Matthew McConaughey leads tributes to the late Joel Schumacher

Joel Schumacher, second from right, director of the new film "A Time to Kill," poses with cast members, from left, Ashley Judd, Matthew McConaughey and Samuel L. Jackson at the world premiere of the film, Tuesday, July 9, 1996, at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences in Beverly Hills, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
Joel Schumacher with Ashley Judd, Matthew McConaughey and Samuel L. Jackson at the world premiere of A Time To Kill in 1996 (Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Matthew McConaughey has lead the tributes to the director Joel Schumacher, who died yesterday at the age of 80.

McConaughey has said that he owes his career to Schumacher, who cast the then 27-year-old in the lead in his 1996 adaptation of John Grisham's A Time To Kill.

Read more: Director Joel Schumacher dies at 80

It was McConaughey's first lead role, and found him among a stunning cast including Sandra Bullock, Samuel L. Jackson, Kevin Spacey, Ashley Judd, and Kiefer and Donald Sutherland.

He told Variety: “Joel not only took a chance on me, he fought for me. Knowing the studio might never approve a relatively unknown like myself for the lead in A Time to Kill, he set up a secret screen test for me on a Sunday morning in a small unknown studio because as he stated, ‘Even if you do great, you may not get the part, so I don’t want the industry to ever think you screen tested and DID NOT get the job.’

Director Joel Schumacher participates in a press conference for the film "Trespass" during the Toronto International Film Festival on Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011 in Toronto. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini)
Joel Schumacher (Credit: AP Photo/Evan Agostini)

“I don’t see how my career could have gone to the wonderful places it has if it wasn’t for Joel Schumacher believing in me back then.”

George Clooney, was Schumacher cast as Bruce Wayne in Batman & Robin, added: “[McConaughey's] career was absolutely started by Joel fighting for him in A Time To Kill. The studio wanted a star. Joel wanted him.”

Kiefer Sutherland, who also starred in Schumacher movies including The Lost Boys and Flatliners, called the director 'one of my dearest friends'.

A host of others chimed in in celebration of Schumacher's legacy, which also included bratpack hit St Elmo's Fire, Batman Forever and Falling Down.

Meanwhile, saxophonist Tim Capello, the sweating rock band frontman who was immortalised in The Lost Boys, said: “I’m so sad that I’ll never get to see him again. I always thought I’d get to have one more conversation with him, he was such a fun guy to shoot the s**t with, such an interesting, knowledgeable, funny guy.”

Schumacher died in New York yesterday, after a year-long battle with cancer.