Joel Schumacher, the legendary New York filmmaker who helmed blockbusters ranging from The Lost Boys to Batman Forever to Phone Booth, passed away on Monday. He was 80.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, a representative confirmed he had been battling cancer for the past year.
Born in New York City on August 29th, 1939, Schumacher went on to study at Parsons The New School for Design and the Fashion Institute of Technology. After working in the fashion industry, he eventually moved to Los Angeles to begin work as a costume designer for film and television as he earned his MFA from UCLA.
Schumacher eventually pursued a career in screenwriting, penning 1976’s Sparkle, 1976’s Car Wash, and Sidney Lumet’s 1978 musical The Wiz, which starred the late Michael Jackson. By 1981, he began working behind the camera, making his directorial debut with The Incredible Shrinking Woman starring the one and only Lily Tomlin.
From there, Schumacher’s unique eye helped add a little more color to the ’80s. He went toe to toe with Mr. T in 1983’s D.C. Cab, he gave the Brat Pack their strangest adventure in 1985’s St. Elmo’s Fire, turned vampires into alternative sex icons with 1987’s cult masterpiece The Lost Boys, and closed out the decade with the French rom com remake Cousins.
However, it was the ’90s when Schumacher truly dominated, starting out with 1990’s Flatliners. That kick-started arguably one of the more eclectic runs for any director of that era: 1991’s Dying Young, 1993’s Falling Down, 1994’s The Client, 1995’s Batman Forever, 1996’s A Time to Kill, 1997’s Batman & Robin, and a 1999 double dose of 8mm and Flawless.
Things admittedly slowed down in the aughts, though there were a few highlights. In 2000, he brought Colin Farrell to Vietnam in Tigerland, before dropping him off in Times Square for 2004’s Phone Booth. He also helmed an adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera in 2004 and went on to direct two episodes of pal David Fincher’s House of Cards.
Schumacher was also one of the few queer filmmakers of his generation, a fact he was hardly shy about. In 2019, he told Vulture that he slept with 20,000 men, stating: “I’ve had sex with famous people, and I’ve had sex with married people, and they go to the grave. I’ve never kissed and told about anybody who gives me the favor of sharing a bed with me.”
A visionary, a risk taker, an auteur, Schumacher is survived by a rare canon of work.