Joel Schumacher attended the Hamptons International Film Festival this weekend where he accepted an award for his lifetime of work including acclaimed or beloved films like “The Lost Boys,” “Falling Down,” ” The Client,” “St. Elmo’s Fire,” and “A Time to Kill”.
Yet conversation often drifts back towards his two Batman films – 1995’s highly successful but critically mixed “Batman Forever,” and 1997’s infamous “Batman and Robin” which famously tanked the franchise for nearly a decade. In an interview with Variety at the event, he reflected on both projects.
It seems the darkness of Tim Burton’s “Batman Returns” played a big part in the change of tone in the two Schumacher films:
“I was never able to go into the darkness. Because of “Batman Returns,” families had objected that it was too adult, which is no criticism of Tim Burton’s. When they offered it to me, I went to Tim and said, “This is your franchise and they want me to do it. I won’t do it if you don’t want me to.” He said, “Take it, please! I can’t do another one.” Even though “Batman Forever” is really sexy, it was a movie the whole family could see.”
Despite criticism, ‘Forever’ was a big success – the biggest film of 1995, and the cheapest of the Batman films made with a budget under $100 million. Schumacher labels the film “total passion… everyone did a great job”. He does admit the choice of including Batsuit nipples has haunted him: “I think that will be on my gravestone. It’s how I’ll be remembered.”
Then there’s “Batman and Robin” which was not a success financially, and critically is even more strongly reviled today than it was back then. Schumacher doesn’t pass the buck though, putting the blame entirely on his own shoulders:
“Val [Kilmer] left at eleventh hour to do “The Island of Dr. Moreau.” It changed everything. George made a noble effort. I was the problem with “Batman & Robin.” I never did a sequel to any of my movies, and sequels are only made for one reason: to make more money and sell more toys. I did my job. But I never got my ass in the seat right.
They immediately wanted a sequel, but I said yes. There’s nobody else to blame but me. I could have said, “No, I’m not going to do it.” I just hope whenever I see a list of the worst movies ever made, we’re not on it. I didn’t do a good job. George did. Chris [O’Donnell] did. Uma [Thurman] is brilliant in it. Arnold is Arnold.”