Director Joel Schumacher died Monday morning in New York City from cancer. Schumacher directed the 80s hit movies St. Elmo's Fire and The Lost Boys, as well as two movies in the Batman movie franchise — Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. He was 80 years old.
Schumacher started out working in the fashion industry. But, as he started gaining success there, he became addicted to drugs. He told WHYY's Fresh Air that by 1970, he needed a change.
"When I got off hard drugs in 1970, I thought, 'I got to go back to basics, and I've really screwed up my life here. So what can I do to make my life better?' And I thought, 'I've got to pursue my original dream as a child to become a movie director.' "
He used his background in fashion to start working as a costume designer in Hollywood, and then he started writing movies — including Sparkle, Car Wash, and The Wiz. Schumacher then earned massive success by writing and directing the teen coming-of-age movie St. Elmo's Fire and followed it up with the horror-comedy The Lost Boys.
As his career grew, so did the budgets for his movies, culminating in the two Batman movies. There was a campiness in them, with Schumacher playing up certain aspects of the Batman mythos: the goofy costumes, the corny jokes calling back to the Adam West TV era of the character, and the erotic tension between Batman and his sidekick Robin.
"I had a lot of fun with it. Since you always get asked if that's the case with them, I thought, well, I might as well play it up to — somewhat," he said in the Fresh Air interview. "And I over-exaggerated all the sexuality in my Batman movies — you know, the men and the women are sort of 'oversteroided' sexually because I thought it was better to play into it than try to pretend it wasn't there."
After the Batman movies, Schumacher worked on smaller thrillers such as 8MM and Phone Booth, as well as the film version of The Phantom of the Opera.
Schumacher, who was openly gay, was known for being honest and candid about his life — from his drug addictions, to his many sexual encounters, to his feelings about the mixture of art and money in Hollywood.
"People who work in the movie business have the same feelings as people do all over the globe," he told Fresh Air when asked about homophobia in Hollywood. "The difference in show business is, if you can make money for people, they don't care what you do. "