunning, psychedelic, and earned her an Oscar nomination. Taymor also directed the Broadway version of ‘Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark’ for a time and used not just her knowledge of swinging ropes with the help of audience member and famed choreographer Garth Fagan [who fyi, is dance professor emeritus from TFPN Chief Notetaker's alma matter SUNY Brockport]. She also used knowledge gleaned from research of 40 years of comic books.
Directing ‘The Lion King’ for Broadway gave her an opportunity to work with Garth Fagan. Taymor’s goal was to “reinterpret the [movie] in a fresh and personal way” for the theatre. According to Fagan, “working with Julie was the major privilege of my life. She is described as demanding, but she is demanding for excellence.” That demand for excellence earned her two Tony Awards.
Taymor’s work is filled with her life experiences. “My parents let me go and travel and learn things.” Traveling included Indonesia, Eastern Europe and Japan after graduating from high school at age 16. That life experience is reflected in her work.
Taymor believes that “film work is very theatrical and theatre work is very honest” and that “when you have limitations you actually do greater work. Beauty and poetry in art is right before you lose control.”
She is constantly moving from opera to theatre to film because she ‘loves different things” and each genre gives her an opportunity to experience new levels of adventure and excitement.
Julie Taymor is incredibly honest and humble as a director, and that was demonstrated in the atmosphere of the panel. It was at times humororus, serious, intelligent and always relaxed. As a team, Garner and Taymor had the ability to surprise, entertain and make the audience laugh. I can’t wait to see her next project.
Keep leaping off that cliff, Julie!