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Schumacher, Joel

SCHUMACHER, Joel



Nationality: American. Born: New York, New York, 29 August 1939. Education: Attended the Fashion Institute of Technology; graduated with honors from the Parsons School of Design. Career: Worked as design-display artist at Henri Bendel department store while attending the Parsons School of Design, early 1960s; became a fashion designer and opened his own boutique, Paraphernalia, 1960s; worked on television commercials and designed packaging and clothing for the Revlon Group, 1960s; moved to Los Angeles and entered movies as a costume designer, 1972; designed costumes for The Time of the Cuckoo, presented at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, 1974; made directorial debut with made-for-television movie The Virginia Hill Story, 1974; made theatrical film debut with The Incredible Shrinking Woman, 1981; executive produced television pilot, Now We're Cookin', 1983; directed first stage production, Speed-the-Plow, in Chicago, 1989; directed music video The Devil Inside for rock group INXS; co-executive produced and directed pilot episode of the television series 2000 Malibu Road, 1992. Agent: Creative Artists Agency, 9830 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90212, U.S.A.


Films as Director:

1974

The Virginia Hill Story (for TV) (+ sc)

1979

Amateur Night at the Dixie Bar and Grill (for TV) (+ sc)

1981

The Incredible Shrinking Woman

1983

D.C. Cab (+ sc)

1985

St. Elmo's Fire (+ co-sc)

1987

The Lost Boys

1989

Cousins

1990

Flatliners

1991

Dying Young

1993

Falling Down

1994

The Client

1995

Batman Forever

1996

A Time to Kill

1997

Batman & Robin

1999

8MM (+ co-pr); Flawless (+ sc, co-pr)

2000

Tigerland

2001

The Church of the Dead Girls

Other Films:

1972

Play It as It Lays (Perry) (costumes); The Last of Sheila (Ross) (costumes)

1973

Sleeper (Allen) (costumes); Blume in Love (Mazursky) (costumes)

1974

Killer Bees (Harrington) (for TV) (production designer)

1975

The Prisoner of Second Avenue (Frank) (costumes)

1976

Sparkle (O'Steen) (sc); Car Wash (Schultz) (sc)

1978

Interiors (Allen) (costumes); The Wiz (Lumet) (sc)

1986

Slow Burn (Chapman) (for TV) (co-exec pr)

1987

Foxfire (Taylor) (for TV) (co-exec pr)

1995

The Babysitter (Ferland) (exec pr)




Publications


By SCHUMACHER: articles—

Interview in Interview (New York), September 1977.

Interview with Janet Maslin, in New York Times, 21 June 1985.

"Joel Schumacher," interview with A. Michaels, in Cinefantastique (Oak Park, Illinois), January 1990.

"Schumacher's Cat-related Theory," interview with Susan Morgan, in Interview (New York), July 1990.

"A Movie about Everything That Drives You Nuts," interview with G. Fuller, in Interview (New York), March 1993.

"The Last Romanov," interview with M. Dargis, in Village Voice (New York), 2 March 1993.

"A Director, His Life Redeemed, Savors the Summit of Success," interview with Bernard Weinraub, in New York Times, 3 March 1993.

"Riddle Me This, Batman," interview with B. Bibby, in Premiere (New York), May 1995.

"Visual Flair, a Hip Sensibility, and a Past," interview with Bernard Weinraub, in New York Times, 11 June 1995.

Schumacher, Joel, "Long Shot," in Premiere (New York), August 1996.

"Another Schumacher Summer," interview with J. Roberts, in DGAMagazine (Los Angeles), no. 3, 1997.

"What Is DVD?" interview with R. Pandiscio, in Interview (New York), May 1997.

"Holy Split Personalities," interview with Ingrid Sischy, in Interview (New York), June 1997.

"The Mayor of Gotham Speaks," interview with M. Miller, in Newsweek (New York), 23 June 1997.

"Radiance and Shadow," interview with Michael Fleming, in Movieline (Los Angeles), February 1999.


On SCHUMACHER: articles—

Talley, Andrea Leon, article in Women's Wear Daily (New York), 17–24 October 1975.

Silverman, Stephen, article in New York Post, 4 August 1987.

