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David Poland

By David Poland

DP/30 – Joel Schumacher: The List, Pt 1


In Part 1, we talk about the early days of his life and his first films: The Incredible Shrinking Woman, DC Cab, St Elmo’s Fire, The Lost Boys, Cousins, Flatliners, Dying Young, and Falling Down.
And we haven’t shot Part 2. Joel is shooting a new movie on the east coast. Someday…

mp3 of the conversation

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27 Responses to “DP/30 – Joel Schumacher: The List, Pt 1”

  1. IOv2 says:

    Yeah I dig all of the films mentioned by David above. You also have to give the man dap for DC CAB. Seriously, that movie, rules.

  2. LexG says:

    I am, as I always have been, unapologetic about this: Joel Schumacher is a fine director and seems like a genial, delightful class act who had the misfortune of inheriting Batman and going in the wrong direction with it. If it weren’t for the outsize rage that his two Batman movies inspired, he’d be regarded pretty highly, albeit as a journeyman, but as a proficient craftsman who gets great work out of actors and whose stuff has a real polish and pulp watchability.
    Cannot wait to watch this, huge fan of his first run of stuff.

  3. LexG says:

    D’AH!!!! Poland, WHY with the infernal QUICKTIME that doesn’t work, EVER?
    Every time I try to watch one of these, I get some Mozilla popup that says MISSING PLUG-INS, so I try to install QT, but all it DOESN’T WORK… I can NEVER play these things. It acts like it’s downloading the INSTALLER, but how do you get the actual QT???? IT SUCKS.

  4. IOv2 says:

    1) Update your Firefox.
    2) If you give it time. The installer will work.
    3) Watch the video.
    4) If David wanted to paid for these things. He would use Seriously.

  5. IOv2 says:

    To get paid for these things. USE BLIP! GET PAID! IT’S IN FLASH! BOOYAH!

  6. Geoff says:

    Great interview, Dave – yeah, he did some great stuff earlier in his career. Falling Down was great and I actually think Cousins is pretty underrated – probably Ted Danson’s best movie role and the one time in his movie career that he did not seem like a TV actor trying to step it up. Also I think it’s the only time I have seen William Peterson do some genuine comedy and he was really good, too. Oh, and Isabelle Rosallini and Sean Young never looked hotter than they did in that movie….

  7. Stella's Boy says:

    I like a lot of Schumacher’s flicks, even the much-reviled 8MM, which is flawed but engrossing. Ebert penned a great review of it. I can’t say I’m looking forward to Twelve though. Worst novel I ever read.

  8. jesse says:

    Yeah, Schumacher’s not the worst guy. I wonder too if his reputation will be repaired a little bit now that we’ve had awesome Chris Nolan Batman movies — back in 1999 or so, it stung a lot more, feeling like Schumacher took the character and drove him off a cliff. Now that it worked out for the best, hey, forgive/forget. Although I have to say, Batman Forever is only really reviled in retrospect. People liked that movie when it came out (or rather, there was no internet giving voice to how much a small faction of people probably hated it). I was fourteen when I saw it, so I had a really good time, even as I grumbled about how lame a job they did of Two-Face (poor Tommy Lee Jones; he could’ve been a great Dent in his prime if someone had told him to not to Carrey/Nicholson it up).
    Anyway, hit-and-miss journeyman seems about right. Some of his most dismissed movies — Falling Down and 8MM — are, I think, misunderstood to some degree. Also, 8MM, for all of its flirting with exploitation, pretty much works as a tense horror movie.
    That said, he’s made a lot of junk: Bad Company, one of the lamest of the Bruckheimer action movies; that awful Phantom of the Opera movie; The Number 23 isn’t very good, either.
    I’m interested in this Trespass movie, though, with Cage and Kidman. Two of my favorite actors who people seem to hate for no real reason.

