The visionary director behind Batman Forever and Batman & Robin dies after a year-long battle with cancer
Sad news is coming from Tinseltown. Director Joel Schumacher has sadly passed away from cancer at the age of 90. The director is perhaps best known for his two entries in the 1990s Warner Bros. ‘Batman‘ series, ‘Batman Forever‘ and ‘Batman & Robin‘ but his career was a lot more varied than that. After the critical and box office failure of ‘Batman & Robin‘, Schumacher pulled back from directing big-budget blockbusters, instead choosing to return to more basic and lower budget fare.
Joel T. Schumacher was born in New York City in 1939, the son of a Swedish Jew mother and a Baptist father from Knoxville who passed away when Schumacher was four-years-old. The youngster studied at The Parsons New School For Design and the Fashion Institute For Technology in New York where he first began a career in the fashion industry before discovering a love of filmmaking. After making the move to Los Angeles, he began his career in cinema working as a costume designer on films such as Woody Allen’s ‘Sleeper‘ and developed his skills working in television while earning an MFA from UCLA. He also worked on screenwriting, turning in scripts for fare such as ‘Sparkle‘, ‘Car Wash‘ and ‘The Wiz‘, the 1978 adaptation of the stage play which was a loose reworking of ‘The Wizard Of Oz‘ and starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson amongst others before his directorial debut with the 1981 comedy ‘The Incredible Shrinking Woman‘ that starred Lily Tomlin.
Another two of Schumacher’s box office successes were ‘St. Elmo’s Fire‘ and ‘The Lost Boys‘ which turned out to be one of the best received and loved films of Schumacher’s career. Other notable films he was behind the camera for were ‘The Client‘ and ‘A Time To Kill‘, both of which were adaptations of novels from acclaimed author John Grisham. It was Grisham himself who requested that Schumacher helm the big-screen adaptation of ‘A Time To Kill‘. Another fantastic film was the urban thriller ‘Falling Down‘ which starred Michael Douglas. Schumacher took the brave decision to step into the shoes vacated by Tim Burton when Burton decided to step away from the ‘Batman‘ franchise after 1992s ‘Batman Returns‘. With ‘Batman Forever‘, Schumacher took the franchise in a new direction. Out went the gloom and doom and darkness of Burton and instead, in came a neon vision of campness that was akin to the 1960s TV show. Although ‘Batman Forever‘ was a box office hit, the critics and the fans gave the film mixed to negative reviews which in turn led to the failure of the sequel, ‘Batman & Robin‘, one of the worst films in Schumacher’s career which he took full responsibility for and in turn, made the director abandon the Hollywood blockbuster scene and return to smaller films, giving the world such movies as ‘8mm‘ starring Nicolas Cage and ‘Flawless‘ starring Robert De Niro.
In 2000, Schumacher directed the Vietnam film ‘Tigerland‘ that gave the world its first look at future leading man Colin Farrell before going back to big-budget fare with the film ‘Bad Company‘, another misstep this time starring Anthony Hopkins and Chris Rock. The film was due to hit theatres in 2001 but after the tragedy of 9/11, the film was pushed back until the summer of 2002 where it fizzled badly. However, Schumacher pulled the proverbial rabbit out of the hat when he directed Colin Farrell again in 2003s ‘Phone Booth’, a film that was so tightly plotted and dramatic that it gained both Schumacher and Farrell rave reviews and a great box office return. Although it wasn’t without controversy (the film had to be delayed after the Beltway Sniper attacks), the film has gone on to be regarded as a classic. Schumacher also directed Cate Blanchett in the biopic ‘Veronica Guerin‘ before he turned his attention to what proved to be his biggest hit of the 21st century when he directed the film adaptation of the Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber musical ‘The Phantom Of The Opera‘ in 2004. The modestly successful but critically panned Jim Carrey film ‘The Number 23‘ in 2007 was another Schumacher effort before he went on to direct the vampire thriller ‘Blood Creek‘ which was filmed in Romania and was released in a limited capacity. Schumacher’s last film to be released came in 2011 when he directed Nicolas Cage and Nicole Kidman in the action-thriller ‘Trespass‘ which gained a limited release cinematically and on video on demand.
Openly gay throughout his career, Schumacher claimed he had sex with up to 20,000 men in his lifetime and he stated publically that the fact of his sexuality was purposely reflected throughout the films he directed. He also directed two episodes of the Netflix TV show ‘House Of Cards‘ back in 2013 before his final project, executive producing three episodes of the show ‘Do Not Disturb: Hotel Horrors‘ in 2015.
We at The Future Of The Force wish to express our sincere condolences to the family and friends of Joel Schumacher alongside our sorrow that the world has lost a talented director. We also would like to say our thanks to the late director for all the work he has given us over the years. No matter if the film was good or bad, there was always something exceptional about the way Joel Schumacher directed it. As we mourn his passing, we can only say, Joel Schumacher, we thank you, we will miss you and we salute and honor you.
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Carl Roberts is a Senior Staff Writer and Books and Literature Correspondent for The Future of the Force. Aside from being our horror genre aficionado, he is also passionate about Star Wars, Marvel, DC, and the Indiana Jones movies. Follow him on Twitter @CarlRoberts2 where he uses the force frequently!