Farrow, Moira, "Making Cousins: An Excursion," in New YorkTimes, 5 February 1989.

Lew, Julie, article in New York Times, 16 June 1991.

"Filmografie," in Segnocinema (Vincenza, Italy), January/February 1992.

Brennan, Susan, article in Newsday (Melville, New York), 23 February 1993.

Clark, J., "Joel Schumacher Has Something . . . To Say," in Premiere (New York), March 1993.

Lantos, S., "From Rags to Riches," in Movieline (Los Angeles), April 1993.

Biodrowski, S., "Batman Forever," in Cinefantastique (Forest Park, Illinois), no. 4, 1995.

Lantos, S., "On a Wing and a Prayer," in Movieline (Los Angeles), June 1995.

Vaz, M.C., "Forever and a Knight," in Cinefex (Riverside, California), September 1995.

Reid, C., "Joel Schumacher, Director," in Cinefantastique (Forest Park, Illinois), no. 1, 1997.

Reid, C., "Batman & Robin," in Cinefantastique (Forest Park, Illinois), no. 1, 1997.

Major, W., "Bat out of Hell," in Box Office (Los Angeles), May 1997.

Pizzello, S., "Heavy Weather Hits Gotham City," in AmericanCinematographer (Hollywood), July 1997.

Webster, A., "Filmography," in Premiere (New York), July 1997.


* * *

Joel Schumacher's background as a fashion designer, display artist, and package designer prepared him for his entry into the film industry as a costume designer. Similarly, he was primed for his career as a feature film director by his work as scriptwriter on several features, and especially as scriptwriter-director of two impressive made-for-television movies: The Virginia Hill Story (a based-on-fact chronicle of mobster Bugsy Siegel's moll, that is a variation on Warren Beatty's Bugsy); and Amateur Night at the Dixie Bar and Grill (a well-done comedy-drama spotlighting various characters involved in a talent show at a Southern roadhouse).

All of Schumacher's films have been generic Hollywood product, filled with all the gloss their budgets could buy. His debut feature is The Incredible Shrinking Woman, a distaff reworking of the 1950s science-fiction cult classic The Incredible Shrinking Man. Lily Tomlin plays a housewife whose continuous exposure to chemical products results in her beginning to shrink. The film starts out as a wickedly clever spoof of the plight of the American housewife; as Tomlin becomes smaller, she symbolically takes up residence in a dollhouse. But it soon degenerates into a frantic and silly farce. While The Incredible Shrinking Man is a classic of its kind, The Incredible Shrinking Woman became yet another forgettable Hollywood comedy.

Among Schumacher's better works are Dying Young, the deeply moving chronicle of a fatally ill cancer patient and the woman who befriends him; Cousins, an amiable Americanization of Jean-Charles Tachella's smash-hit French romantic comedy Cousin-Cousine; Flatliners, a fast-paced drama about medical students who make themselves temporarily legally dead so that they may experience afterlife episodes; and Flawless, the well-intentioned and well-acted story of a conservative, retired security guard who suffers a stroke, and is forced to bond with his neighbor, a drag queen. Schumacher also directed two slick but solid adaptations of John Grisham novels: The Client, in which a lawyer represents an eleven-year-old boy who has come to know more than he ought to about Mafia dealings; and A Time to Kill, about a white lawyer who defends a black man who had shot and killed the two rednecks accused of raping his daughter. And he made the entertaining if special effects-laden Batman Forever, in which the famed superhero goes up against the Riddler and Two-Face.

The second wrung of Schumacher's credits includes D.C. Cab, a so-so comedy about a taxi company operated by oddballs; The Lost Boys, about a gang of adolescent vampires; St. Elmo's Fire, a brat-pack soap opera; and Batman & Robin, a flat, uninspired sequel. 8MM is the flashy but unpleasant story of a private detective/family man bent on determining if the star of a snuff film did indeed die on camera. Perhaps Schumacher's most unique work is Falling Down, an allegory featuring Michael Douglas as a stressed-out Modern Man who goes haywire while stuck in traffic on a Los Angeles freeway and begins a violence-laden odyssey across the city. Like The Incredible Shrinking Woman, the film is an attempt to make a statement about the perils of contemporary American society. And also like its predecessor, the result is only intermittently successful.

