Monday, March 12, 2018

Joel Schumacher

Joel Schumacher, Toronto, Sept. 2000

DIRECTOR JOEL SCHUMACHER ARRIVED AT THE FILM FESTIVAL with a new film and a reputation that, today, you might call problematic. Perhaps that's why I chose to interview him for GTA Today, the newly-launched free daily that had hired me to provide daily festival coverage. He was known as the man who had "ruined" the Tim Burton Batman franchise - though to my mind he had only taken the camp nihilism baked into Burton's films and run with it. (I wasn't a fan of the series, with or without Burton.)

He was also the man who'd made Falling Down, a film that was developing a cult following on the right side of the political spectrum - a fact that wasn't ignored, and had become another black mark against him. I wasn't an enormous fan of his films - he seemed very much a journeyman director, with all the good and bad that entails - but I admired how he was both controversial and successful.

Joel Schumacher, Toronto, Sept. 2000

I found him charming and candid, and very open about his reputation in and outside Hollywood. He was at the festival with Tigerland, a small film - made on a $10 million budget, a fraction of Schumacher's usual productions - that would end up well-reviewed while losing money at the box office. It was a film about the Vietnam War, set entirely stateside at the U.S. infantry training base in Fort Polk, Louisiana, and as a fan of the genre I ended up having a very pleasant talk with Schumacher.

I shot him in the little corner of the rooms in the old Four Seasons in Yorkville created by the duct work that ran up through the building. I'd end up relying on that spot quite a lot in a few years while doing lightning fast portrait shoots at the festival; it provided a nice soft spot of light near the hotel's big, bright windows, while giving subjects something to physically use, leaning into or out of the angled wall.

With a minimum of direction, I caught Schumacher looking mostly insouciant and occasionally pensive - the two expressions that seemed to sum him up that day. These are clean, simple portraits, meant to slot into a column or two of a tabloid newspaper page, but with very little of the style that I'd spent the previous decade striving to create.


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