JT: Well, I have a dog now.
O: You have a dog.
O: So that's some normalcy.
JT: And every night I go home to Elliot. I've been with him 25, 30 years. We're not married. We say we're happily unmarried.
O: He's a composer.
JT: A brilliant composer; he did the score for The Tempest, and it's stunning. We travel and we work together all the time. That's how we met; we spent five years working together and then fell in love. He's never envious of the time I spend on work. We adore each other in work mode.
O: You adore each other.
JT: And inspire each other. We didn't have children. That was very personal. We sort of tried. It was Lion King time and it didn't happen, and probably it's okay.
O: Yes. Because you wouldn't be able to do all this with the intensity that you're doing it with.
JT: No. I wouldn't. So two years ago, we got a dog. I know that's hardly a substitute for a child, but it's completely fun to go home and play with her. She's black-and-white, and she was born on Halloween. Her eyes move independently, like sickle moons, and we named her Luna because she's insane. We also play in the morning. It's a small thing, but it's very joyous. And I understand why people need and have children, because it gives you that "get off yourself for a moment" feeling—a reprieve from your egocentric, narcissistic blah blah blah.
O: A reminder that it's not all about you.
JT: Exactly. Although what I'm doing right now, of course, is pretty much 24/7 for me.
O: Getting back to what you're doing right now: How did you deal with the challenge of making the musical different from what movie audiences have seen? Had you seen all three Spider-Man films when you started?
JT: When we started, only the first movie had come out. This was right after 9/11, so all of that was on our minds. But the fact is, our idea came out of the Arachne story. In our version, she falls in love with her protégé, Spider-Man—who, at the top of act 2, starts becoming world famous. Suddenly there are Spider-Man hot dogs, hero sandwiches, underwear—everything. And he no longer has time for his girlfriend or his aunt. He's failing as a human being and rising as Spider-Man. And that's when Arachne says, "Save me."
O: Yes, yes, yes.
JT: She says, "You are Spider-Man, you're the one" and "Together we can weave worlds of ecstasy." Meanwhile, his girlfriend, Mary Jane, has had it: Peter is always disappearing, he's full of secrets, and she's had enough. So she breaks up with him—at which point he throws away his Spider-Man suit. That's when Arachne goes ballistic.
O: How did you figure all this out? What was the process like?
JT: Once I got the idea of Arachne, I realized that this would be a love triangle. And that it would be a great thing for a musical. Because you have to have a dilemma. What is Peter singing about? He's an action hero when he puts on the suit, but when he's Peter Parker, when the costume is off and no one knows that he's Spider-Man, he's a troubled teenager.
O: Trying to find his way.
O: Just like everybody else.
JT: Trying to have a normal existence like Bono and all these rockers. And really trying to balance out his life. So there is a lot for him to be singing about. There are many other characters who sing, but for Peter and Mary Jane, it's their love story.
Next: What it was like to collaborate with Bono and Edge