RIP Joel Schumacher

Joel Schumacher, costume designer-turned-director of films including ‚ÄúSt. Elmo‚Äôs Fire,‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúThe Lost Boys‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúFalling Down,‚ÄĚ as well as two ‚ÄúBatman‚ÄĚ films, died in New York City on Monday morning after a year-long battle with cancer. He was 80. Born in New York City, the son of Marian (n√©e¬†Kantor) and Francis Schumacher. His mother was a¬†Swedish Jew, whereas his father was a¬†Baptist¬†from¬†Knoxville, Tennessee, who died when Joel was four years old. ¬†Schumacher studied at¬†Parsons The New School for Design¬†before earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the¬†Fashion Institute of Technology¬†in New York. He moved to Los Angeles, where he began his media work as a costume designer in films such as Woody Allen’s¬†Sleeper¬†and¬†Interiors¬†and developed his skills with television work studying towards a¬†Master of Fine Arts¬†from¬†University of California, Los Angeles.

Schumacher’s first screenplay was for the musical drama¬†Sparkle¬†in 1976, which Schumacher had developed with¬†Howard Rosenman¬†before moving to Los Angeles. He also wrote the screenplays for the 1976 low-budget hit movie¬†Car Wash, 1978’s¬†The Wiz‚ÄĒan adaptation of the stage play of the same name‚ÄĒand a number of other minor successes. His film directorial debut was¬†The Incredible Shrinking Woman¬†in 1981, which starred¬†Lily Tomlin. The¬†Brat Pack¬†films¬†St. Elmo’s Fire¬†and¬†The Lost Boys¬†were two of Schumacher’s biggest hits. Their style impressed audiences and their financial success allowed studios to trust him with ever-larger projects. He stated in the director’s commentary for¬†St. Elmo’s Fire¬†that he resents the “Brat Pack” label, as he feels it misrepresents the group.

Schumacher directed two adaptations of¬†John Grisham’s novels:¬†The Client¬†(1994) and¬†A Time to Kill¬†(1996). Grisham personally requested that Schumacher return to direct¬†A Time to Kill. Schumacher replaced¬†Tim Burton¬†as the director of the¬†Batman film franchise¬†when he directed¬†Batman Forever¬†in 1995.¬†Val Kilmer¬†replaced¬†Michael Keaton¬†in the title role. Despite a mixed critical reception, the film scored the highest-grossing opening weekend of 1995. It finished as the second-highest-grossing film of the year in North America, and sixth-highest worldwide. After this success, Warner Bros. hired Schumacher to direct a sequel,¬†Batman & Robin, which was released in 1997. The film did not perform as well at the box office as its predecessors, and was critically panned; it is frequently considered to be¬†one of the worst films ever made.

Schumacher decided to reinvent his career with darker, lower-budget fare like¬†8mm¬†with¬†Nicolas Cage, and¬†Flawless¬†with¬†Robert De Niro.¬†8mm¬†was entered into the¬†49th Berlin International Film Festival. In 2003, he released the controversial¬†Phone Booth, in which he once again worked with Farrell. The film‚ÄĒabout an unseen gunman tormenting a publicist‚ÄĒwas also delayed for months due to the¬†Beltway sniper attacks. It received generally positive reviews, earning a 71 percent “Fresh” rating on the¬†review aggregator¬†Rotten Tomatoes. Buoyed by Farrell’s recently found fame, the film earned $98.7 million worldwide.

He directed a film version of the musical¬†The Phantom of the Opera¬†in 2004, an adaptation of¬†Andrew Lloyd Webber’s¬†original stage musical. Despite mixed reviews, the film earned $154.6 million worldwide (Schumacher’s biggest hit of the 21st century to date) and was nominated for three¬†Academy Awards, as well as three¬†Golden Globes, including Best Motion Picture ‚Äď Musical or Comedy.

Schumacher directed The Number 23 in 2007, which was a critical flop but a moderate financial success. His next project was the vampire thriller Blood Creek, which was filmed in the spring of 2007 in rural Romania. It had a limited release. In October 2011, Schumacher released his latest film, Trespass. The action-thriller reunited Schumacher with stars Nicole Kidman and Nicolas Cage. Schumacher was openly gay throughout most of his career.

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