Joel Schumacher passed away on June 22nd at the age of 80 after a year-long battle with cancer. He was a voice in cinema for longer than I can remember. He started out as a costume designer providing the wardrobe for movies such as Woody Allen’s classic Sleeper, The Last of Sheila, as well as Interiors and The Prisoner of Second Avenue before becoming a scriptwriter. His screenplays for Sparkle, Car Wash, and the film adaptation of the musical, The Wiz underscored his ability to work in alternative markets, namely medium to big-budget black exploitation films.
His directorial debut was the 1981 Lily Tomlin comedy, The Incredible Shrinking Woman. He wrote and directed D.C. Cab, starring Mr. T, Adam Baldwin, Max Gail, and Gary Busey. Schumacher had an unerring ability to survive with changing trends in film. In the ’80s and ’90s, Schumacher, as unofficial co-founder of the “Brat Pack,” would direct St. Elmo’s Fire, The Lost Boys, Flatliners, and Dying Young, launching the careers of many young talented performers. Falling Down, one of his best-reviewed films, was released in 1993.
Between 1995 and 1997, Schumacher directed four blockbuster films: two John Grisham adaptations, The Client (which earned Susan Sarandon a nomination for Best Actress at the 68th Academy Awards) and A Time to Kill, and two Batman movies, Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. The Grisham movies, produced on smaller budgets (compared to Batman) earned $250,000,000 worldwide, whereas the Batman movies earned over a half a billion dollars.
8mm, written by Se7en scribe Andrew Kevin Walker and starring Nicolas Cage and Joaquin Phoenix, earned $96,000,000 internationally. Phone Booth, written by Larry Cohen, represented a return to low-budget filmmaking on a budget of $13,000,000 and earning more money at the box office than 8mm. Schumacher’s last film was the 2011 hostage drama, Trespass, starring Nicolas Cage and Nicole Kidman, which only saw a limited release before consignment to “on-demand” distribution. In his final years, Schumacher directed two episodes of the popular Netflix series, House of Cards.