Julie Taymor on The Colbert Report

Do not miss the latest episode of Stephen Colbert’s show where he interviews director Julie Taymor almost entirely about The Tempest. I was a little upset when I saw the TV Guide and she was billed strictly as the director of that ridiculous Spiderman musical, but as far as I can tell Colbert did not mention Spiderman at all.


“That’s how I like my Shakespeare – on fire.”

“So it seems like a cross between Lost, and Harry Potter.”

“That’s what I say, modernize the language! Don’t say thou, say you! Don’t say orisons, say prayers. Don’t say zounds, say holy sh_t!”

I was excited for the Kill Shakespeare guys (maker of the comic book where all of Shakespeare’s greatest characters go on a quest to find their creator) because Taymor mentioned them on the show. But then she proceeds to say that it’s a modern translation and give it a literal thumbs down (and I do mean that, she physically made the thumbs down gesture on national television). That had to hurt a bit. But then, who knows? Maybe the audience that they’re going for is precisely the group that would say “Oh, thank god, it’s not in the original Shakespeare language.”

Interesting twist : Taymor does say that a major part of the story changes when Prospera is a mom and not a dad. With a dad, the entrance of Ferdinand is all about “You’re not good enough to take my little girl away.” But with a mom, she says, it’s a completely different relationship and all about how mom knows exactly what her daughter is feeling. Should be interesting to see how that plays out on film.

Right before the show, a tv-commercial played for The Tempest. Seriously, I was shaking as I watched it. I called in the kids and replayed it 3 times. I can not remember the last time I got to witness a mainstream Shakespeare event like this. Heck, the last (and only!) time I saw a Shakespeare movie in the theatre it was Mel Gibson’s Hamlet back in 1990 – and we had to argue with the manager that night because he said there weren’t enough people in the theatre to show it.

I don’t need it to be a good movie. I’m more than thrilled enough to hear people talking about it, and to imagine a parade of people who start with “Let’s go to the movies” as their first plan, and “What should we see?” as the second. Those people, even if they don’t choose to go, will at least have the opportunity to see it listed and say “Well there’s a showing of The Tempest at 7:15, I heard it’s like Lost meets Harry Potter. And it’s got that drunk guy who married Katy Perry in it.”

2 thoughts on “Julie Taymor on The Colbert Report

  1. I'm a little confused.
    Colbert clearly asks, "You update the language?". Taymor says, "um hum." This elicits from him the quote you put up about modernizing the language.

    I'm not sure how this justifies her thumbs down on the Kill Shakespeare 'modern translation'.
    Has she indeed "updated" the language or is this Colbert's mistaken interpretation of something? Anyone know?

  2. I took her "Mmmhmm" (off screen) to be more of an acknowledgement of the question like, "Ok, yes, this is a common concern." It's not an exchange, her mumble is a verbal head-nod while he keeps talking: "Do you update the language so that people can understand it? Because my biggest problem with Shakespeare is…" It's all one thought on his part.

    "If you're the greatest writer England ever produced, spikka da ingliss."

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