Joel Schumacher dead

Joel Schumacher, the director of movies like A Time to Kill, The Lost Boys, and more, has died at the age of 80. He’s probably best known for making Batman Forever and Batman & Robin in the 1990s (and putting the Batman franchise on ice for a while in the process), but he had a long, incredibly varied, and fascinating career beyond those two films. Schumacher began his career as a costume designer before making the jump behind the camera, and when you look at his filmography, you may be surprised at some of the projects he was associated with.

Schumacher died of cancer this morning in New York City at the age of 80. He started out as a costume designer for films like Sleeper and The Last of Sheila, and wrote the screenplays for several movies, including The Wiz (the all-black retelling of The Wizard of Oz) and 1985’s Brat Pack drama St. Elmo’s Fire, which was his first big hit as a director. He followed that up with the vampire thriller The Lost Boys (which was recently reviewed by the Slashfilmcast), and later directed Flatliners, another movie filled which featured a young cast of up-and-comers who would go on to become big stars. A few years later, Schumacher directed Michael Douglas in Falling Down, a film about an average guy who’s driven nuts by the combination of a heatwave and societal pressures and ends up going on a rampage through Los Angeles. (It was a hit at the time, but doesn’t exactly hold up.)

In the mid-90s, he tacked two John Grisham adaptations, The Client and A Time to Kill, and after Tim Burton left the Batman franchise following Batman Returns, Schumacher took over and leaned into the campiness of the Adam West days, even going as far as to add nipples to the Batsuit (something some fans still get riled up about to this day). Tigerland, Phone Booth, The Phantom of the Opera, The Number 23 – Schumacher directed ’em all, and that variety meant he could never quite be pinned down as a director, always pushing himself in different directions and expanding his palette as a storyteller.

He was also an openly gay man whose off-screen exploits are legendary. In a must-read Vulture profile of Schumacher from last year, the director admits that having somewhere in the range of 10,000 to 20,000 sexual partners. In the 1980s, Schumacher was afraid he’d contracted AIDS, and in that profile, he talked about planning his own death:

“I went to get tested. I was sure I had it, I was planning my death. In those days, the test had to be done by the Centers for Disease Control. So it was sent away, and it took three weeks or more until you got the answer. When the doctor called me and said, ‘No, everything’s fine, it’s clean, Joel,’ I went and got tested again…I was going to ask my friends Nan Bush and Bruce Weber if I could live on their ranch in Montana. If I hired someone to take care of me, I wouldn’t bother them, because they’d be working all over the world anyway. I thought that would be a nice place to…But after [the negative test] I think I got wilder. What my psychiatrist said that was really fascinating was, ‘No, you are desperately afraid of death. It’s like swimming out further and further every night in the ocean and seeing if you can get back, and when you get home, it’s like, ‘I fucked death again.'”

Rest in peace, Mr. Schumacher.

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