Julie Taymor claims there was a 'Spider-Man' plot

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By MARK KENNEDY, Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Director Julie Taymor has hit back at her former creative partners in "Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark," arguing in court papers that she was the victim of a conspiracy to unfairly push her out of the production and that her one-time collaborators were secretly working on a rival script behind her back.

Taymor's legal team on Friday defended the Tony Award winner against claims in an earlier countersuit from producers, the latest installment in their bitter legal battle over financial rewards for Broadway's most expensive show.

"While secretly conspiring to oust Taymor and use and change her work without pay, the producers also fraudulently induced Taymor to continue working and to diligently make improvements," her team alleges.

Taymor, who was the original "Spider-Man" director and co-book writer, was fired in March after years of delays, accidents and critical backlash. The show, which features music by U2's Bono and The Edge, opened in November 2010 but spent months in previews before officially opening a few days after the Tony Awards in June. It has become a financial hit at the box office.

Producers shot back late Friday. "It's very disheartening for the former director of the show to take no responsibility for the consequences of her actions while, at the same time, trying to claim credit for the show's success," Dale Cendali, an attorney for the producers, said in a statement.

In November, Taymor slapped the producers — led by Michael Cohl and Jeremiah J. Harris — as well as Glen Berger, her former co-book writer, with a federal copyright infringement lawsuit, alleging they violated her creative rights and haven't compensated her for the work she put into the $75 million show. In January, the producers' filed a counterclaim asserting the copyright claims are baseless. The latest salvo is Taymor's team responding to that counterclaim.

In the legal filing, Taymor claims she was ousted not because she wasn't willing to cooperate with changes but simply to appease investors, sway critics to the idea that the show was being fixed, bilk her of royalties and "mask the producers' own failures."

The document says she was fired during a lunch meeting at The Lamb's Club restaurant by the producers, Bono and The Edge. Playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa was hired to work on the book and Philip William McKinley stepped in to direct.

The filing quotes from emails between her and the producers, Berger and Bono and The Edge, painting a picture of a creative team very supoortive of Taymor's direction and vision. She also claims she had no part in the accidents that injured actors and embarrassed the production and that Bono and The Edge's frequent absences from the theater "hampered timely improvements."

The filing describes a behind-the-scenes atmosphere that was secretive and slightly paranoid. Taymor alleges that Berger was told to quietly work on changes to the story without Taymor's knowledge — called "Plan X" — that in an email Berger complained led him to lead a "double life" — both working with and against Taymor.

The document quotes Berger in an email to Bono complaining that "it's a bit draining" working for hours with Taymor "on scenes I know in my heart-of-hearts are wrong." Taymor claims she was unaware of any alternative story line until after being fired and yet she was to have final approval on the musical's book.

The stunt-heavy show has been doing brisk business ever since it opened its doors and most weeks easily grossing more than the $1.2 million the producers have indicated they need to reach to stay viable. Over the Christmas holiday, the show earned the highest single-week gross of any show in Broadway history.

Taymor alleges that the show has not been re-imagined and that what audiences are seeing at the Foxwoods Theatre is essentially the same show she directed. "The producers' current suggestion that they have created a 'new' show after a mere three-week shutdown is false and incredible," the filing says.

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