Julie Taymor was born on December 15, 1952 in Newton, Massachusetts, U.S., is an American director of theater, opera and film. Taymor’s work has received many accolades from critics, and she has earned two Tony Awards out of four nominations, the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Costume Design, an Emmy Award, and an Academy Award nomination for Original Song. 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, in addition to a Tony Award for Original Costume Design. She is currently working on the upcoming Broadway-musical, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.
Taymor, the daughter of Elizabeth, a political science teacher, and Melvin Lester Taymor, a gynecologist. She has a Jewish heritage. Taymor’s interest in theatre took root early in her life. At the age of seven, she was already drawing her sister into stagings of children’s stories for her parents. By the age of nine, she became entranced with the Boston Children’s Theatre and became involved with them. In high school, she became interested in international travel, and made trips to both Sri Lanka and India with the Experiment in International Living. Being the youngest member of theatre groups became common, as she joined Julie Portman’s Theatre Workshop of Boston at the age of 15. Yearning for a more in depth approach to her work, Taymor went to Paris to study with L’École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq. During her studies there, she became exposed to mime which helped in the development of her physical sensibilities.
Although in 1970 Taymor enrolled in Oberlin College in Ohio, she sought experience with Joseph Chaikin’s Open Theatre and other companies and studied through correspondence. Hearing that director Herbert Blau would be moving to Oberlin, she returned there and auditioned successfully, becoming, once again, the youngest member of a troupe. In 1973 Taymor attended a summer program of the American Society for Eastern Arts in Seattle. The instructors were performers of Indonesian topeng masked dance-drama and wayang kulit shadow puppetry. This would prove to have a great effect on Taymor in later years. Taymor graduated from Oberlin College with a major in mythology and folklore and Phi Beta Kappa honors in 1974.
After her college years, Taymor used a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship to study pre-Bunraku puppetry on Awaji Island, Japan, to learn more about experimental theatre, puppetry, and visually oriented theatre. Taymor’s greatest acclaim as a director for the stage has come from the popular musical The Lion King (1997), an adaptation of the animated film. Taymor received two Tony Awards for her work on The Lion King, one for Direction and one for Costume Design, making her the first woman to receive a Tony Award for directing a musical.
In 1991, Taymor won the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship (“genius” award) for her innovative work in theatre.
Taymor has also worked in film in recent years, directing Titus (1999) and Frida (2002). Both movies received positive reviews for their stylish filming; but Frida was the more acclaimed of the two, garnering Oscar nominations in six categories and winning in two (Best Makeup and Best Original Score). Taymor and her husband Goldenthal were co-nominees in the Best Original Song category.
For the Metropolitan Opera 2005-06 season, Taymor directed a successful production of The Magic Flute. It was revised for the 2006-07 season and, in addition to full-length performances, was adapted for a 100-minute version over the Holiday season to appeal to children. That version of the opera was the first of a series of NCM Fathom Live on the Big Screen presentations of MET operas downloaded via satellite to movie theatres across North America and parts of Europe for the 2006-07 season.
In June 2006, Taymor directed the opera Grendel for the Los Angeles Opera, starring Eric Owens, which was also presented as part of the Summer 2006 Lincoln Center Festival in New York City. Taymor’s most recent work has been as director of the film Across the Universe, a 1960s love story set to the music of The Beatles and starring Jim Sturgess and Evan Rachel Wood. The film opened in September 2007 and received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Comedy/Musical in 2008.
In November 2008, Taymor directed a film version of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, to be released in December 2010.
In April 2007, it was announced that Marvel Studios was preparing to make a musical adaptation of Spider-Man for Broadway. Taymor was selected to direct the show and write the book with Glen Berger. The production features music and lyrics by Bono and The Edge. The musical, titled Spider-Man, Turn Off the Dark, was scheduled to begin previews on November 28, 2010, at the Foxwoods Theatre, with the official opening night scheduled for January 11, 2011.
Taymor was the 2010 Commencement speaker for her alma mater, Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio.