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Joel Schumacher makes a political statement

Director Joel Schumacher in Toronto during TIFF 2011.

Fernando Morales/Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail

Director Joel Schumacher has a knack for finding emerging talent. In 2000's Tigerland, he cast a then-unknown Irish actor, Colin Farrell, in the leading role. The 72-year-old filmmaker of such classics as St. Elmo's Fire and The Lost Boys is also credited with discovering the likes of Kiefer Sutherland, Demi Moore and Philip Seymour Hoffman, whom he cast as a drag queen in 1999's Flawless, opposite Robert De Niro.

Now, the septuagenarian is back with a home-invasion film, Trespass, starring his pals Nicole Kidman (whom he directed in Batman Forever) and Nicolas Cage (in 8mm), which had a select run in theatres this fall and is out on DVD today. Trespass is more than a thriller. Schumacher sees it as a political film that bemoans the great divide between the rich and the poor in America, and the shrinking of the middle class.

What was the biggest challenge making this film?

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You've got seven characters trapped in one set, shooting chronologically. The biggest challenge when you film a movie like this – in the proper sequence of events – is to make it feel like a motion picture and not like a play. This movie isn't what I'd call a "typical" festival movie. But then again what is a festival movie these days? This is a movie for people who want an action-packed thriller. And my biggest hurdle was, given the close proximity, keeping it alive, suspenseful, believable. Finding the rhythm to make something non-cinematic very cinematic.

There are two seemingly disparate families in this film – the affluent Millers (Cage, Kidman and daughter Liana Liberato) and the down-on-their-luck home invaders (Ben Mendelsohn, Cam Gigandet and Jordana Spiro). Both families are grasping for more, and both have secrets. What do they represent?

The two are representative of what's happening a lot in society right now. I can't speak to Canada, but in the United States there's too many rich, and too many poor, and the middle is shrinking. There are a lot of people trying to live the American Dream, now a universal dream, to have more things. And both families overreach. Too often, I see families lose "the family" because of their desire to accumulate things, pay for them on credit. It's a systemic problem and a very serious issue.

Who are the most recent promising young actors you cast who are moving onto big careers?

I'm proud of them all, but two years ago I did a little horror movie in Romania called Blood Creek, starring Henry Cavill and Michael Fassbender, which got discovered on DVD. Henry's going to be Superman in [the now filming Man of Steel]and Michael is getting Oscar buzz for [Steve McQueen's] Shame [winner of best film and best actor for Heidelberg-born Fassbender at Venice]

How would you sum up the social commentary in Trespass?

It's a movie about people and warped values. And of course, when faced with life and death, the fact that material possessions don't matter a whit. Every day on the news, we see people devastated by floods, or fire or tornadoes – and in each interview the first thing they say they wished they'd retrieved was their photo albums. They represent their life – not the number of suits, watches or sneakers they have in their closet.

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This interview has been condensed and edited.

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