Amidst reports of production snafus, cast injuries, and swirling rumors about the most expensive budget Broadway has ever seen, stage and film director Julie Taymor has been understandably tight-lipped about her upcoming 'Spider-Man' stage adaptation. Lucky for her, she found herself facing press Monday alongside the musical's first, highly enthusiastic, celebrity critic: Russell Brand.
"I went to see it and it looked f***ing amazing," exclaimed Brand of 'Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark' during a press conference for Taymor's film adaptation of 'The Tempest,' in which he plays the buffoon Trinculo. "It's mental. It's like a new experience of theater -- it's going to change theater."
"Phenomenal," Brand continued. "And they were just practicing when I was there."
At one point during the press conference, Taymor herself inadvertently conjured the specter of her 'Spider-Man' musical and its massive $65 million budget, a topic that was otherwise studiously avoided. "This was low-budget for a film, but theater is even lower low-budget," Taymor said of 'The Tempest' before laughing off the slip. "Or can be."
Later, Taymor addressed the negative press surrounding the comic book superhero adaptation by stressing the in-progress nature of the production, which doesn't officially open until January 11, 2011.
"It's in previews," Taymor emphasized. "We're doing our job. It's working well, the third preview ran smoothly. We've got another four weeks and I'm very excited about it."
Taymor spoke further with Cinematical by phone about 'Spider-Man' and her unique take on the material she sees as inherently Shakespearean in nature.
"The story of Peter Parker is Shakespearean in the sense of his conflict," she said. "A conflict between being told to be the superhero and rising to that place."
The Tony-winning stage veteran ('The Lion King') and visionary art filmmaker ('Titus,' 'Frida,' 'Across the Universe') may have seemed an unusual choice to take on the comics-born superhero tale, but she sees familiar classic roots in the saga of Spidey:
"These are mythic pieces, and 'Spider-Man' is a contemporary myth. If you get into the story and the drama of what we're doing, it's based on Greek mythology. Both Shakespeare and the 'Spider-Man' comic book writers, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, they were all inspired by Greek mythology and by ancient stories – all of them. And they are the pop artists of their times. They're all pop icons."
"This is kind of like Prospero's dilemma," Taymor continued. "Do you rise above yourself and go to your better nature with the power you've been given, or do you stay with your earthly loves and desires? How do you balance those two things out? ... There's a certain type of story that attracts me and I think it's really wonderful to be able to do Shakespeare in a movie and 'Spider-Man' on a stage. I love that, what people think of as an irony. It's just what I like to do. If they fit those mediums and you can do with those mediums what those stories need, why not?"
Check back for our full interview with filmmaker and stage director Julie Taymor as she dives into her transgressive take on Shakespeare's 'The Tempest,' starring Helen Mirren.