Stars Recall How Joel Schumacher Influenced Their Careers

Matthew McConaughey, Kiefer Sutherland and more have been remembering the director's keen eye and strong will

A Time To Kill

After battling cancer for a year, Joel Schumacher passed away this week at the age of 80, and some of the more famous people he helped in his long career have been remembering the different ways his work, friendship and support affected them.

Schumacher directed a number of memorable films over the decades, including St. Elmo’s Fire, The Lost Boys, Flatliners, Falling Down, Tigerland and A Time to Kill. In a statement, Matthew McConaughey has opened up about his breakout role in that 1996 John Grisham adaptation, crediting Schumacher with altering his professional trajectory against the odds.

“Joel not only took a chance on me, he fought for me,” McConaughey told Variety. “Knowing the studio might never approve a relatively unknown like myself for the lead in A Time to Kill, he set up a secret screen test for me on a Sunday morning in a small unknown studio because as he stated, ‘Even if you do great, you may not get the part, so I don’t want the industry to ever think you screen tested and DID NOT get the job.’”

He added “I remember on days where I would be having a tough time on the set, he would always remind me with the most simple and sound advice a director could give a young man, ‘Hey, you are Jake Brigance. You, Matthew, are the character. I don’t see how my career could have gone to the wonderful places it has if it wasn’t for Joel Schumacher believing in me back then.”

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Schumacher’s Batman & Robin star George Clooney backed up McConaughey’s statement in his own words to Variety. “His career was absolutely started by Joel fighting for him in A Time to Kill. The studio wanted a star. Joel wanted him.”

Musician Seal took to Instagram to remember how Schumacher’s choice to use his song ‘Kiss From a Rose’ in 1995’s Batman Forever had a massive impact on his flagging career.

“It’s the song that has pretty much defined my career and I am perhaps most popular or most known by it,” Seal noted. “So, I owe my career I guess, in large part, to Joel Schumacher, who took a chance …I just want to say I love you, Joel. I thank you very much for everything that you’ve done for me and the joy and the love that you’ve brought to millions of people all around the world. One day we’ll all meet again back home, I love you Joel.”

Schumacher cast Jim Carrey in Batman Forever, and also gave the actor a chance in what was, at the time, a rarer serious role in The Number 23. Carrey says the director saw “deeper things” in him:

The Phanton of the Opera star Minnie Driver remembered an on-set remark by the director after a fellow actress moaned that her performance was “over the top”.

“Joel barely looked up from his NYT + said ‘Oh Honey, no one ever paid to see under the top.'”

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Hannibal creator Bryan Fuller also remembered Schumacher’s influence on his outlook as a member of the LGBTQ community: “I distinctly remember feeling hopeful when I learned he was gay and out and that there may be a place for me yet.”

Kiefer Sutherland, who starred in a number of Schumacher’s films, including The Lost Boys and Flatliners, shared a statement about Schumacher’s passing over on Twitter:

The sister of Sutherland’s The Lost Boys co-star, the late Corey Haim, also wrote some lovely words on Twitter upon hearing of the director’s death:

“I think I’m one of the luckiest people that ever lived,” Schumacher remarked to THR in 2017. “I got my dream. You know, I’m just a kid whose parents died very young who was on his own and grew up behind a movie theater before TV, and I wanted to tell those stories, and look what happened.”

Rest in peace, Mr. Schumacher.