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Joel Schumacher, The Lost Boys (1987)
The Lost Boys (1987)

RIP Joel Schumacher, a cult filmmaker and queer cinema icon

The director, whose films include The Lost Boys and St. Elmo’s Fire, has passed away aged 80 after a year-long battle with cancer

Filmmaker Joel Schumacher, who directed a number of cult classics, including The Lost Boys and St. Elmo’s Fire, has died at the age of 80, after a year-long battle with cancer.

Schumacher rose to fame with the aforementioned films in the 80s, before going on to direct Flatliners in 1990, and try his hand at blockbusters with Batman installments, Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, in the late 90s. The director returned to minimalist filmmaking in the 00s, working on Tigerland and Phone Booth, while his most recent work was two episodes of Netflix’s House of Cards, which he directed in 2013.

Born in New York in 1939, Schumacher studied at Parsons New School for Design and the Fashion Institute of Technology before moving to Los Angeles to study at UCLA. While in LA, the filmmaker started working as a costume designer in Woody Allen’s films, Sleeper (1973) and Interiors (1978). He also earned his first film credits as a screenwriter on the 1976 musical drama, Sparkle, 1976’s Car Wash, and the 1978 film The Wiz, before making his directorial debut with The Incredible Shrinking Woman in 1981.

Schumacher’s work still hugely influences film and TV today. The Lost Boys, for example, has been credited with kickstarting the teen vamp genre, inspiring shows like Buffy.

Tributes for Schumacher have poured in online. Jim Carrey tweeted a photo of the pair together, writing: “Joel Schumacher has passed away. He saw deeper things in me than most and he lived a wonderfully creative and heroic life. I am grateful to have had him as a friend.”

Ben Stiller described Schumacher as “a magnetic presence”, adding that he “made movies we went to theatres for”.

Speaking to VarietyMatthew McConaughey said he owes his career to Schumacher, after the director cast him as the lead in his 1996 film, A Time to Kill. “Joel not only took a chance on me,” the actor said, “he fought for me. Knowing the studio might never approve a relatively unknown like myself for the lead in A Time to Kill, he set up a secret screen test for me on a Sunday morning in a small unknown studio because, as he stated, ‘Even if you do great, you may not get the part, so I don’t want the industry to ever think you screen tested and did not get the job’.”

Although his Batman films received mixed reviews – Batman & Robin was critically panned – they have since gone on to achieve cult status, particularly with LGBTQ+ viewers, due to their cyberpunk, camp aesthetic and unparalleled homo-eroticism. Schumacher once famously said: “If you love a movie, there are hundreds of people who made it lovable for you. If you don’t like it, blame the director. That’s what our name’s there for.”