Joel Schumacher, Distinguished Director, Dies at 80

Joel Schumacher, filmmaker and costume designer has passed away


Joel Schumacher, filmmaker and costume designer, passed away on June 22, 2020, from a year-long battle with cancer. He was 80. 

Schumacher was born on August 29, 1939, in New York City. He studied at Parsons the New School for Design and the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York; he later moved to Los Angeles and worked as a costume designer while earning a Master of Fine Arts from the University of California, Los Angeles. Some of his early designs include Woody Allen’s Sleeper and Interiors. His directorial debut was in 1981 with The Incredible Shrinking Woman, starring Lily Tomlin. 


Joel Schumacher at an event for The Phantom of the Opera (2004)
Joel Schumacher at an event for The Phantom of the Opera (2004) Photo by Vera Anderson/WireImage – Image courtesy

Schumacher created a heady, star-studded career for himself, starting in 1985 with St. Elmo’s Fire and then again in 1987 with The Lost Boys, two films that have gained a cult following over the years. In 1994 and 1996, respectively, he directed two adaptations of John Grisham’s novels, The Client and A Time to Kill. Grisham was so impressed with Schumacher’s work on The Client that he requested he come back for A Time to Kill. In 1995, Schumacher replaced Tim Burton as director of the Batman franchise; he directed Batman Forever and the sequel Batman and Robin in 1997. 

After high-profile projects like Batman and Grisham, Schumacher decided to focus on darker, lower-budget films like 8MM and Flawless. In 2000, he directed the Vietnam-era film Tigerland with Colin Farrell. The film was praised as landing “squarely in the top tier of best movies about America’s Vietnam experience.” Schumacher worked with Farrell again in 2002 for Phonebooth. In 2004 he directed a film version of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s musical The Phantom of the Opera. Despite mixed reviews, the film was Schumacher’s “biggest success of the 21st century to date.” In 2013 he directed two episodes of House of Cards for his friend David Fincher. 

Schumacher helped launch the careers of Colin Farrell, Kiefer Sutherland, and Matthew McConaughey. 

In 2010 he received an award from the International Film Festival of the Art of Cinematography. He also received the Distinguished Collaborator Award at the Costume Designers Guild Awards in 2011. 

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About the author

Lauren Boisvert

Lauren Boisvert is a writer and Pisces from Florida. She has had poems published with Memoir Mixtapes, spy kids review, The Mochila Review, and others. She loves Mystery Science Theater 3000, classic horror, and making everyone in the car listen to the Beastie Boys.

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