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Julie Taymor (born 15 December 1952) is an American director of theater, opera and film. She is widely known for directing the stage musical The Lion King, for which she became the first woman to win the Tony Award for directing a musical. She is currently working on the upcoming Broadway-musical, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.
- I can't design a mask and say to someone else, "Just do it." It's partly because I'm a better sculptor than I am a drawer. Considering the amount of time it would take me to draw exactly what I want, I might as well sculpt it. I paint most of it too. It's incredibly time consuming so I end up turning down a lot of jobs I want to do.
- As quoted in "The Lively Arts" in Connoisseur No. 219 (1989), p. 72
- We have a ways to go in understanding the power of puppetry … Our problem is for too long we have thought of puppets being for children. … The appeal of puppetry to me is it's much more freeing for an artist … Puppetry is a completely controllable means to attack your characters in every possible way. The artist has the possibility to create a much larger landscape with puppetry. The human becomes more human in that sense. Another of the great things about puppetry is the ability to transform.
- I would never do something with just puppets. . . But I like the things puppets allow you to do. I had this puppet Dinah Donewell, and she had this hand puppet named Mr. Pleaser. He was her lap dog who was constantly under her skirt. Now if you did that with actors, people would be offended. But in this case, so what? It was a puppet with a puppet.
- As quoted in "New York at Work; Puppeteer Creates Shows for Grown-Ups" by N. R. Kleinfield The New York Times (2 July 1991)
- I've never been a puppeteer, I conceive and I write and I design and I direct. And not just puppets. I direct actors, I direct dancers, I direct singers, I direct films. I also direct puppeteers. I'm really a theatre maker, but there's not a word for that.
- As quoted in "Theatre Director Probes Humanism" by Christopher Reardon in The Christian Science Monitor (13 November 1992), p. 10
- The first thing I do when I’m creating, either for stage or for cinema, is to find the ideograph of the story. Which is; the one, simple expression that can tell everything. And at the same time be recognizable for the audience. It’s like in old Japanese paintings — if you were to paint a bamboo forest, you should be able to find its essence with only three strokes.
- Limitations force you to find the essence of what you want to say, which is one of the most important things to know for an artist.
- As quoted in "Oh, girl : A Talk with Julie Taymor" at Subtitles to Cinema (2 September 2008)
- Spider-Man is a genuine American myth with a dark, primal power … but it’s also got this great superhero, and — hey! — he can fly through the theater at 40 miles an hour. It’s got villains, it’s got skyscrapers, it’s colorful, it’s Manhattan. I knew it would be a challenge, but I saw the inherent theatricality in it, and I couldn’t resist.
- As quoted in "KA-POW! Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" by Adam Green at Vogue.com
- To me, where theater has it all over film is that it’s in the moment, it’s tactile, you feel it …You’re completely immersed in it — right here and right now.
- As quoted in "KA-POW! Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" by Adam Green at Vogue.com
Bill Moyers interview (2002)
- She painted what she painted because she had to, because she was passionate about it. She didn't care at all if people bought her paintings. As she said, she painted her reality.
I find that I make as an artist the kind of choices that I have to be impassioned about. I'm not going to spend two years on a film or four years on an opera if I don't feel like I can put my own self into it. That doesn't mean it has to be about myself. That's a difference.
Frida painted her own reality, her life. I'm a director and I paint many other people... Other people's realities. But I do have to invest in it.
- On Frida Kahlo's work and her own
- We always write stories of tragedies because that's how we reach our human depth. How we get to the other side of it. We look at the cruelty, the darkness and horrific events that happened in our life whether it be a miscarriage or a husband who is not faithful. Then you find this ability to transcend. And that is called the passion, like the passion of Christ. You could call this the passion of Frida Kahlo, in a way.
When I talk about passion, and I'm not a religious person, but I absolutely am drawn and attracted to the power of religious art because it gets at that most extreme emotion of the human experience.
- I understood really the power of art to transform. I think transformation became the main word in my life.
Transformation because you don't want to just put a mirror in front of people and say, here, look at yourself. What do you see? You want to have a skewed mirror. You want a mirror that says you didn't know you could see the back of your head. You didn't know that you could amount cubistic see almost all the same aspects at the same time. It allows human beings to step out of their lives and to revisit it and maybe find something different about it.
- I used to say that arts were talked about in the arts and leisure page. Now, why would it be arts and leisure? Why do we think that arts are leisure? Why isn't it arts and science or arts and the most important thing in your life? I think that art has become a big scarlet letter in our culture.
It's a big "A." And it says, you are an elitist, you're effete, or whatever those things...do you know what I mean? It means you don't connect. And I don't believe that. I think we've patronized our audiences long enough.
You can do things that would bring people to another place and still get someone on a very daily mundane moving level but you don't have to separate art from the masses.
