Joel Schumacher never made movies to please critics or chase awards. The costume designer-turned-director helmed just under two dozen films in a unique 30-year career and it's tough to find a peer with a similarly diverse résumé. Though many like to harp on a particular pair of movies as some sort of indictment of his work, Schumacher made several movies that have stood the test of time. THE LOST BOYS. FALLING DOWN. A TIME TO KILL. TIGERLAND. THE CLIENT. PHONE BOOTH. And while your mileage may vary on some of his other works, there's no doubt that Schumacher left an indelible legacy with his work and he always swung for the fences. Sadly, Schumacher died today at 80 from cancer.
In addition to having an eye for gussying up his films, Schumacher had an incredible knack for finding young talent and setting many a young actor/actress on a successful career path after working with them. As his give-no-fucks interview revealed last year, his personal life was pretty wild as well. He was essentially a street orphan who eventually fucked everything, did a shitload of drugs, lived on the edge, and, despite all odds, became an A-list director. (Seriously, read that interview.)
If you watch FLATLINERS, ST. ELMO'S FIRE, 8MM, and FLAWLESS on a random hungover Sunday, you'd never imagine that they were all directed by the same guy. But that was the skill of Schumacher. He could take any material in any genre and make it his, whether you liked it or not.
Despite my pedigree, I don't have the same nostalgia for ST. ELMO'S FIRE that others do but it's fun to watch if only to poke fun at the cheesy '80s-ness of it all. But I do have it for THE LAST BOYS. A fun and scary romp, THE LOST BOYS remains a singular vampire flick that we really haven't seen anything close to sense. It put Jason Patric and Jamie Gertz into the mainstream and further solidified Kiefer Sutherland as a movie bad boy. Schumacher was also the first to pair the Coreys (Haim and Feldman) in a movie.
He also took a pair of John Grisham novels in THE CLIENT and A TIME TO KILL (back when Grisham was king) and turned them into very good legal thrillers that resulted in a Oscar nom for Susan Sarandon and a Globe nom for Sam Jackson. TIGERLAND, an underrated, gritty boot camp flick that I would never suspect was directed by Schumacher when I watched it, wasn't widely seen but was much talked about because of its Irish lead, Colin Farrell (it was also the first movie for the talented Shea Whigham). Farrell quickly shot to Hollywood's A-list after his peformance. And FALLING DOWN may have been the original 'angry white male' flick with an excellent Michael Douglas snapping on a changing society he can't deal with (it, um, still works today).
Joel Schumacher did it all in his own inimitable style, lived life on his own terms, and left a secure legacy in cinema. He will be missed.