  9. Geoff says:

    I think what pretty much hurt Schaumacher’s rep was that mid ’90’s run – pretty much back-to-back, he did two relatively lousy Batman movies and two mediocre John Grisham thrillers. He basically became a franchise director for hire and I think what was most disconcerting was just how UGLY those films look – up until that point, he was at least known as a director with a celebrated visual style.
    But wow, I remember watching The Client and A Time to Kill (some solid performances by Sarandon and Jackson, regardless) and they are just grimy looking movies. And the Batman films just looked gawdy. I think that’s what was most disappointing for a lot of folks, myself included – as silly as Flatliners or The Lost Boys were, they were both at least gorgeous looking films. Sure, Falling Down had a grungy look about it, but it just fit the movie so well, you didn’t notice – and yeah, Douglas is amazing in that movie and so is Duvall.
    But then watching silly ice rink set design around Arnold and or EVERY ONE looking way too sweaty in a southern courtroom just kind of made him less appealing as a director.

  10. Rob says:

    Not a fan of most of his films, but damn he’s a great interview. Shame we’ll have to wait for his take on the Grisham/Batman/Farrell years.

  11. Joe Leydon says:

    Actually, I kinda-sorta liked his Grisham adaptations. (Of course, I have to confess: I also liked Coppola’s The Rainmaker and Altman’s The Gingerbread Man. Which is odd, because I’ve never actually bothered to read many Grisham novels.) But I definitely agree that 8 MM was under-rated. Has anyone here ever seen the direct-to-video sequel?
    And yeah, Cousins is an unalloyed delight.

  12. Stella's Boy says:

    The Rainmaker is a very entertaining flick and I remember liking The Gingerbread Man a lot though I haven’t seen it since the original release. Never saw 8MM2 starring Jonathan Schaech. Looks like good late night Skinemax viewing.

  13. LexG says:

    Schumacher’s next-to-latest movie, BLOOD CREEK, got a shitty release and only played in bargain theaters for a week, so I never got to it. Being a Schumacher fan, I wanted to check it out on DVD, but the DVD cover is a HUGE PICTURE of a SWASTIKA on the back of somebody’s bald head. It is the most off-putting cover art ever.
    Every time I’m in the video store, I see BLOOD CREEK and think, DAMN, I’d like to see that, but that damn swastika cover is so unpleasant, and this being LA, the cashier is always either Latino, black, Armenian, or Asian… And it’s like, who the fuck’s gonna bring up the SWASTIKA COVER without feeling like the fucking Grand Dragon?

  14. Stella's Boy says:

    That does look like an interesting horror movie. I had forgotten all about it.

  15. Nick Rogers says:

    If you don’t have Netflix, Lex, ask a friend who does to get it for you. No cover, no fuss.

  16. Josh Massey says:

    Not sure how much of it is just nostalgia, but I REALLY dig St. Elmo’s Fire and still watch it fairly often. I’d absolutely dig a “25 years later” sequel.

  17. The Pope says:

    Schumacher can have a surprisingly light touch. Cousins is great. But overall, subtlety is not his thing. Yet sometimes that is a plus, like in Falling Down. Especially that scene in the army surplus store with Frederic Forrest going all Col. Walter E. Kurtz.

  18. Pete Grisham says:

    Tell Joel that Batman and Robin and fucking awesome. I totally get what he was going for.
    And Batman Forever is ownage.

  19. leahnz says:

    i happened to catch ‘tigerland’ for the first time the other night, nice little drama and colin farrell is the shit, such a talent. i always have time for ‘the schu’, even his abject failures are a stab at something beyond the pale. looking forward to being able to watch this interview

  20. leahnz says:

    except for ‘number 23’, good god. poor schu on that abject stinky-pooh, yikes

  21. Cain says:

    “But I definitely agree that 8 MM was under-rated. Has anyone here ever seen the direct-to-video sequel?”
    Streamed it on Netflix out of curiosity, since I did enjoy the first one (which I think writer Andrew Kevin Walker fucking hated). Anyway, the movie had no bearing to the original. None whatsoever. I looked up some trivia, and I remember reading that the company releasing it had rights to 8MM, so they called their direct-to-video fare a “sequel” so suckers like me would watch it.
    It’s not awful if you enjoy the thriller/heist genre as I do, but totally mediocre.

