Born in Newton, Massachusetts, Taymor had a passion for theatre as a child, studying acting abroad in Asia and Europe as a teenager (including work with the famous French mime Jacques le Coq), and graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio with a degree in drama in 1974. Her greatest triumph as a director for the stage was the wildly popular musical The Lion King, a 1998 adaptation of the Disney film of that name. Taymor received two Tony Awards for her work on The Lion King, one for Direction and one for Costume Design.
Taymor has transitioned from the stage to the movie set in recent years, directing Titus in 1999 (an adaptation of the play Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare) and Frida in 2002 (a movie based on the life of artist Frida Kahlo). Both movies received positive reviews for their stylish filming: Frida was the more acclaimed of the two, garnering six Academy Award nominations and winning in two of the six categories (Best Makeup and Best Original Score).