She has also received the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Costume Design, an Emmy Award, and an Academy Award nomination for Original Song. She also received the 2012 Director Award for Vision and Courage from the Athena Film Festival at Barnard College in New York City. She was the director of the Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark and an off-Broadway production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Taymor was born in Newton, Massachusetts, the daughter of Jewish parents Elizabeth (née Bernstein), a political science teacher, and Melvin Lester Taymor, a gynecologist. 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 age ten, she was entranced by the Boston Children's Theatre and became involved with them. Being the youngest member of theatre groups became common. By 11, she was taking trips to Boston by herself every weekend, where she discovered Julie Portman's Theatre Workshop. At the age of 13, her parents sent her to both Sri Lanka and India with the Experiment in International Living. After graduating High School at 16, Taymor went to Paris to study with L'École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq. Her studies there exposed her to mime, which helped develop her physical sensibilities. While in Paris, Taymor worked with masks for the first time and immersed herself in film, especially the work of Fellini and Kurosawa.
In 1970 Taymor was enrolled in Oberlin College in Ohio, but she sought experience with Joseph Chaikin's Open Theatre and other companies and studied through correspondence. Hearing that director Herbert Blau was 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 with Phi Beta Kappa honors in 1974. Upon graduation, she was presented with a Watson Fellowship. The fellowship allowed her to travel to Japan and Indonesia from 1975 until 1979. In Indonesia, she developed a mask/dance company, Teatr Loh, consisting of Japanese, Balinese, Sundanese, French, German and American actors, musicians, dancers and puppeteers. The company toured throughout Indonesia with two original productions, Way of Snow and Tirai, which were subsequently performed in the United States. She met her long-time collaborator, Elliot Goldenthal, in 1980.
After college, 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.
In 1984, Taymor worked in collaboration with Theatre for a New Audience on a 60-minute version of A Midsummer Night's Dream presented at The Public Theater. Two years later, she directed her first Shakespeare play, The Tempest, for Theatre for a New Audience. She went on to direct three other productions at that theatre, including The Taming of the Shrew, Titus Andronicus and The Green Bird by Gozzi. She later adapted Tempest and Titus into major motion pictures.
In 1991, Taymor won the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship for her work in theater. In addition, Taymor has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, two Obie Awards, the first Annual Dorothy B. Chandler Award in Theater, and the Brandeis Creative Arts Award.
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.
A major retrospective of 25 years of Taymor's work opened in the fall of 1999 at the Wexner Center for the Arts and toured the National Museum of Women in the Arts (Washington D.C.) and the Field Museum of Natural History (Chicago), and was extended due to popular demand in each venue.
In September 2009, costumes from The Lion King were requested and presented to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History and they are now part of the Smithsonian collection as well as the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Taymor was the 2010 commencement speaker for her alma mater, Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio.The Lion King: Pride Rock on Broadway (1998) – author. Published by Hyperion Books
"Titus: The Illustrated Screenplay" (2000) – author. Published by Newmarket Press
Julie Taymor: Playing with Fire (2007) – author alongside Eileen Blumenthal and Antonio Monda. Published by Harry N. Abrams, Inc.
Frida: Bringing Frida Kahlo's Life and Art to Film (2009) – author (alongside Salma Hayek). Published by Newmarket Press
The Tempest - screenplay, adapted from the play by William Shakespeare Published by Abrams Books
Taymor has also worked in film, directing Titus (1999) and Frida (2002). Both movies received positive reviews for their stylish filming. Taymor's feature film debut, Titus (1999), starring Anthony Hopkins, Jessica Lange, Alan Cumming and Jonathan Rhys Meyers, was an adaptation of Shakespeare's play Titus Andronicus. Taymor adapted the screenplay and produced the film, which received an Academy Award nomination for costume design. 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 long-time partner Elliot Goldenthal were co-nominees in the Best Original Song category.
Her next film was Across the Universe, which received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Musical/Comedy as well as an Academy Award for Costume Design. The film opened in September 2007 and received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Comedy/Musical in 2008. With a collection of 35 Beatles songs, the film stars Evan Rachel Wood and Jim Sturgess in a 1960s love story set to the music of The Beatles, and featured performances by Bono, Joe Cocker, Eddie Izzard and Salma Hayek. Taymor both directed and co-wrote the story for the film. Taymor received critical acclaim for her direction of Salma Hayek and Alfred Molina in Frida, the true story of the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. Frida garnered six Academy Award nominations, including a Best Actress nomination for Hayek, and won two Academy Awards for make-up and original score. Frida was honored with four BAFTA nominations and one win, including nominations for Hayek and Molina, as well as two Golden Globe nominations, winning the Golden Globe for Best Original Score. In addition, the film received two Screen Actors Guild nominations. The film premiered at the Venice Film Festival where it won the festival's Mimmo Rotella Foundation Award.
