Born in New York in 1939, Schumacher began working in the fashion industry before deciding he wanted to pursue a career in film.
He attended the Parsons School of Design at New School University, and the Fashion Institute of Technology. He paid for school by designing clothing and packaging for Revlon, and by working as a window dresser at Bendel's department store.
He told The Independent in 1993: “It was very progressive, and so we were able to do shocking, interesting, exciting windows... But my favourite was, I got a piece of shatterproof glass the same size as the windows, backed it up to the real glass and then smashed it, so that from the street it looked like the whole store had been broken into. I had all the mannequins cowering in a corner. It was fun.”
Schumacher worked as a costume designer on Woody Allen’s 1973 movie Sleeper and Interiors (1978). He was also a production designer on the 1974 disaster film Killer Bees.
Schumacher’s director credits include the feature film adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera, Flatliners, and Phone Booth starring Colin Farrell.
He later took over the Batman franchise from Tim Burton, first with 1995's Batman Forever starring Val Kilmer, Tommy Lee Jones, Jim Carrey and Nicole Kidman. The movie grossed more than $300 million worldwide.
Schumacher's take on the movie was considerably more camp than Burton's famously dark productions. Schumacher, who was gay, received a backlash from some critics for the supposed homoerotic elements he introduced to the relationship between Batman and Robin. In 2006, Clooney said he had played Batman as gay.
However, in a 2019 interview with Variety, Schumacher denied adding any gay subtext to the film.
“If I wasn’t gay, they would never say those things," he said. "This all started way before me. Long before I came along, someone wrote a whole thing about what the real message of fairy tales and children’s stories are.
"Snow White was all about having bad stepmothers. And Batman and Robin are two homosexual men living in a cave, living together. There’s always been this thing about Batman and Robin being gay.”
Schumacher was recognised for his early spotting of young talent; among the now-famous faces he cast in his projects were Matthew McConaughey, Julia Roberts, Farrell and Keifer Sutherland.
In 2013, he directed two episodes of House of Cards.
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