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How ‘Flatliners’ director Joel Schumacher turned a medical drama into an action movie

Filmmaker Joel Schumacher (The Lost Boys, Falling Down) was in a morbid frame of mind when his agent approached him about directing Flatliners, his 1990 movie about Chicago medical students conducting literally lethal medical experiments to find out if there is life after death. “Mike Nichols (legendary director of The Graduate) and Cynthia O’Neal (actress)…

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How ‘Flatliners’ director Joel Schumacher turned a medical drama into an action movie

Clark Collis

Filmmaker Joel Schumacher (The Lost Boys, Falling Down) was in a morbid frame of mind when his agent approached him about directing Flatliners, his 1990 movie about Chicago medical students conducting literally lethal medical experiments to find out if there is life after death.

“Mike Nichols (legendary director of The Graduate) and Cynthia O’Neal (actress) had started an organization called The Crisis Center For Life-Threatening Illness,” says Schumacher. “It was, basically, a program that assisted people with terminal diseases, cancer and then AIDS. They were going to do a weekend which would be all people with AIDS, or HIV, and they could have their families, their loved ones, anyone. It was a wonderful group of people. Doctors, psychiatrists, very uplifting speakers, etcetera. Mike asked if I would film it. So, I got my friends who film commercials and everybody donated their services. As you can imagine, it was very intense. It was three days and three nights, and half the time you’re holding the camera and filming, and crying, and trying to keep focus. There’s a certain point where you must run back to the hotel and get a shower. So, I ran back, and there was an envelope under the door with a note from my agent saying, ‘Read this, they have to have an answer by Monday.’ I called my agent and  said, ‘Look, I have five minutes, just tell me what this

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