As the years have gone by, Schumacher's proficiency has allowed him to be assigned more prestigious, higher-budgeted projects. In his better work, he has been able to combine surface gloss with strong dramatic elements.

—Audrey E. Kupferberg, updated by Rob Edelman

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Schumacher, Joel 1939-

Schumacher, Joel 1939-

PERSONAL

Born August 29, 1939, in New York, NY; son of Francis and Marian (maiden name, Kantor) Schumacher. Education: Parsons School of Design, New York, NY, B.A. (with honors), 1965; also attended Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, NY.

Addresses:

Office—Joel Schumacher Productions, 3400 Riverside Dr., Suite 900, Burbank, CA 91505. Agent—Creative Artists Agency, 2000 Avenue of the Stars, Los Angeles, CA 90067; (commercials) Alturas Redfish Films, 1617 Broadway Ave., 2nd Floor, Santa Monica, CA 90404.

Career:

Director, costume designer, producer, and writer. Joel Schumacher Productions, Burbank, CA, president. Affiliated with the production of television commercials. Worked as window dresser for New York City department stories, 1950s; Henri Bendel (department store), New York City, worked as design and display artist, early 1960s; owner of the boutique Paraphernalia, 1960s; Revlon Group Inc., clothing and packaging designer, 1970s.

Awards, Honors:

Nomination for Golden Palm, Cannes Film Festival, 1993, for Falling Down; ShoWest Award, director of the year, National Association of Theatre Owners, 1997; nomination for Golden Berlin Bear, Berlin International Film Festival, 1999, for 8MM; ShoEast Award of Excellence in Filmmaking, National Association of Theatre Owners, 1999; Artistic Achievement Award, Philadelphia Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, 2000; Solidarity Award and nomination for Golden Seashell, both San Sebastian International Film Festival, 2003, for Veronica Guerin; Taormina Arte Award, Taormina International Film Festival, 2003; Golden Satellite Award nomination, best adapted screenplay, International Press Academy, 2005, for The Phantom of the Opera.

CREDITS

Film Director:

The Incredible Shrinking Woman, Universal, 1981.

D.C. Cab (also known as Mr. T and Company and Street Fleet,) Universal, 1983.

St. Elmo's Fire, Columbia, 1985.

The Lost Boys, Warner Bros., 1987.

Cousins (also known as A Touch of Infidelity), Paramount, 1989.

Flatliners, Columbia, 1990.

Dying Young (also known as The Choice of Love), Twentieth Century-Fox, 1991.

Falling Down (also known as Chute libre), 1993.

The Client, Warner Bros., 1994.

Batman Forever (also known as Forever), Warner Bros., 1995.

A Time to Kill, Warner Bros., 1996.

Batman & Robin, Warner Bros., 1997.

(And producer) 8MM (also known as 8mm—Acht Millimeter), Columbia, 1999.

(And producer) Flawless, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1999.

Tigerland, Twentieth Century-Fox, 2000.

Phone Booth, Twentieth Century-Fox, 2001.

Bad Company (also known as Ceska spojka), Buena Vista, 2002.

Veronica Guerin, Buena Vista, 2003.

(And song producer) The Phantom of the Opera (also known as Andrew Lloyd Webber's "The Phantom of the Opera"), Warner Bros., 2004.

The Number 23, New Line Cinema, 2004.

Film Executive Producer:

The Babysitter, 1995.

Gossip, Warner Bros., 2001.

Film Costume Designer:

Play It as It Lays, Universal, 1972.

The Last of Sheila, Warner Bros., 1972.

Blume in Love, Warner Bros., 1973.

Sleeper, United Artists, 1973.

The Prisoner of Second Avenue, Warner Bros., 1975.

Interiors, United Artists, 1978.

Film Appearances:

Himself, Welcome to Hollywood, Phaedra Cinema, 1998.

What the Folk? Behind the Scenes of "Queer as Folk," 2000.

Stupidity (documentary), Disinformation, 2003.

Coming Attractions: The History of the Movie Trailer, Andrew J. Kuehn, Jr. Foundation, 2006.

Heckler (documentary), Jizzy Entertainment, 2007.

