Interview with Tony Award winner Julie Taymor
Julie Taymor is regarded as one of the most prolific directors in the theatre industry today. Besides her Tony Award-winning efforts on Disney's The Lion King (for both "Best Direction of a Musical" and "Best Costume Design"), she also earned great acclaim - as well as two Tony Award nominations - for her Broadway directorial debut with Juan Darien in 1996. Over the years, she has directed both on Broadway and off-Broadway, including The Transposed Heads, Titus Andronicus, The Green Bird, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, and more recently, Grounded, starring Anne Hathaway at The Public Theater in 2015.
Ms. Taymor is also no stranger to the world of film, directing the cult Beatles movie musical "Across the Universe" (2007), which is now rumored to be in development as a stage musical. Her other film credits include "Titus" starring Anthony Hopkins, "Frida" starring Salma Hayek, "The Tempest" with Helen Mirren, and "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in 2014.
Taymor recently returned to the Great White Way to direct the first-ever Broadway revival of David Henry Hwang's Tony Award-winning 1988 play M. Butterfly at the Cort Theatre. We caught up with the 2015 Theater Hall of Fame Inductee to discuss her latest Broadway project.
You must receive offers to direct left, right and centre. What made you say "Yes" to this particular project?
Well, I think the play has something powerful to say and there was a love story that still needed to be mined more deeply than it was thirty years ago. David Henry Hwang was completely open to re-investigating it. It’s a powerful play that has a strong, political point of view, but it’s also an outstanding love story.
I heard that there have been extensive re-writes for this first Broadway revival. Did you collaborate yourself with playwright David Henry Hwang on these re-writes?
Yes. David does the re-writes, but it was a collaboration in that I made suggestions to where I thought it could really go and he was totally open and he did.
Obviously in the original 1988 production, the story’s big "gender" revelation had such an impact on audiences and undoubtedly contributed to the long-standing legacy of the play. Was this an issue for you in terms of mounting a revival without that shock factor and how did you tackle that as a director?
Yes, because I don’t think that would be as important or as shocking anymore as it was 30 years ago. But what is interesting here is the ride that people go on in this new version, where that’s not what it’s about. It’s not about shocking the audience. You’re taking them on this incredible journey and you’re not exactly sure of who or what they are. But it’s always about Gallimard – Clive Owen’s role – and what he feels about the person. So, you identify with him. It’s fascinating to see how – even at intermission – people come out with completely different ideas about what’s going on.
And since you mentioned the leading man, how’s it been working with Academy Award nominee Clive Owen?
He’s a real theatre animal! He’s a brilliant theatre actor. He loves it. And he’s a doll. He’s a doll! (laughs) It has been beautiful to work with him.
M. Butterfly Tickets are available now for performances through to February 25, 2018.
(Header Photo by Marco Grob)