Queer Fans Mourn the Loss of Out Film Director Joel Schumacher

"Beyond his great contributions to cinema, Joel Schumacher is the reason I'm gay."

Director Joel Schumacher has died after a year-long battle with cancer, The Wrap has confirmed. He was 80.

The out film director started his career in the fashion industry, becoming good friends with Halston, but Schumacher eventually moved to Los Angeles and started working in film. His first theatrical film was 1981’s The Incredible Shrinking Woman, starring Lily Tomlin. He later found success with projects like St. Elmo’s Fire, The Lost Boys, and The Client.

Schumacher also struck box office gold with Batman Forever in 1995, but his campy follow-up, Batman & Robin, was a critical bust, with many claiming he killed the Batman film franchise.

Warner Bros. Pictures/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

In an enlightening 2019 interview with Vulture, Schumacher talked at length about growing up gay in New York City in the 1950s, and his drug-fueled “lost” summers out on Fire Island. He also spoke about allegedly having sex with up to 20,000 people, and how living through the AIDS crisis made gay men look at sex differently:

A friend who was not promiscuous was the first person I knew that had it. I think he was diagnosed in ’83. And I was extremely promiscuous, so I thought, “If he has it, I must have it quadrupled.” I went to get tested. I was sure I had it, I was planning my death. In those days, the test had to be done by the Centers for Disease Control. So it was sent away, and it took three weeks or more until you got the answer. When the doctor called me and said, “No, everything’s fine, it’s clean, Joel,” I went and got tested again.

“I used condoms,” he explained, “but condoms broke. And there was a lot of drug taking, a lot going on then. It was a way to deal with the loss, I think, of so many people I loved, or liked, or had affection for, or admired.”

Schumacher’s later credits include Tigerland, Phone Booth, The Phantom of the Opera, and two episodes of House of Cards in 2013. But it was Batman & Robin that made an impact on a entire generation of young gay kids.

There was an outpouring of love for Schumacher online from queer people who thanked him for the camp classic, and specifically Chris O’Donnell’s muscular bat-suit:

Rest in peace, Joel.

I write about drag queens. Dolly Parton once ruffled my hair and said I was "just the cutest thing ever."
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