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Director, playwright and designer Julie Taymor was the creative force behind Broadway’s The Lion King, and is a director of theater, opera and film.
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She helped translate a popular Disney animated film about a lion cub—and on a grander level, about the cycle of life itself—into one of Broadway’s greatest spectacles. As with Juan Darien, Taymor was deeply involved in much of the design work as well as directing the project. She even contributed lyrics to some of the songs.
All of her hard work paid off. After its fall 1997 debut, the production received a lot of critical attention and netted 11 Tony Award nominations,
including two wins for Taymor for Best Director and Costume Designer. The musical featured an interesting fusion of actors and puppets. “You’re getting the human and the animal simultaneously. The audience is able to follow the story and the character, but you’re also enjoying the art of it,” she explained to Back Stage. The Lion King continues to attract eager audiences today—more than a decade after its premiere.
Making a leap to the big screen, Taymor directed her first film, Titus, which was released in 1999. It was based on one of William Shakespeare’s lesser known plays, Titus Andronicus, a violent tale about revenge. Starring Anthony Hopkins, this adaptation by Taymor was praised for its rich, vivid imagery. But some struggled with its dark subject matter.
For her next film, Taymor worked with actress Salma Hayek on the biographical film Frida (2002). Hayek starred as the famed Mexican artist Frida Kahlo who battled with chronic pain from a terrible bus accident as well as struggled with her stormy relationship with Mexican muralist Diego Rivera (played by Alfred Molina). In the film, one of Taymor’s inventive touches was to have pieces of Kahlo’s deeply personal artwork spring to life. She also collaborated with Goldenthal on one of the film’s songs, “Burn It Blue,” writing the lyrics for it. The song was nominated for an Academy Award. In total, Frida earned six Academy Award nominations, including two wins for Best Makeup and Best Original Score by Goldenthal.
In 2007, Taymor took movie audiences on a realistic yet fantastical journey with Across the Universe. The film uses the music of the Beatles to help tell the story of two lovers (Evan Rachel Wood and Jim Sturgess) during the 1960s. According to Variety, this brilliant spectacle was shot at 70 locations and used “5,000 costumes, 300 dancers, giant puppets, masks, choreographed dance numbers, fanciful sets, CG effects and animation."
Taymor’s upcoming projects include a return to Broadway. She is currently working a musical adaptation of Spider-Man, the beloved comic book and feature film hero. Bono and The Edge from the legendary rock group U2 are writing the music.
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