Most recently, in November 2008, Taymor directed a film version of Shakespeare's The Tempest, released in December 2010 starring Helen Mirren, Alfred Molina, Djimon Hounsou and Ben Whishaw. Working behind the camera with Taymor on The Tempest were the Academy Award winners Elliot Goldenthal for music, Sandy Powell for costumes, and Françoise Bonnot. Taymor produced the feature and adapted the screenplay based on Shakespeare's play.
Taymor's first film, Fool's Fire, which she directed and adapted from Edgar Allan Poe's short story, Hop-Frog, was produced by American Playhouse. The hour-long film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and aired on PBS in March 1992. The film won the Best Drama award at the Tokyo International Electronic Cinema Festival.
Taymor's first opera direction was of Stravinsky's Oedipus rex, for the Saito Kinen Orchestra in Japan, under the baton of Seiji Ozawa in 1992. The opera featured Philip Langridge as Oedipus and Jessye Norman as Jocasta. Taymor went on to direct the film adaptation of the opera Oedipus Rex, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and won the Jury Award at the Montreal Festival of Film on Art. Broadcast internationally in 1993, the film garnered an Emmy Award and the 1994 International Classical Music Award for Best Opera Production.
She went on to direct Wagner's The Flying Dutchman for the Los Angeles Opera in a co-production with the Houston Grand Opera.
She directed Richard Strauss' Salome for the Kirov Opera in Russia, Germany, and Israel under the baton of Valery Gergiev. Taymor's first direction of The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte), was for the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in Florence, with Zubin Mehta conducting in 1993. Over a decade later, Taymor premiered The Magic Flute at the Metropolitan Opera in 2004. The show is now in repertoire there. A newly translated and abridged English version of the opera premiered at the Met in December 2006, and inaugurated a new series on PBS in 2010 entitled, Great Performances at the Met as well as launched the Metropolitan Opera Live in HD series of movie-theater transmissions.
In June 2006, Taymor directed the premiere of Elliot Goldenthal's 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. A darkly comic retelling of the Beowulf tale based on the novel by John Gardner, the opera was co-commissioned by the Los Angeles Opera and the Lincoln Center Festival. The opera was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2007.
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 theaters across North America and parts of Europe for the 2006/07 season. In 2012, Opera Australia produced this version with locally built scenery and props at the Sydney Opera House, the Arts Centre Melbourne, and the Queensland Performing Arts Centre in Brisbane.
Taymor is most widely recognized for her production of The Lion King, which opened on Broadway in 1997. Taymor’s production continues to play nightly and has earned more than $6 billion in ticket sales to date. The Lion King has been presented in 63 cities in over a dozen countries, has been seen by more than 45 million people worldwide.
Taymor has the distinction of being the first woman to receive the Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical, which she won for The Lion King. She received a Tony Award for her original costume designs for the production. Taymor co-designed the masks and puppets, and wrote additional lyrics for the show. In 2007, The Lion King was performed in Johannesburg, and had its first French language production in Paris. In 2008, Le Roi Lion was awarded Best Costume Design, Best Lighting Design, and Best Musical at the Molière Awards, the national theatre awards of France.
In 2000, Taymor directed Carlo Gozzi's The Green Bird on Broadway. The work was first produced in 1996 by Theatre for a New Audience at the New Victory Theater and presented at the La Jolla Playhouse. Her production of The Green Bird did not receive the same blockbuster reception as The Lion King. Audiences were taken aback by the mature subject matter of the production. Taymor's stage production of Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus was produced off-Broadway by Theatre for a New Audience in 1994. Other directing credits include The Tempest, The Taming of the Shrew, The Transposed Heads, based on the novella by Thomas Mann, co-produced by the American Musical Theater Festival and The Lincoln Center; and Liberty's Taken, an original musical co-created with David Suehsdorf and Elliot Goldenthal.
Her original music-theatre work, Juan Darién: A Carnival Mass, presented at Lincoln Center's Vivian Beaumont Theater in 1996, received five Tony Award nominations including Best Director. Originally produced by Music Theater Group in 1988, Juan Darién: A Carnival Mass was directed by Taymor, and co-written with Elliot Goldenthal. The recipient of two Obies and numerous other awards, the piece was performed at The Edinburgh International Festival, as well as festivals in France, Jerusalem and Montreal, and had an extended run in San Francisco.
