Schindler's List (1993) Poster


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The Krakow ghetto "liquidation" scene was only a page of action in the script, but Steven Spielberg turned it into 20 pages and 20 minutes of screen action "based on living witness testimony". For example, the scene in which the young man escapes capture by German soldiers by telling them he was ordered to clear the luggage from the street was taken directly from a survivor's story.
Steven Spielberg was not paid for this film. He refused to accept a salary, citing that it would be "blood money". Instead, he gave the money to the Shoah Foundation.
Steven Spielberg offered the job of director to Roman Polanski. Polanski turned it down because the subject was too personal. He had lived in the Krakow ghetto until the age of 8, when he escaped on the day of the liquidation. His mother later died at the Auschwitz concentration camp. Polanski would later direct his own film about the Holocaust, The Pianist (2002).
When survivor Mila Pfefferberg was introduced to Ralph Fiennes on the set, she began shaking uncontrollably, as he reminded her too much of the real Amon Goeth.
Director Steven Spielberg was able to get permission to film inside Auschwitz, but chose not to out of respect for the victims, so the scenes of the death camp were actually filmed outside the gates on a set constructed in a mirror image of the real location on the other side.
The original missing list of Schindler's Jews was found in a suitcase together with his written legacy hidden in the attic of Schindler's flat in Hildesheim in 1999. Oskar Schindler stayed there during the last few months before his death in 1974.
Steven Spielberg's resolve to make the film became complete when studio executives asked him why he didn't simply make a donation of some sort rather than wasting everyone's time and money on a depressing film.
Ralph Fiennes put on 13kg by drinking Guinness for his role of Amon Goeth. Steven Spielberg cast him because of his "evil sexuality".
When Steven Spielberg first showed 'John Williams' a cut of the film, Williams was so moved he had to take a walk outside for several minutes to collect himself. Upon his return, Williams told Spielberg he deserved a better composer. Spielberg replied, "I know, but they're all dead."
At his insistence, all royalties and residuals from this film that would normally have gone to director Steven Spielberg instead are given to the Shoah Foundation, which records and preserves written and videotaped testimonies from survivors of genocide worldwide, including the Holocaust.
To gather costumes for 20,000 extras, the costume designer took out advertisements seeking clothes. As economic conditions were poor in Poland, many people were eager to sell clothing they still owned from the 1930s and '40s.
It is said that, during the filming, the atmosphere was so grim and depressing that Steven Spielberg asked his friend Robin Williams if he could film some comedy sketches.
When Steven Spielberg returned to Cal State Long Beach to earn his BA 34 years after dropping out, his film professor accepted this movie in place of the short student film normally required to pass the class. This movie had already won Spielberg Golden Globes and Oscars for Best Director and Best Picture.
Steven Spielberg refuses to autograph any materials related to this film.
Months before he landed the title role, Liam Neeson had auditioned for Schindler but, assuming that he'd never get the part, accepted instead an offer to play opposite wife-to-be Natasha Richardson in a Broadway revival of Eugene O'Neill's "Anna Christie" at New York's Criterion Center in 1993. After a performance one evening, Neeson was in his dressing when a knock on the the door announced the arrival of Steven Spielberg, wife Kate Capshaw and her mother. After Spielberg had introduced his wife and mother-in-law, Neeson hugged the older woman in a manner that stuck with Capshaw, who later commented to husband Steven, "That's just what Oskar Schindler would have done". Neeson received a call a week later from Spielberg with the offer of the lead role.
In reality it was not Itzhak Stern who helped Oskar Schindler put the list together, but Marcel Goldberg. Many survivors who speak of Goldberg do so with disdain, as he was unscrupulous in deciding who ended up on the list, reportedly accepting bribes from some Survivors, taking names off the list to add theirs instead.
Both Kevin Costner and Mel Gibson offered their services, but Steven Spielberg decided to go with less familiar names, as the presence of a major star would be too distracting and neither were European actors.
Spielberg had to make Jurassic Park (1993) before "Schindler's List" in terms of his projects for 1993. It was even written into his contract because had he made "Schindler's List" first, he would have been too drained to make "Jurassic Park".
Violinist Itzhak Perlman performs John Williams' haunting score on the soundtrack. Perlman is on record as saying that his contribution to the film is one of his proudest moments in an illustrious career.
When the film was to be shown in the Philippines, the censors decided to cut out certain scenes of nudity and violence. When Steven Spielberg learned of this he wanted to pull the film out unless it was shown as it is. So Philippine President Fidel Ramos intervened and overruled the censors and the film was shown without any cuts.
During filming, Ben Kingsley, who played Itzhak Stern, kept a picture of Anne Frank, the young girl who died in a concentration camp and whose personal diary was published after the Holocaust, in his coat pocket. Some years later, Kingsley played Otto Frank, Anne's father, in the telefilm "Anne Frank: The Whole Story."
According to the art directors, no green paint or clothing were used on the set because the color would not show up well on black and white film. Special attention was paid to how much lighting or paint was used in order to appear correctly on film regardless of how unrealistic it seemed in real life.
During the night time raid on the Krakow ghetto by the SS, two officers see a man playing a piano and wonder if the music is Johann Sebastian Bach or 'Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart'. The piece is actually Bach's "English Suite No.2 in A Minor" despite the one officer's conclusion that it was Mozart.
The most expensive black & white film to date. The previous record was held for over 30 years by another film set during World War II, The Longest Day (1962).
"Schindler's List" and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) are the two films Steven Spielberg would best like to be remembered for.
As a producer, Steven Spielberg shopped directing duties on this film to numerous colleagues, because he was afraid he couldn't do the story justice. He was turned down by Martin Scorsese (who was interested but ultimately felt it was a subject that should be done by a Jewish director), Roman Polanski (who didn't feel he was yet ready to tackle the Holocaust after surviving it in childhood), and Billy Wilder (who wanted to make this as his last film). Apparently, it was Wilder who convinced Spielberg to direct it himself.
During the scene in which the last of the Krakow Jews are taken from their homes to be relocated to the ghetto, one man stops to remove something from the door post of his residence. What he removes is a Mezuzah, a case containing a passage from the Torah (Deuteronomy 6:4-9), which Jews traditionally affix to the door frames of their houses as a constant reminder of God's presence.
Steven Spielberg watched episodes of Seinfeld (1989) every night after work to lighten his mood.
Steven Spielberg initially intended to make the film in Polish and German with English subtitles, but rethought the idea because he felt he wouldn't be able to accurately assess performances in unfamiliar languages.
The first published account of Schindler's story was an article by Kurt R. Grossman, "The Humanitarian Who Cheated Hitler," which appeared in the September 1959 issue of Coronet magazine.
About 40% of the film was shot using a handheld camera.
A direct copy of the real list, which was among other things in Thomas Keneally collection, was found by the staff of the National Library in New South Wales, AU. The 13 page list, after the restoration, is displayed in the library's museum.
After filming this movie, Liam Neeson (Schindler) and Ralph Fiennes (Göth) ironically became very good friends.
Liam Neeson admitted in a 60 Minutes (1968) interview that he was disappointed in his performance in this film. He stated "I didn't own the part. I didn't see enough of me in there".
Harrison Ford was offered the title role but declined, saying that some people would not be able to look past the former Indiana Jones as a star to see the importance of the film, set in real life after the Indy movies take place.
Steven Spielberg waited 10 years to make the film because he felt he wasn't ready to tackle the Holocaust in 1983 at the age of 37.
Though Oskar Schindler did in fact have a Jewish accountant named Itzhak Stern, his role is expanded in the movie, where he serves as a composite of several accountants Schindler had working for him.
The film's tagline "Whoever saves one life saves the world entire" is a quotation from the Talmud.
Steven Spielberg's first R-rated film.
As Oskar Schindler is given a tour of the camp, he passes a boy in prisoner's clothing with his hands raised over his head and a sign hanging over him. It reads "jestem zlodziejem ziemniaków", "I am a potato thief."
When Oskar Schindler berates Itzhak Stern for sending too many force-labor camp workers to his factory, Stern (Ben Kingsley) reminds him about Amon Goeth shooting 25 men from Bejski's camp. The Bejski that Stern refers to is none other than Moshe Bejski - who eventually became Schindler's document forger and later the Israeli Supreme Court Judge from 1979 to 1991. He is mentioned in the book. In the list, he is #531 on the men's list and occupation was a draftsman.
The story features a character called Poldek Pfefferberg. Later, a Leopold Pfefferberg places a stone on Schindler's grave. Finally, a Leopold Page is credited as a consultant on the film. Despite the different names, these all refer to the same person. Poldek Pfefferberg changed his name to Leopold Page after the war when he moved to the United States.
Embeth Davidtz deliberately chose not to meet Helen Hirsch, the character she was playing in the film, until after shooting had been completed.
In real life, Oskar Schindler was not arrested for kissing the Jewish girl at his birthday party. He was arrested three times for dealings in the black market.
Martin Scorsese turned down the chance to direct the film in the 1980s, as he felt he couldn't do as good a job as a Jewish director. He agreed to swap films with Steven Spielberg, taking over Cape Fear (1991) instead.
Production designer Allan Starski's replica of the forced labor camp at Plaszow was one of the largest sets ever built in Poland. The movie set was constructed from the plans of the original camp. The production built 34 barracks and seven watchtowers and also recreated the road into the camp that was paved with Jewish tombstones.
Steven Spielberg began work on this film in Poland while Jurassic Park (1993) was in post-production. He worked on that film via satellite, with assistance from his pal George Lucas.
Dustin Hoffman stated in a 1994 interview with Larry King that he had spoken to Steven Spielberg about playing Itzhak Stern but their communications became confused, and Spielberg mistakenly believed that Hoffman turned down the role.
The line "God forbid you ever get a taste for Jewish skirt. There is no future in it," was spoken by Scherner, but in the original script was supposed to be spoken by Goeth. This is why in the next scene where Goeth says "When I said they didn't have a future I didn't mean tomorrow" doesn't really make any sense since he didn't say the line.
The Amblin logo, showing the bike flying past the moon from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), a regular sight at the end of every Steven Spielberg film, isn't present here, perhaps because of the somber subject matter.
Swiss actor Bruno Ganz was sought to play the role of Oskar Schindler, but turned it down. Ganz later appeared in another critically-acclaimed WWII movie: Downfall (2004), in which he played Adolf Hitler.
The film that finally netted Steven Spielberg the Oscar for best director, something that had eluded him in the past.
At Steven Spielberg's request, Aaron Sorkin did a "dialogue wash" on the excessively wordy script.
The film, as shown in most countries, had the song "Yerushalayim Shel Zahav" - Jerusalem of Gold - at the end. When the film was shown in Israel, audiences laughed at this, as this song was written after the 1967 war as a pop song. They then re-dubbed the song "Eli Eli," which was written by Hannah Sennesh during World War Two over the end. However, some criticized this decision as a misinterpretation of the scene, since the song serves as a lead-in to a scene that takes place in modern-day Israel (long after the release of "Yerushalayim Shel Zahav") not during the Holocaust.
Ranked #3 on the American Film Institute's 100 Most Inspiring Movies of All Time (2006).
Sid Sheinberg brought "Schindler's List" to Steven Spielberg's attention when the novel was published in 1982 and purchased the rights, hoping that Spielberg would someday direct it. The movie's enormous success finally came at around the same time that Sheinberg was leaving MCA/Universal.
The Thomas Keneally novel on which the film is based was titled "Schindler's Ark".
Without adjusting for inflation, this is the highest-grossing black-and-white film of all time (taking in $96 million domestically and $321 million worldwide).
Steven Spielberg gave Liam Neeson home movies of his mentor Steve Ross - the late chairman of Time Warner - to help him develop his portrayal of Schindler.
The only film released in the last quarter century to make it onto the American Film Institute's top ten list of best American movies of all time.
Helen Hirsch is based on Helen Jonas (nee Sternlicht), whose story in shown in the documentary Inheritance (2006).
In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked this as the #8 Greatest Movie of All Time.
Sidney Lumet was originally attached to direct but felt that he had already covered off the subject of the Holocaust with his film The Pawnbroker (1964).
Steven Spielberg, as director, has made ten films either about or relating to World War II. (in chronological order): Fighter Squad (1961); Escape to Nowhere (1961); 1941 (1979); Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981); Empire of the Sun (1987); Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989); a remake of the WWII movie A Guy Named Joe (1943) entitled, Always (1989); Schindler's List (1993); and Saving Private Ryan (1998).
Tim Roth was considered for the role of Amon Goeth.
When we see the Jews marching across the bridge into the ghetto, this is not the direction they would have walked in real life. There was a large modern radio tower exists in direct view when walking in the correct historical direction across the bridge into the Krakow ghetto.
Steven Spielberg cast Ralph Fiennes as Amon Goeth after he'd been moved by Fiennes' performance as Lawrence in Great Performances: A Dangerous Man: Lawrence After Arabia (1992). Spielberg has been a lifelong fan of David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia (1962).
This film's epilogue states: "There are fewer than four thousand Jews left alive in Poland today. There are more than six thousand descendants of the Schindler Jews." This film's closing memorial / dedication states: "In memory of the more than six million Jews murdered."
Saul Bass was asked to design the poster for this film. Eventually, his version consisting of an image of barb wire spiking paper containing the names of the people, Schindler saved, was refused.
The song being played when Schindler enters the night club and meets all of the Nazi officials is called "Por Una Cabeza". The same song is played as the tango in the films True Lies (1994) and Scent of a Woman (1992).
After the book's author Thomas Keneally wrote a miniseries-length script, Kurt Luedtke was hired by Steven Spielberg to write the screenplay, but he gave up after four years' work.
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The real Oskar Schindler was said to resemble George Sanders and Curd Jürgens.
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The cuff links Schindler is seen putting on in the opening scene have the logo of the 'Seabourn' cruise line on them. Spielberg was given them as a gift by his cousin who had taken a Seabourn cruise.
According to Liam Neeson's account on Inside the Actors Studio: Liam Neeson (2012), Schindler was the first Steven Spielberg feature film not to be storyboarded.
Billy Wilder contributed to the first draft of the screenplay. Wilder had many relatives who died in the Holocaust, and tried to convince Steven Spielberg to let him direct the film. Spielberg was already prepared to shoot the film in Poland, and turned it down.
In 1994, John Williams conducted the scores for Schindler's List (1993) and Jurassic Park (1993) in concert; he took a break from film score assignments while doing so.
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Steven Spielberg watched Good Evening, Mr. Wallenberg (1990) six times before the shooting.
Details about Thomas Keneally's book "Schindler's List" (on which this film is based on) is mentioned in the documentary "Adolf Hitler: the greatest story never told."
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In 1962, on his birthday, Schindler planted a tree on Avenue of Righteous, Israel.
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During the list scene, there was an exchange between Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley) and Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) that goes as: Stern - "How many cigarettes do you smoke?" Schindler - "Too many". This exchange was taken directly from a real-life exchange between Edward the Duke of Windsor and his physician (Edward was asked the exact question) weeks before his death in 1972.
Juliette Binoche was offered a role, which she has described in interviews as a woman who was to be raped and then murdered, but she turned it down. She had already turned Steven Spielberg down once that same year, passing on the role of Ellie Sattler in Jurassic Park (1993) to make Three Colors: Blue (1993).
When Steven Spielberg was dividing time between Schindler's List and Jurassic Park (1993), he was in contact with ILM four times a week via satellite. He described the extra workload as "a bipolar experience, with every ounce of intuition on Schindler's List and every ounce of craft on Jurassic Park". He rented two satellite channels through a Polish television station (for $1.5 million a week), keeping them open at all times. He downloaded from Hollywood each day the visuals on one and the sound through the other. He then spent his evenings and weekends working on them with video equipment.
Stellan Skarsgård was considered for the role of Oskar Schindler. The role went to Liam Neeson. Neeson was originally set to play Father Frank Merrin in Exorcist: The Beginning (2004), but dropped out and was replaced with Skarsgård.
Filming completed in 72 days, 4 days ahead of schedule. The same time was used for Steven Spielberg's other movies, Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and War of the Worlds (2005).
[June 2008] Ranked #3 on the American Film Institute's list of the 10 greatest films in the genre "Epic".
Claire Danes was originally considered by Steven Spielberg for a role, but she turned it down because he couldn't provide her with tutoring on the set. The part she was considered for is unknown.
After finishing Hook (1991), Steven Spielberg opted to make Schindler's List (1993) next. Sid Sheinberg greenlit the film on the condition that Spielberg make Jurassic Park (1993) first.
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Ironically, the set decorator on the film's Polish crew is named Ewa Braun, which is almost the same name as Eva Braun, Adolf Hitler's wife.
Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes) quotes Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice to Helen Hirsch, saying "Hath not a Jew eyes?" Fiennes's brother, Joseph Fiennes, appears in the film The Merchant of Venice (2004).
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On Roger Ebert's list of great movies.
One of two films where Ralph Fiennes and Liam Neeson's characters pretend to be allies of each other while making separate schemes for themselves. In here, Neeson's character wants to save people from death while in Clash of the Titans (2010) Fiennes character wants to destroy people.
Steven Spielberg left the editing on Jurassic Park (1993) for two weeks so he could start shooting Schindler's List in Poland.
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One of two Best Picture Oscar winners to show a child jumping into the waste pond under a toilet. The other is Slumdog Millionaire (2008).