Television Work; Movies:

Production designer, Killer Bees, 1974.

Director, The Virginia Hill Story, NBC, 1974.

Director, Amateur Night at the Dixie Bar and Grill, NBC, 1979.

Executive producer (with Stefanie Staffin Kowal), Slow Burn, Showtime, 1986.

Television Director; Pilots:

2000 Malibu Road, 1992.

Television Director; Episodic:

Premiere episode, 2000 Malibu Road, 1992.

Television Executive Producer:

Now We're Cookin' (pilot), CBS, 1983.

Foxfire (also known as Code Name: Foxfire and Slay It Again, Sam), 1985.

2000 Malibu Road (series), 1992.

Television Appearances; Specials:

Riddle Me This: Why Is Batman Forever?, 1995.

(In archive footage) 1st Annual Mystery Science Theater 3000 Summer Blockbuster Review, 1997.

The ShoWest Awards, 1997.

Masters of Fantasy: Joel Schumacher, Sci-Fi Channel, 1997.

The Boys of Manchester: On the Set of "Queer As Folk," 2000.

Intimate Portrait: Liz Smith, Lifetime, 2001.

The Big Show (also known as The Big Show: Toronto International Film Festival), 2001.

Television Appearances; Episodic:

Himself, The Directors, Encore, 1999.

"8mm," HBO First Look, HBO, 1999.

"The Phantom of the Opera," HBO First Look, HBO, 2004.

Television Guest Appearances; Episodic:

This Morning (also known as This Morning with Richard and Judy), ITV, 1995.

Showbiz Today, Cable News Network, 1995.

Mundo VIP, 1999.

Richard & Judy, Channel 4, 2003.

Rove Live, Ten Network, 2003.

Stage Work:

Costume designer, The Time of the Cuckoo, Center Theatre Group, Ahmanson Theatre, Los Angeles, c. 1974.

Director, Speed-the-Plow, Chicago, IL, 1989.

Director, Them, HERE Arts Center, New York City, 1999.

RECORDINGS

Videos:

The Lost Boys: A Retrospective, Warner Home Video, 2004.

Batman: The Motion Picture Anthology 1989-1997—Beyond Batman: Dressed to Thrill—The Costumes of Batman & Robin, Warner Home Video, 2005.

Behind the Mask: The Story of "The Phantom of the Opera," Really Useful Films, 2005.

(Uncredited) The Making of "The Phantom of the Opera, " Really Useful Films, 2005.

Shadows of the Bat: The Cinematic Saga of the Dark Knight—Batman Unbound, Warner Home Video, 2005.

Shadows of the Bat: The Cinematic Saga of the Dark Knight—Reinventing a Hero, Warner Home Video, 2005.

Director of the music videos "Kiss from a Rose" by Seal, 1994; "The End Is the Beginning Is the End" by Smashing Pumpkins, 1997; "Devil Inside" by INXS, 1988 (also included in the compilations INXS: The Video Flick, 1988, and I'm Only Looking: The Best of INXS, Rhino Home Video, 2004); and "Letting the Cables Sleep" by Bush, 1999.

WRITINGS

Screenplays:

Car Wash, Universal, 1976.

Sparkle (also based on story by Schumacher and Howard Rosenman), Warner Bros., 1976.

The Wiz (based on musical by William F. Brown and Charlie Smalls), Universal, 1978.

D.C. Cab (also known as Street Fleet; based on story by Schumacher and Topper Carew), Universal, 1983.

(With Carl Kurlander), St. Elmo's Fire, Columbia, 1985.

(And "Ashley's Song" and "Tasha's Song") Flawless, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1999.

The Phantom of the Opera (also known as Andrew Lloyd Webber's "The Phantom of the Opera"), Warner Bros., 2004.

Television Scripts:

The Virginia Hill Story (movie), NBC, 1974.

Amateur Night at the Dixie Bar and Grill (movie), NBC, 1979.

Now We're Cookin' (pilot), CBS, 1983.

Books:

(With Andrew Lloyd Webber) The Phantom of the Opera Companion, Pavilion, 2005.

ADAPTATIONS

The television program Foxfire (also known as Code Name: Foxfire), broadcast in 1985, was based on a story by Schumacher. The film Sparkle was adapted for the stage by Ntozake Shange as Sparkle: The Musical.