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, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, was scheduled to begin previews on November 28, 2010, at the Foxwoods Theatre, with the repeatedly delayed official opening night finally held on June 14, 2011. On March 9, 2011, it was reported by The New York Times that Taymor would be leaving her role as director of Spider-Man after disputes with the show's producers, who wanted to drastically alter the existing storyline and general artistic direction. April 17, 2011 was the last showing of Taymor's original version of the show. The new version then officially premiered on June 14, 2011 The production, while Broadway's most expensive, has become one of its highest grossing, setting a record by grossing $2,941,794 between Christmas Day and New Year's Eve of 2011.
In a March 14, 2011, piece by Roger Friedman, it was reported that Taymor will receive her original Spider-Man credits, with sources saying that Spider-Man producer Michael Cohl and Bono did bring in a script doctor, music supervisor and other new members for the creative team. As of June 2, 2011, Laura Penn, the executive director of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, confirmed rumors of the ongoing dispute between Taymor and the show's producers about director's fees that Taymor has not received from the production. In a The Hollywood Reporter piece from November 9, 2011, detailing the lawsuit as a co-bookwriter for the musical, Taymor is looking to stop Spider-Man from using copyrighted elements of the original production in the newly adapted version and subsequent licensing without approval as outlined in her author deal memo. As of February, 2012, with federal lawsuits still pending, a settlement was reached in which the show's producers agreed to pay Taymor $9,750 a week in royalties.The Tempest (1986, by Shakespeare, abridged) – director, puppetry. at Classic Stage Company (NY)
The Taming of the Shrew (1988, by Shakespeare) – director, produced by Theatre For a New Audience
Oedipus rex (1992, by Igor Stravinsky) – director, puppetry. at Sito Kinen Festival in Matsumoto (taped for TV, released 1993 / released DVD)
The Magic Flute (1993, by Mozart – director, costume designer, masks and puppetry designer by Taymor and Michael Curry
Titus Andronicus (1994, by Shakespeare) – director, produced by Theatre For a New Audience
The Flying Dutchman (1996, by Richard Wagner) – director
Salome (1995 premiere at Passionstheater, Oberammergau, Germany) directed and choreographed by Taymor and Andreas Liyepa
Juan Darién: A Carnival Mass (1996) – director, co-bookwriter, co-scenic designer, co-costume designer, mask designer, puppet designer
– Tony Award co-nomination for Best Scenic Design, Tony Award nomination for Best Direction of a Musical
The Lion King (1997, musical by Elton John and Lebo Morake) – director, lyricist for the song "Endless Night", costume designer, co-mask designer, co-puppet designer
– Tony Award winner for Best Direction of a Musical, Tony Award co-nomination for Best Original Score, Tony Award winner for Best Costume Design
The Green Bird (2000) – director, mask designer, puppet designer
The Magic Flute (2005, opera by Mozart) – director, Metropolitan Opera (NY), live broadcast
The Magic Flute (2006), newly translated and abridged version, Metropolitan Opera, Opera Australia (2012)
Grendel (2007, opera by Elliot Goldenthal) – librettist, director
Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark (2010, musical adaptation of Spider-Man) – director, co-author, mask designer
A Midsummer Night's Dream (2013) – director
Grounded (2015) – director, Produced by The Public Theater
Fool's Fire (1992) (TV)
Oedipus rex (1993) (opera)
Across the Universe (2007)
The Tempest (2010)
A Midsummer Night's Dream (2014)
TheatreOutstanding Set Design for a Play - The Green Bird
Outstanding Costume Design - The Green Bird
Drama Desk Awards
1997Outstanding Set Design of a Musical - Juan Darien
Outstanding Costume Design - Juan Darien
1998Outstanding Direction of a Musical - The Lion King (winner)
Outstanding Puppet Design - The Lion King (winner)
Outstanding Costume Design - The Lion King (winner)
2014Outstanding Director of a Play - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Tony AwardsTony Award for Best Direction of a Musical - Juan Darien
Tony Award for Best Scenic Design - Juan Darien
1998Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical - The Lion King (winner)
Tony Award for Best Original Score - The Lion King
Tony Award for Best Scenic Design - The Lion King (winner)
Academy Award for Best Original Song - Burn It Blue from Frida
Film and TV
Primetime Emmy AwardsOutstanding Costumes for a Variety Program or a Special - Oedipus Rex (winner)