Batman director Joel Schumacher dies at 80

BATMAN AND ROBIN [US 1997]     Date: 1997

BATMAN AND ROBIN [US 1997]. Credit: Mary Evans Picture Library

Joel Schumacher, costume designer-turned-director of films including St. Elmo's Fire, The Lost Boys and Falling Down, as well as two Batman films, has died in New York City after a year-long battle with cancer. He was 80.

Schumacher brought his fashion background to directing a run of stylish films throughout the 1980s and 1990s that were not always critically acclaimed, but continue to be well-loved by audiences for capturing the feel of the era.

Schumacher was handed the reins of the Batman franchise when Tim Burton exited Warner Bros Caped Crusader series after two enormously successful films. The first movie by Schumacher, Batman Forever, starring Val Kilmer, Tommy Lee Jones, Jim Carrey and Nicole Kidman, grossed more than $US300 million worldwide.

Schumacher's second and last film in the franchise was 1997's Batman and Robin, with George Clooney as Batman and Arnold Schwarzenegger as villain Mr. Freeze.

For Batman Forever, the openly gay Schumacher introduced nipples to the costumes worn by Batman and Robin, leaning into the longstanding latent homoeroticism between the two characters.

In 1985 Schumacher struck gold with his third feature film, St. Elmo's Fire, which he directed and co-wrote.

Brat Packers including Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez and Ally Sheedy as well as a young Demi Moore starred in the story of a bunch of Georgetown grads making their way through life and love.

Even the theme song was a hit and is still played to evoke the era. The film offered a pretty smart take on the complexities of post-college life.

His next film was a big hit as well - horror comedy The Lost Boys, about a group of young vampires who dominate a small California town, starred Jason Patric, Kiefer Sutherland, Corey Feldman and Corey Haim. It became a cult favourite, and a TV series adaptation has long been in the works.

In 1993 he showed what he was capable of with the critically hailed Falling Down, starring Michael Douglas as a defence worker who's lost it all and decides to take it out on whomever he comes across. The film played in competition at the Cannes Film Festival.

Schumacher started out in showbiz as a costume designer, earning credits on 1972's Play It as It Lays, Herbert Ross' The Last of Sheila (1973), Paul Mazursky's Blume in Love (1973), Woody Allen's Sleeper (1973) and Interiors (1978) and 1975 Neil Simon adaptation The Prisoner of Second Avenue.

Born in New York City, he studied at Parsons the New School for Design and the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.

He worked in the fashion industry, but decided to instead pursue a career in filmmaking.

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