OTHER SOURCES

Books:

International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, Volume 2: Directors, St. James Press, 1996.

Newsmakers, Issue 3, Gale, 2004.

Periodicals:

Cinefastique, January, 1990; March, 1999, pp. 44-45.

Empire, Issue 88, 1996, pp. 62-64.

Film Journal International, June, 2002, p. 12.

Interview, July, 1990; May, 1997, p. 48; June, 1997, pp. 90-95; February, 1999, p. 80.

Journal of American and Comparative Cultures, fall-winter, 2002, pp. 375-383.

Movieline, February, 1999, pp. 66-70, 97.

Newsday, February 23, 1993.

Newsweek, June 30, 1997, pp. 76-77.

New York Times, June 16, 1991; March 3, 1993; June 11, 1995.

People Weekly, July 14, 1997, pp. 117-122.

Premiere, August, 1996, p. 76; November, 2000, p. 52.

Starlog, September, 1990; July, 1995; September, 1996; July, 1997.

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Schumacher, Joel

Joel Schumacher

Film director and screenwriter

Born August 29, 1939, in New York, NY; son of Francis and Marian (Kantor) Schumacher. Education: Attended Parsons School of Design, New York, NY; attended Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, NY.

Addresses:

OfficeJoel Schumacher Productions, 4000 Warner Blvd., Ste. 139, Rm. 26, Burbank, CA 91522.

Career

Director of films, including: The Incredible Shrinking Woman, 1981; D.C. Cab, 1983; St. Elmo's Fire, 1985; The Lost Boys, 1987; Cousins, 1989; Flatliners, 1990; Dying Young, 1991; Falling Down, 1993; The Client, 1994; Batman Forever, 1995; A Time to Kill, 1996; Batman & Robin, 1997; 8 mm, 1999; Flawless, 1999; Mauvaises Frequentations, 1999; Tigerland, 2000; Bad Company, 2002; Phone Booth, 2003; Veronica Guerin, 2003; Phantom of the Opera, 2004. Director of television movies, including: The Virginia Hill Story, 1974; Amateur Night at the Dixie Bar and Grill, 1979.

Awards:

National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) ShoWest Director of the Year Award, 1997; NATO ShowEast Award for Excellence in Filmmaking, 1999.

Sidelights

After more than three decades in the film industry, Joel Schumacher has earned a reputation as one of the most respected and well–liked mainstream filmmakers around. Schumacher's films are glossy; he delights moviegoers with his staggering sense of style. Movie companies love Schumacher as well because he completes his films on time and on budget. Over the years, the costume designer–turned–director has generated a long list of credits to his name, including the 1985 hit St. Elmo's Fire, which helped launch the careers of the "brat pack" kids, including Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, Andrew McCarthy, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, and Emilio Estevez. His biggest blockbuster was 1995's Batman Forever, starring Val Kilmer in the feature role and Jim Carrey as his nemesis, The Riddler. That movie grossed $184 million at the box office. For Schumacher, it is a dream come true. "I'm very lucky to be here," he told Jim Schembri of the Age. "I have a career beyond my wildest dreams. I've wanted to make movies since I was seven. I have my health, I conquered drugs and alcohol.… I've survived an awful lot."

Schumacher was born on August 29, 1939, in New York, New York, and grew up an only child in the working–class neighborhood of Long Island City in Queens, New York. Speaking to the New York Times's Bernard Weinraub, Schumacher referred to himself as an "American mongrel." Said Schumacher: "My mother was a Jew from Sweden; my father was a Baptist from Knoxville, Tennessee."

When Schumacher was four, his father died. To make ends meet, his mother went to work selling dresses. She worked six days a week and also some nights. "She was a wonderful woman, but, in a sense, I lost my mother when I lost my father," Schumacher told Newsweek's Mark Miller. By the time he was eight, the unsupervised Schumacher was on the street taking care of and entertaining himself. He found comfort reading Batman comics and spent long afternoons in darkened movie theaters watching Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant on the big screen. "Those were my two biggest obsessions before I discovered alcohol, cigarettes, and sex," Schumacher told Miller. "Then my obsessions changed a little bit. I started drinking when I was nine. I started sex when I was eleven. I started drugs in my early teens. And I left home the summer I turned 16. I went right into the beautiful–people fast lane in New York at the speed of sound. I've made every mistake in the book."

As a child, Schumacher also dabbled in entertainment. He built his own puppet theater and performed at parties. To help his mother make money, he also delivered meat for a local butcher. Walking the streets, Schumacher became interested in window displays and volunteered to dress the store windows in his neighborhood.

After he left home at 16, Schumacher lied about his age and landed a job at Macy's selling gloves in the menswear department. From there, he became a window dresser for Macy's, as well as Lord & Taylor and Saks. Later, Schumacher worked as a window dresser at Henri Bendel's and earned a scholarship to the Parsons School of Design in New York City. He also attended that city's Fashion Institute of Technology. Next, he worked as a fashion designer and helped manage a trendy boutique called Paraphernalia, long associated with Andy Warhol and Edie Sedgwick. In time, Schumacher found work with Revlon, designing packaging.

With a keen eye for style, Schumacher became a big star in the fashion world, but sunk lower into drugs. He favored speed, acid, and heroin. Schumacher refered to this period of his life—the 1960s—as his "vampire" years, according to Newsweek's Miller. He stayed inside all day, covering his windows with blankets. He only went out at night. One day in 1970, something snapped, and Schumacher quit the hard–core drugs. "I guess it was the survivor in me," he told Weinraub in the New York Times. "I just knew I had to stop." He did, however, continue drinking, a problem that plagued him for two more decades.

In 1971, Schumacher relocated to Los Angeles, California, and got his foot in the film industry door when he landed a trial job as a costume designer for Play It As It Lays, which was released in 1972. From there, he picked up jobs as a costume designer for movies like Woody Allen's Sleeper and Blume in Love, both released in 1973. Through these movies, Schumacher made contacts and landed his first directing job for the 1974 NBC–TV drama The Virginia Hill Story. He also began writing screenplays, including 1976's Car Wash, and the 1978 musical, The Wiz. Finally, in 1981, he got his first shot at filmmaking, directing Lily Tomlin in The Incredible Shrinking Woman. Reviewers frequently commented on the atypical color scheme he chose for this film.

One of Schumacher's early successes was a 1983 film about a metropolitan cab company run by a group of misfits. Called D.C. Cab, the film featured Mr. T. Other early hits included 1985's St. Elmo's Fire, and 1987's The Lost Boys. The latter film, a vampire flick, helped launch the careers of Corey Haim, Corey Feldman, and Kiefer Sutherland; it was a hit with the teen audience. He followed up with the 1990 thriller Flatliners, and the psychological drama Falling Down, starring Michael Douglas, in 1993.

By the early 1990s, Schumacher was coming into his own. Legendary author John Grisham asked Schumacher to adapt his best–selling legal thriller, The Client, for the big screen. Schumacher cast Tommy Lee Jones and Susan Sarandon in lead roles in the film that told the story of a street–savvy kid in danger because he had information about a mob killing. The movie, released in 1994, was well–received and Sarandon received an Oscar nomination for best actress.

Next, Schumacher earned directorial rights to Batman Forever, released in 1995. The first two installments of the series were directed by Tim Burton, but were thought to be too dark and serious. Schumacher was charged with brightening the series. Val Kilmer replaced Michael Keaton as Batman, and Jim Carrey joined the cast as The Riddler. Under Schumacher's direction, the movie became the blockbuster of the summer, raking in $184 million. Batman & Robin followed in 1997 but was terribly unsuccessful, putting an end to the Batman series.

Over the years, Schumacher has become known for his perceptive ability to cast unknown actors and turn them into hotshots. His films have given rise to the careers of the "brat packers," as well as Matthew McConaughey, cast in Schumacher's 1996 adaptation of another Grisham novel, A Time to Kill. Schumacher also "discovered" Irish actor Colin Farrell, giving him the lead in the 2000 Vietnam drama Tigerland, which proved to be Farrell's breakthrough performance. Schumacher later cast Farrell in his 2003 suspense thriller Phone Booth, which was shot in an amazing 12 days.

