Hollywood filmmaker Joel Schumacher died on Monday in New York City at the age of 80. He had been suffering from cancer for the past year, according to reports. His long list of credits include Batman Forever, Batman & Robin, Falling Down, The Client, A Time to Kill, and Phone Booth.
Schumacher most recently directed two episodes of the Netflix series House of Cards in 2013. He started out in the 1970s as a costume and production designer. He also wrote screenplays during this period. His turned director with television films in the early ’80s. His first feature was the sci-fi comedy The Incredible Shrinking Woman in 1981.
Among Schumacher’s well-known films in the ’80s and ’90s were St. Elmo’s Fire (1985) and Flatliners (1990). Falling Down (1993), starring Michael Douglas as an engineer who loses his balance and becomes a one-man army mowing down everything in his path while trying to reach his estranged daughter, was a critical and commercial hit.
However, Schumacher’s campy and parodic handling of the Batman films Batman Forever (1995) and Batman & Robin (1997) came in for criticism. The Batman franchise was taken into a whole new, and altogether more serious, direction by Christopher Nolan with Batman Begins in 2005.
Schumacher also helmed adaptations of two John Grisham bestsellers, The Client (1994) and A Time To Kill (1996). The prolific filmmaker worked across genres, directing a feature version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical The Phantom of the Opera (2004), the thrillers 8MM (1999) and Phone Booth (2002), and the biopic Veronica Guerin (2003). His final film was Trespass, about a couple that is targetted by extortionists, in 2011.
In a lengthy and frank interview with Vulture in 2019, Schumacher, who was openly gay, looked back on his career, his early experiences with drugs and alcohol, and negative reviews of many of his films, which turned out to be hits anyway.
“It is the greatest thing that can happen to you,” he said about poor reviews. “Because it reminds you who you made the movie for. And if you want to make movies just for the critics, they will fuck you anyway. It’s like people who have a genius first novel. And then they do a second one, and then a lot of critics will be, Oh, did I give them too much power? This one isn’t as good, so now I will eviscerate you and make you scum.”