NEW YORK (Reuters) - A stuntman has filed court papers seeking information about acrobatic maneuvers on Broadway musical “Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark” in a prelude to a possible lawsuit against companies who worked on the troubled show.
The legal action is the latest headache for producers of Broadway’s most expensive production who have contended with performer injuries from falls or crash-landings during aerial stunts, a bitter dispute with original director and co-creator Julie Taymor, and reviews that have been mostly negative. Still, ticket sales have proven strong at box offices.
Stuntman Richard Kobak claims he was injured while performing several of the show’s stunts including one incident in which he claims computer software programmed to ensure his safety instead slammed him face-first into a wall.
Kobak says he replaced another stuntman who was hurt while performing in December 2010, but claims that safety equipment was not recalibrated for the weight difference between the two, causing Kobak to land “harder and faster” than he should have.
“No corrective measures were taken until I had performed in sixteen performances,” he says in his affidavit filed this week in the Supreme Court in Manhattan. Including rehearsals, Kobak estimates he endured about 70 “hard landings”, tearing small holes in his knees.
A few months later, Kobak said he was working on a different stunt that required him to “fly,” with the aid of ropes, to a perch at the side of the stage. He “reluctantly agreed” to allow computer software to control the ropes and land him on the perch without Kobak needing to maneuver himself.
“I was pulled straight into the wall striking my head and face,” he says, adding that he was left with two herniated discs in his back, whiplash and a concussion as a result.
Sherman Kerner, Kobak’s lawyer, has petitioned a judge to order “Spider-Man” producers to disclose vendors involved in setting up the stunt and safety equipment ahead of a possible negligence lawsuit against those third parties. He said Kobak could not sue his employers for negligence under New York law.
Rick Miramontez, a spokesman for the show’s producers, said in an email that they would have no comment beyond saying, “The actor is currently in the National Tour of ‘American Idiot,’ the musical, and the producers wish him well.”
At least five other performers were injured during the show’s rehearsals and previews. None of those other performers are known to have brought legal action.
Taymor, a co-creator and original director of “Spider-Man,” which has been re-worked since her departure, is suing the producers in federal court over copyright issues, claiming much of her script still exists in the show’s current incarnation. The producers have countersued for breach of contract.
In February, the producers settled a separate dispute over Taymor’s ouster with a Broadway trade group that represents stage directors and choreographers.
Despite its troubles, “Spider-Man,” which cost more than $70 million to mount, has done steady business at the box office, and was the third highest-grossing show on Broadway for the week ending April 1.
Reporting By Christine Kearney; Editing by Jill Serjeant and Bob Tourtellotte