Oprah Talks to Julie Taymor
Oprah: What is your process of creation? How do you get inspiration?
Julie: For each hat I wear there's a different creative process. When I'm sculpting, I work with wood and clay, and though some say that an image is already in the material and the sculptor just has to discover it, I also believe you have an image in your head that you're trying to get to. So you're in a dialogue with the piece, a back-and-forth. When I'm working as a director, I might have an idea of my own but I'm also trying to get great ideas out of my actors. Directing is much more psychological—it's a lot like being a general. And you have to be organized. While you're making a film, you have between 2 and 500 people asking you a billion questions.
Oprah: Do you like it when an actor has a different idea about a character than you do?
Julie: Yes. Anthony Hopkins [who costarred in Titus] is a perfect example of that. Here's what I feel: If you have a strong vision, then you're able to throw it away for a better one. The tyrant male directors who have everyone quaking in their boots—and by the way, women can't get away with being tyrants because they're seen as bitches—are so into their vision that they're terrified to let anyone see that there might be another way. That's a shame. I believe that if you really have a strong idea, you can say, "What do you think? Let's see how my idea plays off yours."
Oprah: Did you feel intimidated about directing your first feature film?
Julie: Not really. I put blinders on—that's how I work. Prior to The Lion King, I directed Oedipus Rex, which was my first opera, in Japan. [American soprano] Jessye Norman was in it and, before I even began directing I showed her my concept and she got it right away because she's a smart lady. But before she showed up at the set, an assistant director began telling me what Jessye Norman would never do—she was saying things like "Jessye would never walk up these steps." I said, "Will you shut up? If you tell me what she won't do, then I'll be terrified to ask her. I'm just going to tell her what I want and see if she'll do it." So that's my policy—to be positive, to just hope that something will happen. If you start with all your fears, your receptivity is for the negative.
Oprah: When you're carving masks, how do you create an expression that conveys the essence of a character?
Julie: When creating masks for The Lion King, I tried to abstract the essence of the character to a word or notion. The character Scar is obviously off-center because he has a scar on one side of his face. He's twisted. He's angular. The mask of Mufasa, who is Scar's polar opposite, is all about symmetry. So the rays of circles that surround his head became his mane.