Why Shakespeare is Julie Taymor’s Superhero

For the renowned director of the screen and stage, the Bard is a fantasy and a nightmare

(Marco Grob / Trunk Archive)
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“Demetrius is still in love with Helena. We have no idea if he had an antidote to the drug or that the drug didn’t wear off and he found his true self.”

In other words this “hole,” this apparent neglect by Shakespeare to tell us what happened to Demetrius—is he still juiced or has he found a new truth—ends up posing the question at the center of the play: What is one’s true self, what is true love? How do
we know?

“There are many things in this play, more than other Shakespeare that I’ve directed, where we have to decide what we feel about it, it’s not answered in the play.”

So where does that leave love at first sight?

“I don’t think he believes in love at first sight,” she says.

She starts singing lyrics from a Beatles song, “Would you believe in a love at first sight / Yes I’m certain that it happens all the time.”

Which reminds me—it’s so hard to keep track of everything this woman has done—that she directed a movie, Across the Universe, that was a surprisingly moving adaptation of a slew of Beatles songs, a project she made with her longtime collaborator and significant other, Elliot Goldenthal.

And yes there was a much-praised film she directed about Frida Kahlo the artist and feminist icon of the ’30s and ’40s. And a number of operas and, oh yes, there was Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. The ambitious big budget Broadway superhero extravaganza that she collaborated on with Bono and The Edge, until “creative differences,” as they say, ended up with her leaving the production after two months of previews and some contentious litigation that has finally been settled, terms undisclosed. She said she just wouldn’t talk about it. Let’s face it: Shakespeare is her real superhero, not some spider.

I returned to the question that preoccupied Shakespeare—and her—throughout their careers. The nature of love and love at first sight.

“Was it love at first sight between you and Elliot?” I ask her.


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