Turned Against In The Dark: U2 Superfans & the Scapegoating of Julie Taymor

March 6, 2012 · Print This Article

Some can do no wrong. And no one can do any wrong quite like Bono and The Edge.

Criticism of theater, opera, and film director Julie Taymor by the overly biased U2 fan community: is this the primary reason that Bono and Edge are allowed to delude themselves with the notion that they did no wrong in the ugly divorce from the Spider-Man ex-Director?

Do we as fans sell the false narrative because it fuels and justifies our disdain for anyone who dares to go against the unblemished perfection of the U2 lead singer and guitarist? Overly protective U2 fans don’t want their heroes’ anywhere near human or even mere celebrity status—where sometimes ego, pride, and ambition take over. Taymor is Judas in the haters’ mind, the woman who betrayed Bono and The Edge.

New reports and published e-mails both claim Julie Taymor accused Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark producers including Bono and The Edge of making her a scapegoat to appease investors anxious about poor reviews and lack of financial success during the play’s previews. Taymor was booted when the budget soared and delays escalated fears of investors. Now, reports are out in which Bono is described as attending a crucial meeting drunk on beer with a bevy of supermodels. This meeting came a few days before Taymor was ousted by Bono and Edge themselves before using her firing as a launching pad for a second chance with the press and the Broadway public.

I don’t hate Bono or The Edge. I love U2. I’ve seen them in every tour since Elevation and have accumulated more air miles seeing them live than one can imagine. But to say that Bono and The Edge weren’t graceful in tough times and didn’t act according to what they sometimes preach needs to be said by fans—and seen as true by superfans.

In theatrical terms, Julie Taymor is a Michael Jordan. Taymor has received many accolades including two Tony Awards, and Emmy and even an Academy Award nomination. Her biggest mainstream hit, The Lion King is Broadway’s seventh longest-running show in history. Unfortunately, people forget that the play almost never reached the six month mark after a slow start in attendance compared with expectations from Disney. Sound familiar?

Bono and Edge more than anyone else, should know that art sometimes takes time to grow into its potential.  They have no excuse to let an original artistic piece reach its climax. After all, aren’t these the same guys who gave time and air to their struggles in 1991 to eventually make Achtung Baby?

By not only not sticking to Taymor’s vision, but then using their public voice and goodwill to chastise her in the public arena, the U2 leaders showed an ugly side to their personality: a side one doesn’t usually see in Bono’s documentaries in Africa or while The Edge is helping save New Orleans.  The side where manipulation and reputation mean more than everything.  Even loyalty.

And sure, Spider-Man is now an economic success. But at what cost? The unique artistic vision of Taymor was sabotaged for a kid’s friendly, popcorn-style family musical about as artistic as an episode of The Jersey Shore.  Maybe if Bono and Edge follow through on their artistic instincts, we will see another Joshua Tree, but don’t let your super fandom convince you otherwise: Bono and Edge didn’t act the way they taught us: with honor. –Jaime Rodriguez, Contributing Writer Follow Jaime on Twitter: @Jaimearodriguez






21 Responses to “Turned Against In The Dark: U2 Superfans & the Scapegoating of Julie Taymor”

  1. mtbmike on March 6th, 2012 4:39 pm

    When people write about this stuff, they create churn. This was messy, no doubt about it… millions of dollars were involved… nobody reading this plays in that league.

    Julie Traymor will be fine; Bono and the Edge will be fine, and it looks like the lawyers are lovin’ it as well. What went on is fodder for writers that feed “inquiring minds that want to know”. It’s not journalism, silly.

  2. doctorwho on March 6th, 2012 5:43 pm

    Sorry, I cannot agree with any of this.

    Yeah, I’m a fan – but not a Superfan. I don’t feel Bono and Edge did no wrong. If anything, they let Taymor stay on too long.

    Taymor’s “vision” led to numerous accidents. She didn’t directly cause them, of course, but when accidents were happening with the acrobatics, Taymor did nothing to really help the situation. Actors left. Budgets soared. Time lines were missed. If you were a director at a company where people are leaving and getting hurt, you are missing deadlines and your budget was blown, you would be fired. One wouldn’t say, “Oh, for the sake of art, we’ll keep you.”

    Taymor was also given a chance – a LOT of chances. It’s not like Bono and Edge fired her at the first sign of trouble. They let her continue with her dream. But failure after failure suggests that at some point, the dream has to end. Whatever her vision was, it wasn’t working. That alone is bad – but what was worse is that she refused to change anything. Funny how you fail to mention that in your article.

    So don’t call us “super fans” because we refuse to fully blame Bono and Edge. Their role was to write music and get $. As they had no Broadway experience, they brought on someone who could create something magical. And they stayed with her for years. Only after everything started exploding did they finally make that difficult decision. It seems like your article is just out to bash Edge and Bono and not look at the whole story. Shameful writing!

  3. ACHTUNGTREE91 on March 6th, 2012 6:28 pm

    hey doctor who, I’m not sure what kind of mind you’re in, or rather what kind of evidence you have to prove that Julie Taymor was somehow responsible for the accidents that have happened. None of the reports have cited her as the reason for any of the accidents in anyway, and that includes the actors that were injured; nor have they indicated that the production team didn’t follow the necessary procedures needed to provide as safe an environment as possible for the production and actors. The stunts that are performed in the musical are impressive and awesome, so it can’t be a large shock that accidents are possible in a show like this.

    I find it convenient also, that you seem to place most of the responsibility of missed deadlines, squarely on Julie Taymor’s shoulders, when Bono and The Edge were also such crucial creative and financial forces in this production. Their neglect of Spiderman during the tour, whether intentional or not, definitely played a role in the continuous delays.

    In regards to Taymor’s willingness to compromise, which is what I assume you were alluding to when you say she was given “A lot of chances,” she says that she was willing to be flexible to changing aspects of the show (which I would also think includes aspects of the storybook). Regardless, the manner in which Berger, Bono, Edge et al. appear to have misled and basically lie to her through the “twin track” approach, seems tasteless and wrong.

    Ultimately, different sides of the story will continue to be forthcoming, so it’s impossible to make final judgements; and as it stands now, it seems as if both parties made bad decisions. I just want to say that I agree with Jaime on this one, in that many fans on this website seem to blindly hold Bono and Edge to ridiculous God-like standards, which I suppose is nothing new. It is however, almost sickening at times to see the amount of fans that have refused to give Bono and Edge any of the blame in regards to this huge clusterfuck.

  4. cjt747 on March 6th, 2012 7:52 pm

    I think the article is spot on. It says what many of us U2 fans feel,
    but are afraid to say it. The boys sometimes show some dark sides to
    them. Still love em!

  5. RC Donovan on March 6th, 2012 7:56 pm

    to doctorwho:
    I understand your reluctance to believe what Mr. Rodriguez has written.
    But if you read this NY Times article, and especially the attached actual legal document, you will see that Taymor really did not have anything to do with cast injuries. The producers did not bother to install an encoder to allow different mechanical systems to communicate. This was not Bono and the Edge at fault, but the producers. Bono and the Edge did not cause the cast injuries, anymore than julie Taymor did.
    In terms of the rest of your post, I suggest you read the legal document. It is not just opinions. It is all backed up by evidence.
    This is Patrick Healy’s NY Times article:
    This is the link to the u.s. federal court’s legal documents:
    If you read this, in true good faith, you might be moved to apologize to Mr Rodriguez. It is what U2 has taught us to do,
    not to scapegoat
    Most sincerely….

  6. ACHTUNGTREE91 on March 6th, 2012 8:08 pm

    Also in response to Doctor Who, her vision that was supposedly “not working”, is largely still there in the version that is on Broadway today.

  7. AltRockAddict on March 6th, 2012 8:50 pm

    Thank you, DoctorWho. I couldn’t agree more with your rebuttal! And btw, Jaimearodriguez, their loyalty is legendary. I think it is Taymor who is scapegoating Bono and The Edge.

  8. Jamila on March 6th, 2012 9:12 pm

    I don’t know if doctorwho ever saw STOTD but I saw BOTH incarnations of the production and have followed this situation very closely for the last two years. Thus, I would have to disagree with his contentions about Julie Taymor’s direction of STOTD.

    If her most current contentions in her counter-lawsuit are true – and I do HOPE THIS GOES TO TRIAL – then she HAD been trying for at least TWO MONTHS (Dec 2010 -Feb 2011) to get more involvement with possible revisions to STOTD from Bono & Edge and received NO HELP from them at the time!

    If her contentions that the U2 duo were actually working BEHIND HER BACK with other writers at the same time as she was trying to work with them on revising her version of STOTD then IT DOES NOT LOOK GOOD FOR BONO & EDGE. PERIOD.


