Lifestyle & Human Interest

'St. Elmo's Fire' and 'Lost Boys' Director, Joel Schumacher, Dead at Age 80


Designer, writer and director Joel Schumacher has passed away at the age of 80 after a year-long battle with cancer.

Schumacher was born on August 29, 1939. During an interview published in a 1999 edition of Venice magazine, he explained he was a bit of a wild child growing up.

“I was born in Long Island City, New York,” he said. “My dad was what they called a ‘soda jerk,’ worked in a pharmacy, was studying to be pharmacist at night. He died when I was 4.”

“My mother was from Sweden. She went to [work] six days a week, two nights a week to support us … I was an only child. First there was a string of older ladies and teenage babysitters, but by the time I was 7, I was really out on the streets, wild in the streets!”

“Left home too young. My mother died when I was young, too. I’ve really done everything wrong that a human being can possibly do, except murder someone, thank God.”

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According to IMDb, one of his first jobs that eventually segued into film was his work as a “window dresser” for a store in New York. He had a good eye, and his sense of style led him to design school. Eventually, he became a costume designer in Hollywood.

Costume design led to writing and directing, and he became known for his ability to recognize young talent. He cast many actors and actresses before they became stars.

“The question I always get is, ‘How do you know these young people are going to be stars?'” he said, according to IMDb. “You don’t. You just know there is no one like them. If Julia Roberts walked into your office at 20 and you didn’t hire her, you shouldn’t be in the movie business.”

“When Julia walked into my house in these cut-off jeans, no make-up, barefoot, her hair piled up on her head, I did know one thing: I knew I had never met anyone like her. I thought, ‘How did I live without knowing this girl.'”

While many of his films enjoy lasting success, and he’s remembered for projects like “The Lost Boys,” “St. Elmo’s Fire,” “Phantom of the Opera,” and “Batman Forever,” 1997 produced a movie he later apologized for.

“Batman & Robin” was not what Schumacher wanted it to be or originally envisioned it would be — but there were competing forces at work. Despite that, he took full responsibility for the flop.

“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. “A lot of it was my choice. No one is responsible for my mistakes but me.

“I think one curveball we got was at the eleventh hour; Val Kilmer quit due to a role he got in The Island of Dr. Moreau. There had been talks about it, but none of us were involved, not with Warner Bros. and certainly not with me. I talked to Val, and all he kept saying was, ‘But man, it’s Marlon Brando.’ It’s not like he was on a hook and chain here, so Val went. So it was [then Warners co-CEO] Bob Daly’s idea to acquire George Clooney. He was an obvious choice because he was a rising star on ER. I had a talk with him and he was like, ‘All right, if you do it, I’ll do it.'”

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Getting to work in a field he was passionate about made all the difference for Schumacher.

“I think I’m one of the luckiest people that ever lived,” he said in a Heat Vision interview in 2017. “I got my dream. I got it so much bigger than even I could have dreamed it. You know, I’m just a kid whose parents died very young who was on his own and grew up behind a movie theater before TV, and I wanted to tell those stories, and look what happened.”

When asked what advice he would give to new directors, he quoted Woody Allen and then encouraged them to go for it.

“Be bold, take risks, follow your own instincts, listen to other people only when you really believe in your gut that they’re right,” he said in his interview with Venice magazine. “Get a great cast. Get a cinematographer that isn’t jealous that you’re the director. Get an editor that’s not jealous you’re the director. You can do it.”

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