Another actor who gained prominence under Schumacher is comedian Chris Rock, who starred in 2002's Bad Company. Like many actors, Rock enjoyed working with Schumacher and was amazed by Schumacher's ability to handle the whole operation of movie–making. As Rock told Film Journal International's Harry Haun: "Joel is like a general, like Patton or something. He really knows how to whip up the troops. Doing a big movie is a lot of directing. It's coordinating a whole town. It's like being a mayor, and he's totally up to the task—of being a general and making it artistic."

What makes Schumacher stand apart from other directors is his eye for style. Characters in his films appear polished and classy, yet sexy. According to Haun, a Movieline article by Michael Fleming once proclaimed, "Why Don't People Look in Other Movies Like They Look in Joel Schumacher Movies?" For that, Schumacher credits his childhood spent in movie theaters where he inhaled a steady diet of films with stars like Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, Cary Grant, and Marilyn Monroe. As Schumacher explained to Haun, "You went to the movies and saw—Grace Kelly—these staggering images on the screen, so I think my early film influences are these archetypes—Audrey Hepburn, Gary Cooper. It's very much how I see film."

With about 20 films under his belt, Schumacher has had nearly every kind of review possible but says, for the most part, that he ignores them. Speaking with Film Journal International's David Noh, Schumacher said he does not read reviews. "Woody Allen taught me a long time ago, 'Don't read them. If you believe the good, you'll believe the bad.' When they think you're a genius it's an exaggeration also, so somewhere between genius and scum is the reality of life."

After his foray into the blockbuster, high–budget world of the Batman series, Schumacher pulled back from big–name titles and returned to making grittier, chancier films. In 2003, he branched out into true crime, directing the film Veronica Guerin, which starred Cate Blanchett as the Irish journalist of the title. Guerin was killed by a heroin kingpin in 1996, who was angered by her investigative reporting. Schumacher made the movie in Ireland on a budget of $14 million—whereas $70 million is the average cost for a studio film. Once again, Schumacher was like a general. He kept everyone focused, shooting at 93 locations in 50 days.

The film won praise for its straightforward approach to the topic. Schumacher refused to glorify Guerin post–mortem, a trap many directors fall into. Speaking to the Age's Schembri, Schumacher spoke about true stories this way: "You want to be sure that you're approaching the subject matter with integrity and not just trying to glorify the person, but trying to be honest with the facts, even if it upsets some people." Schumacher has also tried his hand at producing a musical. His film version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical masterpiece The Phantom of the Opera, was set for release in 2004.

Schumacher is also openly gay but refuses to get into discussions about how his sexuality affects him in the movie business. "It never was an issue," he told Film Journal International's Noh, noting he does not believe in labels. "I think we're all villains and victims, as long as we live in a culture which keeps defining people as African–American lesbian judge, gay congressman, Jewish vice–presidential candidate, etc. You would never say that Bill Clinton was a Caucasian heterosexual WASP president, you just say he's Bill Clinton. That means the only norm is white WASP male, because everyone else must be defined. I'm totally against that."

Despite his success, Schumacher has no plans to rest on his laurels. Though he is considered a veteran filmmaker by many, Schumacher still sees himself as a student. As he told the Guardian's Peter Curran: "I hope I haven't made my best one yet, I'm still trying to learn on the job. So I keep stretching and hopefully I keep making better and better films. I hope the good ones aren't behind me."

Selected screenplays

Car Wash, 1976.

Sparkle, 1976.

The Wiz, 1978.

D.C. Cab, 1983.

St. Elmo's Fire, 1985.

Sources

Periodicals

Age (Melbourne, Australia), January 16, 2004, p. 3.

Film Journal International, June 2002, p. 12; October 2003, p. 14.

New York Times, March 3, 1993, p. C13.

Newsweek, June 30, 1997, p. 76.

Online

"Cate Blanchett and Joel Schumacher," Guardian Unlimited,http://film.guardian.co.uk/interview/interviewpages/0,6737,998670,00.html (February 17, 2004).

"Celebs: Joel Schumacher," MSN Entertainment, http://entertainment.msn.com/celebs/celeb.aspx?c=146139&mp=f (February 23, 2004).

LisaFrick

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