Academy of Achievement interview (2006)
- When I was 14 or 13 or 15 I went to Sri Lanka on the Experiment in International Living for a summer. I wanted to travel. And going outside of my own culture and traveling and seeing my own world from a foreign perspective is a big part of my life and who I am. That's what I was talking about earlier, is stepping outside of yourself and examining yourself with a different perspective is very important, and it's important to do as an artist for others.
- I read a lot of books that are, for lack of a better word, cross-cultural. I find movies and books that take me — transport me to another culture are the things that I'm most interested in, and always have been.
- Where I live is not necessarily in New York City. That's where my apartment is, but I live in Mexico, or I live in Indonesia. I live in Japan. I feel as comfortable in those other cultures, because, in a way, I'm always uncomfortable. I can't explain that, exactly, but I put myself into situations where I'm forced to do something, to create, to respond, to see differently.
- You know, we still hear the word "puppet" and we get this nauseating image of some kind of Muppet or something. Puppets really are the origin of theater. Even the shadow on the wall of Plato's cave was a puppet. The very first actor was some kind of hand creating some kind of animal.
- We can either be monsters or angels. We are able to be demons and angels, as that book says. We are able to be incredibly creative or to be incredibly destructive. We have that decision to make, to create something. It could be grotesque and ugly, but it is monstrously beautiful, so it inspires people.
- I received from my experience in Japan an incredible sense of respect for the art of creating, not just the creative product. We're all about the product. To me, the process was also an incredibly important aspect of the total form.
- I really do believe that if you don't challenge yourself and risk failing, that it's not interesting.
- Theater is far superior to film in poetry, in abstract poetry. … A lot of what I do in theater is cinematic, and a lot of what I do in film is theatrical, but there are different rules to it. … each art form makes me more interested in the other art form because I try and bring in those techniques and those ideas and put them into a different way of using them.
- I'm not religious, but I believe in the ecstasy that art and religion can create in human beings, the ecstatic or the awe — as I like to call it, you know, "a-w-e" — that it makes people feel in a way that isn't their banal, everyday feel. That they go, "My God, it transformed me. My life changed."
- The concrete world isn't necessarily the most powerful world. The world of the mind — whether you're watching Matrix or whatever — the world that's inside here has the power to do a lot of good and a lot of damage.
- There is something human beings can do. "The adrenaline rush," we call it. Fear, tremendous love. When people kill themselves, commit suicide over love, that kind of passion will move mountains.
- I'm not one of these people that go, "Oh well, I'm just going to do my art and I don't give a shit what anybody thinks." I don't feel that way. I really, really love to have people honestly be moved and inspired. And whether it's just here or just here — it's always better if it's the both. That's why Shakespeare is so great, because he gets you from the gut to the heart to the head, and that's what I aspire to do, more than anything.
- In our culture, we think that happy and color is trivial, that black and darkness is deeper. But Nietzsche said — which is a line that I firmly believe — "Joy is deeper than sorrow, for all joy seeks eternity." And if you see Grendel, you'll see, as he's on the edge of the abyss, ready to leap to his death, he sings, "Is it joy I feel? Is it joy I feel?" And it's so, so moving. You can have a lot of different explanations for the ending of that opera, but there is something so palpable that you will feel when he sings those lines.
60 Minutes interview (2010)
- I love it when people say "What a horrible, lousy idea." I think that's great … I hate the comfort zone … I don't think that anything that's really creative can be done without danger and risk.
- I'm trying to make the theatrical experience an environmental experience. We want to have the theatre of it right in the laps of the audience … You don't know until the last half second that he's going to be that close.
- Oh, yeah, I'm scared. If you don't have fear then you are not taking a chance. But what I do have is a team. If your collaborators are there, which is what answers the fear question, and they all are as impassioned as you are, and believe in it, then your fear is mitigated.
Quotes about Taymor
- Julie Taymor's definitely a magician. And I think that's what you call a person who, even though they put the rabbit in the hat, is really surprised when it comes out: that's her.
- Bono, as quoted in "A Peek At Spider-Man, The Musical" (28 November 2010)
- It’s not difficult to see why Taymor, with her penchant for folk tales and fascination with the cycles of life, would be attracted to the epic tale of an ordinary boy who must cross the thresholds of death and rebirth to claim the mantle of hero.
- Even though she is enduringly fond of her creations, Ms. Taymor never operates any of the puppets herself. "I can't do everything," she said. … Becoming renowned for puppets is not easy — finding a new galaxy or making the draw at Wimbledon is easier. … People sometimes sum her up simply as a puppeteer, which aggravates her to no end. She prefers to be thought of as a writer and director who happens to use puppets.
American culture, she believes, does not pay due homage to the idea of the puppet. … She believes it might be better to allude to her puppets as "kinetic sculpture."
- N. R. Kleinfield in "New York at Work; Puppeteer Creates Shows for Grown-Ups" in The New York Times (2 July 1991)