Schumacher, Joel: Director of Batman, Falling Down Dies at 80

Joel Schumacher, the writer-director who came from costume design to directing  a wide diverse 0f films, including St. Elmo’s Fire, Flatliners and a pair of Batman movies, died Monday. He was 80.

Schumacher died in New York after a yearlong battle with cancer, a rep said.

Schumacher’s features also included the horror comedy The Lost Boys (1987), which he was handed after Richard Donner passed on it to helm Lethal Weapon; the John Grisham thrillers The Client (1994) and A Time to Kill (1996); and 8MM (1999), the noir starring Nicolas Cage.

He dealt with dark themes with the medical thrillers Flatliners (1990) and Dying Young (1991), both starring Julia Roberts, and Falling Down (1993), with Michael Douglas playing an unhinged man who embarks on a violent rampage in Los Angeles.

Schumacher had penchant to recognize young talent, and he cast members of “The Brat Pack” — including Demi Moore, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson and Ally Sheedy — in St. Elmo’s Fire (1985).

He also boosted the careers of Julia Roberts, Kiefer Sutherland, Matthew McConaughey and Colin Farrell by giving them prominent parts.

Schumacher served as costume designer on Woody Allen’s Sleeper (1973) and Paul Mazursky’s Blume in Love (1973) and wrote screenplays for the well-received Sparkle (1976), Car Wash (1976) and The Wiz (1978). One of the first features he directed was D.C. Cab (1983), starring Mr. T.

After Tim Burton helmed the first two Batman films starring Michael Keaton in 1989 and 1992, Warners assigned Schumacher with the franchise, and he emphasized the visuals in Batman Forever (1995) and Batman & Robin (1997), with a more comic-book feel. (He also gave Val Kilmer’s Caped Crusader more muscles and George Clooney nipples on his Batsuit.)

Batman & Robin, however, was a critical disaster, and Schumacher admitted that he had made a mistake listening to studio marketing execs who wanted to target the film to kids. “I want to apologize to every fan that was disappointed because I think I owe them that,” he said in a 2017 interview with Vice.

Schumacher was born in the Queens, Long Island City on August 29, 1939. He was the only child of a father, who worked in a pharmacy and died when he was 4; his mother, from Sweden, also passed away when he was young. “By the time I was 7, I was really out on the streets,” he said in a 1999 interview. “I’ve really done everything wrong that a human being can possibly do, except murder, thank God. Fast lane, drugs. I’m a survivor of the ’60s who stayed way too long at the party.” Schumacher said he had been sober since 1992.

He attended the Parsons School of Design and the Fashion Institute of Technology, paying his way by designing clothing and packaging for Revlon and working as a window dresser  in New York.

He came to Los Angeles for a job as a costume designer on the Tuesday Weld film Play It as It Lays (1972), written by husband and wife John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion.