Joel Schumacher, director of films such as Batman & Robin, Batman Forever, St. Elmo’s Fire, and The Lost Boys, died of cancer of June 22, 2020. He was 80.
Schumacher, who never married or had children, died in New York City after a year-long battle with cancer, according to Variety. The Falling Down director started out in the industry as a costumer designer before becoming a screenwriter. He designed the costumes in 1972’s Play It as It Lays, 1973’s The Last of Sheila, Blume in Love, Woody Allen’s Sleeper, and Neil Simon adaptation The Prisoner of Second Avenue in 1975. In 2011, he was awarded a Distinguished Collaborator Award by the Costume Designers Guild.
As a screenwriter, Schumacher is responsible for The Wiz, St. Elmo’s Fire, The Phantom of the Opera, Flawless, Phone Booth, The Client, A Time to Kill, and Sparkle.
Here’s what you need to know about the late Joel Schumacher:
1. Schumacher Claimed to Have Sex With Up to 20,000 Partners
While Schumacher never married and had a family, the openly gay director told Vulture in 2019 that he’s had sex with up to 20,000 partners. While the article’s writer, Andrew Goldman, told Schumacher that such a high number was “really amazing,” the director disagreed. “It’s not for a gay male, because it’s available,” Schumacher said.
However, Schumacher didn’t kiss and tell. “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.”
2. Schumacher’s Father Died When He Was 4
Joel Schumacher was born in New York and his father, Francis Schumacher, died when he was 4. He was raised by his mother, Marian Kantor Schumacher.
Growing up in Long Island City, with a single mother, “If you’re an only child, your father is dead, and your mother is at work six days a week and three nights a week, you are free,” Schumacher told Vulture in August 2019. “I was on my own. The street was my education. You could ride your bike over the 59th Street Bridge then. So I rode my bike everywhere. I was in Manhattan all the time and all over Queens. If you’re a kid on a bike, anything can happen, and predators come out of the woodwork, my God. I looked very innocent, but I wasn’t.”
Schumacher added, “At 9. Looking back now, I was born for drugs and alcohol. I had no period of adjustment at all. A lot of people throw up, they have blackouts. I never did. I loved it. I have an enormous tolerance for drugs and alcohol. Bill Maher introduced me when I got an award a few years ago and said, ‘The reason I love Joel Schumacher is he went to a party when he was 11 and got home when he was 52.’ That says it all. But I did not do it when I got to Hollywood. I never would do it when I was on a job. If I lost any jobs for lack of talent, that’s fair, but I did not want to lose them because I was drinking or doing drugs.”
3. Schumacher Was Accused of Making ‘Batman & Robin’ Gay
After directing Batman Forever, Schumacher was tapped to direct Batman & Robin in 1997, which starred George Clooney and Chris O’Donnell in the titular roles. While it did well in theatres, earning a total gross $238 million worldwide, the movie was widely panned by critics, and Schumacher was accused of making the superhero gay. In a 2006 interview with Barbara Walters, Clooney said that he portrayed Batman as gay.
However, Schumacher told Vulture that he did not intentionally portray the characters with homoerotic nods. In fact, he said because the movie turned out so bad — this is why the conversation turned to the topic of the superhero being gay.
“You know what I think? I shouldn’t have made a sequel, and that’s all there is to it,” Schumacher said. “I learned that sequels are only made for one reason. I’m sure that Batman Forever was the cheapest Batman movie ever made because Val [Kilmer] didn’t get a lot of money, Nicole [Kidman] didn’t, Chris O’Donnell didn’t, and I didn’t. Tommy [Lee Jones] got a bit of a payday because he’d just won the Oscar for The Fugitive and Jim Carrey had already done Ace Ventura.”
But the rumors that Batman could be gay started way before Batman & Robin premiered. “Long before I came along, someone wrote a whole thing about what the real message of fairy tales and children’s stories are. Snow White was all about having bad stepmothers. And living in a cave, living together. There’s always been this thing about Batman and Robin being gay.”
“No. Nor do I ever think Batman and Robin are gay,” Schumacher continued. “There were a lot of people who I would say, in one particular community, wanted George Clooney to be gay so badly.”
While Clooney took the blame for destroying the Batman franchise, Schumacher insisted that the failure of Batman & Robin lied only with himself. He told Vulture, “Well, you know, that’s very George. First of all, Batman has survived since 1939 — we’re the same age. Nothing has ever stopped Batman.”
4. Schumacher Remained Friendly With Woody Allen Throughout His Career
Schumacher studied at Parsons the New Schol for Design and the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York before moving West and earning an MFA from University of California at Los Angeles. He was still in school when Woody Allen gave him his first big break to be the costume designer for his film, Sleeper.
Despite the controversy surrounding Allen, Schumacher stood by his friend. “Woody taught me, at a very early stage in my career, things that have carried me. So did everyone I’ve ever worked with. All I know about Woody is he couldn’t have been a more generous friend. And Mia was fantastic to me.”
As for the sexual assault claims against Allen, “I saw the interview with Dylan,” Schumacher said. “She believes it happened. Her brother certainly believes it. Mia absolutely believes it. And I’m not saying it happened. I’m just saying they believe it happened. But she was so young at the time that I don’t know.”
5. Schumacher’s Last Directing Job was on Netflix’s ‘House of Cards’
While much of Schumacher’s work lives on the big screen, he forayed into the world TV every now and then. In 1974, he wrote the screenplay for the TV movie, Virginia Hill, starring Harvey Keitel, and in 1992, he directed and executive produced 2000 Malibu Road which starred Lisa Hartman, Drew Barrymore, and Jennifer Beals.
Most recently, he directed two episodes of House of Cards in 2013, which is his last listed credit on IMDB.