    This does not mean that Julie is blameless. EVERYBODY involved with STOTD has some degree of blame & responsibility for the confusion surrounding this production. But for Bono & Edge to turn their backs on a friend in public, for them to try to clamp down on Taymor like they did with Cashman is SIMPLY UNBECOMING TO THEIR PUBLIC PERSONA & another hole that they are digging for themselves.

    If Bono & Edge could only remember that they are human and what goes around, comes around also for them, I think that things would progress differently.

    I must agree with Jaime’s last statements: Bono & Edge DID NOT act the way that they have preached at us for years to act. They have NOT acted honorably in this situation (and others that I know of).

    It is exactly due to the wrongs that I know of being committed out of the public eye that I left my U2 super fandom behind. It has made me a better person.

    I hope for a peaceful & amicable resolution to this situation regarding STOTD. I doubt that will happen.

    Ms. Taymor is fighting for her life as a legitimate creative artist & if her contentions about Bono are true (do you doubt that he walked into a meeting with Taymor drunk with Turlington & other supermodels following him? – I don’t ) then Mr. Hewson should prepare for the battle of his life. I don’t think she’s backing down.

    GOOD! A little humility just might make the dynamic duo into even better people.

    THANKS Jaime for having the courage to speak your mind. But isn’t that why U2 always supported Amnesty International?

    Love & Peace, debbie ~

  9. Irvine511 on March 6th, 2012 11:36 pm

    this is show business. you do not get to be the biggest band in the world for the past 25 years without knowing how to politely slit some throats. Julie had to go for the good of the show, period.

    doesn’t seem quite worth it, though. everyone i know who has seen Spiderman thinks it’s terrible.

  10. hcbiggs2002 on March 7th, 2012 6:12 am

    I too totally agree with Doctorwho’s comments! As I’ve understood the whole situation, Bono and Edge were forced to make a difficult but necessary executive decision when it finally became obvious that the show just wasn’t working under Ms Taymors direction. As DrWho said, they gave Ms Taymor more than enough time and money to sort out the problems and to try and realise her artistic ideas, and I feel many other executive producers would not have been half as tolerant! Also I’m left wondering, would Ms Taymor have bothered with this lawsuit had the show not become so successful?!

    And that business of Bono turning up drunk with models in tow to a meeting (and where was Edge if this meeting was so important?!) to be both incredible and funny, if it’s true! It may have taken Bono some 30 odd years but finally he’s behaving like a proper rockstar!!

  11. RC Donovan on March 7th, 2012 3:55 pm

    Wow. In answer to Irvine511: you say that bono and edge did not get to be the biggest band in the world ….without knowing how to politely slit some throats.
    My god.
    What is this?
    Who are you?
    And to hcbiggs2002, again, please read the legal document, and then ask yourself, in all honesty, if you really believe what you are saying.
    Also, it was not a julie taymor observation of the drunkeness at a critical turning point meeting. it was an email observation of glenn berger, who was secretly plotting with bono and edge. not sure who the email was to….
    anyway, here is a legal document with actual evidence not blind faith or opinion:

  12. nathan1977 on March 7th, 2012 4:44 pm

    Wait — so a project that was $65M in the red, had turned into a PR/pop culture joke, had a writer and composers who were struggling to make changes but were faced with an increasingly-entrenched and isolated director at the helm, decided to change courses and remove the director? And the ensuing project, while not necessarily rewarding creatively, has at least become a more financially-successful production?

    It’s not show art, it’s show business.

  13. Irvine511 on March 7th, 2012 8:33 pm

    you can tell who on this thread has dealt with stuff like this before and who hasn’t.

    sorry to come off all cynical but, yes, when powerful creative people are leading a production off a cliff you have to take them out. this happens *all* the time.

    just look at Chris Thomas. throat slit.

    i don’t think that B&E are any better or any worse than anyone else in the business. in fact, they’re probably a lot nicer than most. but let’s not be naive when it comes to the fact that there are big bucks at stake here — not just to be made but, far more importantly, to be lost — and you cannot afford to put feelings and being nice ahead of cold hard realities.

  14. RC Donovan on March 7th, 2012 10:23 pm

    to irvine511
    forgive my ignorance
    what do you mean, ‘just look at chris thomas. throat slit’ ?

