Joel Schumacher, prolific filmmaker behind 'Batman', dies at the age of 80

The director died in New York on Monday following a year-long battle with cancer

FILE PHOTO: Director Joel Schumacher waves as he poses during a photo call at the International Rome Film Festival November 3, 2011. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi/File Photo
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Filmmaker Joel Schumacher, who directed the likes of Batman Forever and The Lost Boys, has died, aged 80, following a year-long battle with cancer.

Schumacher was known for his eclectic and brazen style of directing, starting his career in fashion before shepherding the 'Brat Pack' to the big screen in St. Elmo's Fire.

A representative for the filmmaker confirmed he died in New York on Monday.

A New York native, Schumacher was first a sensation in the fashion world after attending Parsons School of Design and decorating Henri Bendel's windows. His entry to film came first as a costume designer after he dressed a pair of Woody Allen movies in the 1970s – Interiors and Sleeper.

As a director, he established himself as a filmmaker of great flair with a string of mainstream films in the ‘80s and ’90s, although they were not always met with good reviews. To the frequent frustration of critics but the delight of audiences, Schumacher favoured entertainment over tastefulness – including his infamous Batman and Robin suits – and he did so proudly.

The success of his first hit, St Elmo's Fire, with Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, Emilio Estevez and Ally Sheedy not only helped make a name for the Brat Pack, but made Schumacher in-demand in Hollywood. He followed it up with 1987's The Lost Boys, with Jason Patric, Corey Haim, Kiefer Sutherland and Corey Feldman.

Schumacher also made Flatliners, The Client and A Time to Kill.

His most critically acclaimed film was 1993's Falling Down starring Michael Douglas as a Los Angeles man whose anger from every-day interactions steadily builds in violence.

FILE PHOTO: Val Kilmer (R) with Chris O'Donnell (L) pose with director Joel Schumacher at the premiere of Batman Forever, 12 July. Batman Forever is the first of the Batman movies to feature the character of Robin - REUTERS/Ian Hodgson/File Photo
Val Kilmer, right, and Chris O'Donnell, left, pose with director Joel Schumacher at the premiere of 'Batman Forever'. Reuters

The slickness of those productions helped Schumacher inherit the DC universe from Tim Burton. In his hands, Batman received a garish overhaul that resulted in two of the franchise's most cartoonish movies in 1995's Batman Forever and 1997's Batman & Robin. The first was a box-office hit, but the second fizzled and is remembered instead for its infamous suits.

"It was like I had murdered a baby," Schumacher told Vice of the response to Batman & Robin. Yet it, too, has developed a small cult following for those who prefer the antithesis of Christopher Nolan's more grim Batman movies.

"He saw deeper things in me than most and he lived a wonderfully creative and heroic life," said Jim Carrey, who played the Riddler in Batman Forever. "I am grateful to have had him as a friend."

After Batman & Robin, Schumacher turned to lower-budget thrillers: 8mm, with Nicolas Cage; Flawless, with Robert De Niro; and Phone Booth, with Colin Farrell. Schumacher was behind the beginnings of many careers, and gave Farrell his first lead role in 2000's Tigerland.

Paying tribute to the late director, Matthew McConaughey said he owed his career to Schumacher who took a chance on the then unknown star for the lead role in the 1996 movie A Time to Kill. "Joel not only took a chance on me, he fought for me," he told Variety.

Kiefer Sutherland also paid a touching tribute to his "dearest friend and partner in filmmaking". "Joel gave me opportunities and lifelong lessons," he said. "His joy, spirit and talent will live in my heart and memory for the rest of my life."

Schumacher, born on August 29, 1939, was raised in Queens by his mother after his father died when he was four years old.

Most recently, he directed two episodes of Netflix's House of Cards in 2013.

The trailer for Tigerland (2000), one of his most critically acclaimed films: