A Look Into the Life of Julie Taymor, the Visionary Director of “Frida” and “Across the Universe”

This month, The Frida Cinema is proudly screening Frida and Across the Universe, two extraordinary films directed by a visionary artist Julie Taymor.

Born on December 15, 1952, she grew up in a suburb near Boston, Massachusetts. Her childhood consisted of traveling to different countries as she developed a strong interest in mythology and theater. During her teenage years in the 1960s, she was part of the Experiment in International Living Program and lived in places such as Sri Lanka and India. In addition, she studied acting in Paris at a mime school known as Jacques Lecoq. In 1969, she enrolled in Oberlin College majoring in theater and mythology. She graduated in 1974 with a degree in folklore and mythology.

Once finished with college, she would spend the rest of the 1970’s living in Japan to start her studies in puppetry and Japanese theater. She then moved to Indonesia for five years, and became a director for international theater, during which she worked with actors from Asia, Europe, and America, all while also working on and off Broadway back in the United States. Through directing theater in America, she accomplished success with her staging of “The King Stag”, a fairy tale that would tour through 66 cities such as Los Angeles, Venice, Tokyo, and Moscow.

Her impressive career as a director for theater was world-renowned, and earned her awards long before her big break in 1997, when she directed the Walt Disney Company’s grand and beautiful production of “The Lion King” on Broadway. Thanks to her broad theater experience, she co-designed over 100 costumes and animal masks, and won two Tony awards for her work.

In 1999, Taymor made her directorial debut with Titus, a Shakespeare adaptation starring celebrated actors including Anthony Hopkins and Jessica Lange.   To bring Titus to the big screen, Taymor also produced the film, and lent her talents to adapting the play into a screenplay. Titus was met with positive reviews, and earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Costume Design.

It was with her next film, Frida, that Taymor earned her largest acclaim and recognition.  Hand-selected by producer and star Selma Hayek to direct, Taymor’s sumptuously detailed film was nominated for six Academy Awards in 2002, taking home two awards for Best Makeup and Best Original Score  (composed by Taymor’s husband, Elliot Goldenthal).  Frida also received dozens of intentional awards and notations from international film  groups including including BAFTA, Golden Globes, and SAG.

In 2008, Taymor took on an unprecedented challenge – an epic period piece/musical featuring over thirty songs by The Beatles – with Across the Universe, which received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Musical-Comedy, as well as an Academy Award nomination for Best Costume Design. 

Today, Taymor lives in New York City with Goldenthal, and continues to marvel with her works in theater and film.