Oprah Talks to Julie Taymor
Oprah: But what happens in your brain that gives you the ideas? I get a couple of good ideas while I'm in the tub, but nothing like that!
Julie: Some of my ideas for film or theater come to me in dreams. I'm also very creative when I'm talking to others. I believe in collaboration.
Oprah: It was such a brilliant idea to allow the audience to see the actors and the puppets simultaneously—that way the audience can participate through their imagination.
Julie: Yes. People have become so literal because they're used to reality-based television. I could have used a movie projector to project the image of a sun onto the stage, and I also could have hidden everybody in costumes. But then the audience would have thought, "That's silly—there's a person inside there!" I chose instead to make the people apparent and to have the audience enjoy not just the story but the art and style of telling it. I'm a firm believer in the idea that theater excels over film and TV in its ability to let people play with poetry. I don't mean to sound highfalutin or "artistic"; in America, the word art has become like the word adultery. It's this big scarlet letter. When you say you're an artist, people are like, "Ugh."
Oprah: What does the word mean to you?
Julie: An artist is an entertainer, number one—a storyteller who takes people someplace, who gives them what they didn't know they wanted. A performance can have amazing visuals and special effects, but it has to tell a good story, even if that story isn't original. Are the characters interesting? Is the language fascinating? Is it going to tell you at least a different version of what you know? Is your heart touched? Are you intellectually stimulated? We're really having a problem right now in our culture. I haven't seen one movie lately in which the story and visuals have been equally good. I want to experience a performance on all levels—I want goose bumps and I want to leave the movie or play arguing about something that's unresolved. If you give people what you know they want, which is what most movies do—
Oprah: You're predictable.
Julie: Yes. And that drives me nuts. The story of The Lion King is nothing new—we all know these animals, we all know how the sun rises, so what's the big deal? It's how you tell the story that makes it new. That's what artists do. They let us look at the world from a different perspective. They let us look at birds in a way that makes us never see birds again in the same way. That's why I don't think computers are healthy for kids. They're too literal. You pop a button and a bluebird comes out. You pop another button and you can take the color blue and shove it into the outline of the bluebird. When we were kids, you picked up a little paper and put it on a stick; and when you waved it back and forth, you understood the power of air underneath the wings. In that way, a child begins to understand abstraction, poetry, metaphor, symbolism. You play with the materials you have and use your imagination to make them into something else. That what's so sad about having everything on a little screen—it's not physical and dimensional, and that seems backward. It's less advanced to work with something you can't touch or penetrate, something that doesn't surround you or excite all your senses.