Don't Call Him He'll Call You; Joel Schumacher, Credited with Discovering the Likes of Julia Roberts, Kiefer Sutherland and Kevin Bacon, Talks to Rob Driscoll about His Latest Film

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), April 18, 2003 | Go to article overview

Don't Call Him He'll Call You; Joel Schumacher, Credited with Discovering the Likes of Julia Roberts, Kiefer Sutherland and Kevin Bacon, Talks to Rob Driscoll about His Latest Film


Byline: Rob Driscoll

JOEL Schumacher is not your average Hollywood director. One minute he'll deliver the ultimate summer blockbuster, like Batman and Robin, the next he'll shock the studio suits with gritty, edgy and uncomfortable movies like Falling Down (Michael Douglas going crazy against the whole of downtown LA) and 8mm (Nicolas Cage on the trail of a snuff movie gang).

He also has an uncanny eye for young, fresh, budding talent; he cast the likes of Julia Roberts, Kiefer Sutherland and Kevin Bacon as fledgling medical students in Flatliners 23 years ago. And three years ago he cast a completely unknown young Irish actor by the name of Colin Farrell in Tigerland, his ultra-low-budget drama about an army boot camp where men are systematically turned into killers before being shipped off to the Vietnam con-flict. Now Farrell is this year's hottest new talent, his name above the title in box-office winners like The Recruit. This week, however, sees the UK release of probably his most stunning performance yet, in Phone Booth - which saw him once again directed by the man who discovered him, at least in America: Joel Schumacher.

``I've been credited with discovering a lot of young people - but I think you would hire them too,'' says NewYork-born Schumacher, who at the age of 64 remains one of America's most sprightly and entertaining film-making raconteurs. ``If you saw a hundred young women for Flatliners, and Julia Roberts walked into your office and you didn't hire her, you shouldn't be in the business. Let me tell you, there was absolutely nobody like Julia Roberts at 20, or Demi Moore for St Elmo's Fire - if you ever watch that film again, she's phenomenal.''

As someone who has got to know Colin Farrell well over the past few years, Schumacher finds it hilarious that the ``hell-raising Irish boy'' is currently causing such fuss in the American scandal sheets. ``I love it all,'' he says in his unmistakeable Californian drawl. ``Here's the scandal. He's 26 years old, he smokes, he drinks, he likes to screw women and he says, `F**k!''' (At which point Schumacher claps his hands to face in mock horror). ``It's so refreshing to me that he's not this Stepford Wife-type being schooled in how to do interviews and hiding things. What I like is that he will make it or break it just as he is.'' Phone Booth, which soared to the No.1 box-office position on its US release last week, is a movie with a long and troubled history. Farrell's role is that of a belligerent and shallow public relations guru who, after answering a public phone in the middle of New York's Times Square, finds himself trapped in the booth, unable to leave lest a mysterious rooftop sniper shoots him dead in one fell swoop.

It's a role which Farrell makes all his own with a bravura performance, engaging in panic-stricken dialogue with his invisible assailant, and assorted passers-by - hookers, tramps, thieves and low-lifes, all the way trying to finalise his latest, paper-thin PR deals. And yet this is a project to which the likes of Jim Carrey, Will Smith, Mel Gibson and Tom Cruise were all attached at one point or another, only to dash for the exit when the realisation came that the role demanded holding their own for most of the movie, with just a disembodied voice for company. Schumacher shot the film as long ago as December 2000, straight after Ti-gerland,when Farrell was still unknown. It was due to be released in the autumn of 2001, but then the events of September 11th made its dark and embittered subject matter of urban violence a no-go area.

And so Schumacher began the waiting game.

``The studio then decided they might as well wait until after Minority Report was made, because Colin was still unknown, and they knew that a film with Tom Cruise directed by Steven Spielberg would have some profile,'' he recalls. ``So Colin made that. Then Phone Booth was meant to be coming out last November in the States, but then we had the Washington sniper - and there wasn't even a discussion about the movie coming out then. …

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