The first war film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture Oscar since Platoon (1986), a gap of seven years. The first predominantly black-and-white war film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture Oscar since The Longest Day (1962), a gap of thirty-one years. The first predominantly black-and-white World War II war film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture Oscar since From Here to Eternity (1953), a gap of forty years. Other black-and-white World War II war films which have won the Academy Award for Best Picture Oscar include Mrs. Miniver (1942); Casablanca (1942) and The Best Years of Our Lives (1946). As such, "Schindler's List" is the fifth black-and-white World War II war film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture Oscar. The first World War II film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture Oscar since Patton (1970), a gap of twenty-three years. The first World War II film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture Oscar since John Boorman's Hope and Glory (1987), a gap of six years. The first predominantly black-and-white film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture Oscar since The Apartment (1960), a gap of thirty-three years. The first war film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture Oscar since Born on the Fourth of July (1989), a gap of four years. The first predominantly black-and-white film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture Oscar since both The Elephant Man (1980) and Raging Bull (1980), a gap of thirteen years. The first Steven Spielberg war film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture since Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), a gap of twelve years. The first Spielberg war film since Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), a gap of four years.
While the Nazis are moving confiscated luggage, one of the bags is labeled "Sonnenschein". Ralph Fiennes who plays Amon Goeth, appears in the holocaust movie "Sunshine" as Ignatz Sonnenschein .
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Only Hollywood feature to date (2013) to be filmed by Polish cinematographer Janusz Kaminski on location in his homeland (Poland).
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Ralph Fiennes plays the war criminal, Amon Goeth. In the movie "Skyfall", Fiennes' character's first name is Goeth. Both characters have the name "Goeth" in their full name.
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Branko Lustig:  nightclub maître d' in Oskar Schindler's first scene. Lustig is one of the film's producers and a Holocaust survivor (upon receiving his Oscar, he recited his serial number, A3317).

Director Cameo 

Steven Spielberg:  a liberated Schindler Jew among the hundreds crossing a field near the end of the film.

Director Trademark 

Steven Spielberg:  [mirror]  An important image in the rear-view mirror of a car (see Duel (1971), Jurassic Park (1993)).
Steven Spielberg:  [music]  John Williams score.
Steven Spielberg:  [father]  Oskar Schindler tells his wife he can't commit to a family.


The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

The ending of real life survivors visiting Schindler's grave was not in the script. Steven Spielberg had the idea in the middle of filming, Locating the survivors and arranging the gathering on short notice was a challenge.
The person who places the flower on top of the stones in the closing credits is Liam Neeson and not Steven Spielberg, as some people think.
There is a Jewish tradition that when one visits a grave, one leaves a small stone on the marker as a sign of respect. This explains the epilogue where the cast and the Schindlerjuden cover Oskar Schindler's grave with stones.
In October 1980, author Thomas Keneally was on his way back to Australia after a book signing when he stopped en route to the airport to buy a new briefcase in a Beverly Hills luggage shop owned by Leopold Pfefferberg - who had been one of the 1200 saved by Oskar Schindler. In the 50 minutes Keneally spent waiting for his credit card payment to clear, Pfefferberg persuaded him to go to the back room where the shopkeeper kept two cabinets filled with documents he had collected. Pfefferberg - who had told his story to every writer and producer who ever came into his store - eventually wore down Keneally's reluctance, and the writer chose to make the story into his next book.
In the epilogue, all actors accompany the original Schindlerjuden they portray in the movie in pairs.
The girl in the red dress was a real girl named Roma Ligocka. Unlike her film counterpart, she survived the war, and wrote a memoir titled "The Girl in the Red Coat: A Memoir".
During the Jewish ghetto liquidation scene, a Jewish boy being dragged by two SS soldiers is shot and killed by a third SS man as the SS soldiers walk towards him. What follows is a heated exchange between the two SS soldiers. In the subtitles of the DVD version, it is possible to see exactly what is being said in the original German. The text translates as: "Just what did you think you were shooting at, are you crazy? With this rifle you could have shot me! You came that close to shooting me!" The second soldier then says something that includes "Entschuldigung", which is "apologies" in German. The NCO then responds with: "What do we call excuses here? You are certainly crazy!" Thus, the translation sheds light that the SS soldier was not concerned that the Jewish boy had just been murdered, but rather that the SS soldier was in the line of fire.
According to Czech filmmaker Juraj Herz, the scene where a group of women confuse a shower for a gas chamber was taken direct from his own The Night Overtake Me (1986) shot for shot. Herz wanted to sue but he couldn't come up with the money to fund it.

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