  15. Irvine511 on March 7th, 2012 11:48 pm

    he wasn’t getting the job done. they had him removed and brought in someone else. similar to what was done to Ms. Taymor.

  16. hcbiggs2002 on March 8th, 2012 2:02 am

    To RC Donovan, yes I do believe in what I said, I wouldn’t have written it otherwise. I didn’t say that Bono and Edge aren’t totally blameless and maybe bit off more than they could chew, but neither do I believe that Ms Taymor was some total innocent in all this either! I suspect the reason why Bono and Edge couldn’t be as involved as they should have been was coz U2 were on tour at the time, let’s not forget that simple fact! Then there was Bono’s back surgery and following months of recovery, postponements of the USA spring tour and rescheduling of said tour dates, meaning the tour went on longer than planned etc. Therefore the main responsibility of making the show work was left to Ms Taymor and she couldn’t hack it! End of!!

  17. Marien on March 8th, 2012 5:51 am

    What evidence are you talking about? Have they been proved in court? I don’t believe Bono and The Edge are angels, but I don’t like to be manipulated, yes Taymor is the proud winner of 2 Tonys, but Taymor was the director of the project for years and she couldn’t manage to put a show together, she spent lots and lots of money and things were worse and worse every day, and the producers decided to remove her and put someone who knew what to do to save from an economical and artistic disaster, which is totally logic, everyone has to take care of their money, and yes it was her responsibility because she was in charge of the show, when you accept to be director you must assume you are responsible of the whole project, if you are not prepared to do it, just don’t take it..
    You can tell me Bono or Edge should have done this or that, maybe, they are the proud winners of 23 Grammys, let’s not forget that, anyway it was Taymor who had to make sure they do whatever was necessary for the musical because she was in charge, she couldn’t even distinguish if the sound system worked well or not, maybe she could have done better with some proffessional help. I must admid I don’t admire her as much as some people do here, she’s had some brilliant moments in her career, but I don’t forget some others like Accross The Universe.
    What is happening now? that she must save face in order to get hired in Broadway again, although I really doubt anybody is going to give her so much money and time again, or at least I wouldn’t. And Bono and Edge? well they have their own business and nobody is going to fire them.
    Now do you want to know why I don’t believe what they are talking about them? because I’ve followed them for more than 20 years and I know that’s not the way they act when they work, I’ve never seen them drunk on stage as I’ve seen many others and I’ve never heard anyone, producers or other people working with them talk such things, for me a 30 years long career deserves some credibility, of course I can picture Bono drinking with some models, but that’s not enough to spend 65m$, that was Taymor’s doings.

  18. U2girl on March 8th, 2012 8:49 am

    Mr Cohl and the other major producer took out Taymor. The people with money bags decided, not the songwriters. Though being on tour probably didn’t help with musical changes and ultimately I don’t doubt they agreed with all the changes. (as did, most likely McGuiness, only one afaik in the U2 circle that gave money).

    Taymore didn’t budge to make changes early on with the first previews and bad reviews. She took the fall because she is the writer/director of the play.

    From what I read, it seems likely that U2 probably wore Thomas out eventually. I don’t think the sessions were bad. Certainly in the fall of 2003 Bono and Edge thought they had a record but the rhythm section said no. Enter Lillywhite.

  19. Jamila on March 8th, 2012 1:07 pm

    Julie Taymor has everything to lose professionally if she lies & everything to GAIN professionally if she’s telling the truth!

    She is a smart, determined & independent woman. She will have her day in court & she will continue to win on this issue as she has already won the first court battle regarding STOTD.

    It’s simply payback time for the others mentioned in this lawsuit. Personally, I can’t wait to see this go to trial!


  20. Zootomic on March 8th, 2012 9:00 pm

    The real mistake made by Bono and Edge was getting so heavily involved in a business they are not familiar with which left them too reliant on others. Julie Taymor had the experience and really should have been able to handle the job so, even when things started to go badly, Bono and Edge may have thought she could work it out . But she didn’t. The production delays and accidents that took place under her watch became a national punchline. Taymor’s version received terrible reviews. No matter what her experience or reputation was coming into this production she failed here and she had to go.

  21. Irvine511 on March 9th, 2012 2:40 pm

    it does seem like there’s a difference between Julie Taymor and Chris Thomas.

    Thomas was simply fired.

    Taymor, because of her large creative role, had to be actively and strategically taken out.

    sorry for being a bit lazy in my comparison earlier.

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