  22. Tim DeGroot says:

    Still not a fan of The Lost Boys with all its illogic and Coreys, but it played on HDNet a few nights ago, and yeah, it looks great.

  23. IOv2 says:

    Tim, seriously, EDWARD HERMANN AS A BAD ASS VAMPIRE BOSS! That’s all you need to watch it for, Tim. That’s all you need!

  24. JJansen says:

    Schumacher is a class act. Always had good film grammar chops, exploring different visual styles from film to film. Opening shot of FALLING DOWN is great filmmaking.
    David Fincher had one of my favorite stories about Schumacher:
    “When I finished ALIEN 3, I showed it to Joel Schumacher, who is one of the most wonderfully gregarious and most politically astute people who could ever meet, one of the smartest men on how to work and survive in the business. At the time, I was deeply disturbed, horrified. It was so out of my control, so unbelievably fucked up. I showed him the movie and he goes, “Well, first of all, it’s not bad, it’s okay. The good news is you’re aiming high. The bad news is you’re not able to achieve what it is you want to do. You’re an over-achiever, so you’re miserable. That’s number one.
    Number two is you put yourself in a position where they have more power than you because you care more about the movie than they do. You can’t let that happen again.
    And he was right. If you’re not prepared to say “Forget it, let’s not do it”, you have no power over the situation. Unless you’re prepared not to make it, you’re never going to get to make the movie your way. That was the learning experience of ALIEN 3. I really wanted to make a great ALIEN movie — I love those movies. And to this day, I believe I was the right guy for the job. I just had the wrong franchise, the wrong script and the wrong studio.”

  25. movieman says:

    Glad to see all the huzzahs being accorded the consistently undervalued Schumacher.
    But I’m a little disappointed that only Leah mentioned “Tigerland” (possibly Schumacher’s masterpiece) and “Phone Booth,” a fantastic “real-time” thriller with another knockout Colin Farrell performance.
    That said, I kinda wish that “Phantom of the Opera” (the horror!) “Bad Company” (snooze), “Blood Creek” (WTF?) “The #23” (so “not David Fincher”!) and the overstuffed and underwhelming Batmans had never happened. Still, he’ll always have my gratitude for putting Farrell on the map. Never understood why Fox pissed away its release the way they did back in ’00.

  26. leahnz says:

    movieman, i suspect people may have been limiting their comments to the ‘part 1’ list of the schu’s work, just a guess, naturally i didn’t realise this until after i’d posted.
    anyhoo i saw some interview with schu and farrell (his turn as ‘ray’ in ‘in bruges’ is one of the best of the modern era imho; i’m not sure what to make of this but after seeing that film a friend of mine – male – told me ray’s sense of humour totally reminded him of me, i was like, really? wtf?), which was one of the funniest interviews i have ever seen. they were so down with each other, so comfortable and at ease, and of course colin’s foul mouth was at full throttle and the schu was just cracking up at him and egging him on to be more and more outrageous. an obvious and genuine affection and bond there between director and actor, i’d love to see them have another go together.
    (‘tigerland’ really was great, i keep thinking about it all these days later and that is the litmus test for me as to what makes a film ‘good’ in my book)

  27. movieman says:

    Leah- I still remember the first time I saw “Tigerland” at the 2000 Toronto Film Festival. Even with all of the amazing movies I saw there that year (“In the Mood for Love,” “Crouching Tiger,” “Les Destinees,” “With a Friend Like Harry,” etc.), Farrell (where did he come from?!) and “Tigerland” (wow; I always knew that Schumacher had it in him to make a masterpiece) were my favorite topics of conversation.
    I didn’t even realize the JS interview was divided into 2 parts…haven’t spent much time on here these days. All work and no play makes Movieman a dull boy, lol.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

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