The career of Joel Schumacher is a colorful one, filled with unpredictable twists and turns, hits and misses, star vehicles and no-name indies. He’s been everywhere and done everything, and his latest, “Trespass,” which hits theaters next Friday, is his second collaboration with Nicolas Cage after “8MM.” However, it was almost his third.
While many cite disastrous blockbuster “Batman And Robin” as the nadir of Schumacher’s career, they ignore the fact that Warner Bros. was actually pretty high on Joel upon seeing the dailies for that picture, and had begun work on a followup, the Mark Protosevich-drafted “Batman Triumphant.” That picture was to showcase the Dynamic Duo battling the Scarecrow, with the villain’s “fear toxins” forcing Batman to see his former enemies, including the Joker, in a return performance by the still-under-contract Jack Nicholson. We recently chatted with Schumacher and he revealed he had a clear idea of who he wanted to play Scarecrow in the ultimately aborted sequel.
“I was supposed to do a fifth one,” Schumacher says. “I was talking to Nic Cage about playing the Scarecrow. I had begged the studio for [the Frank Miller comic] ‘The Dark Knight [Returns],’ but they wanted a family friendly, toyetic thing.” Eventually, “Batman And Robin” came along, souring everyone on the franchise, and, just like that, Schumacher’s relationship with Warner Bros. dissolved, leaving behind both the “Batman” series and a third John Grisham adaptation, “Runaway Jury” (later made over at 20th Century Fox by Gary Fleder). However, Schumacher got his man soon after, as he and Cage teamed for “8MM,” which Schumacher figured, “would be the furthest thing from a summer movie.”
He ruefully adds, “And I gave up a lot of money, but, no regrets.” Not that he’s hurting for cash, as he notes, “I have awards for selling more Batman toys than anyone in the world.” In regards to “Batman and Robin,” he was convinced he made “the wrong choice” but says, “I did my job. It was more family friendly and it sold a lot of toys, and it supported the Warner Bros. stores. But I did disappoint a lot of fans.”
Cage is no stranger to comic book films, having been cast in a scrapped “Superman” as well as two “Ghost Rider” movies, so to imagine the then-hot Oscar winner in a Batman film makes perfect sense, if only to wonder what sort of mega-acting he would have utilized compared to Cillian Murphy’s fairly restrained characterization in Christopher Nolan’s two films.
“Batman Triumphant” isn’t the only major project from which Schumacher walked away in the late nineties. In his early career, Schumacher had written “Sparkle,” a film about three African-American female vocalists, but he was too green to be considered for the director’s chair. But he wanted to find a way to scratch that itch anyway, so, years later, enter David Geffen. “When David Geffen offered me ‘Dreamgirls,’ I saw it as a chance to do my ‘Sparkle,’” Schumacher explains, noting that “Sparkle” is currently being remade. “But we couldn’t get the script right, and Bill [Condon] did an excellent job. And I think, in the long run, I was the wrong director.”
“Trespass” opens on October 14th in select cities.