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.
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 1940s.
When Steven Spielberg first showed John Williams a cut of this movie, Williams was so moved he had to take a walk outside for several minutes to collect himself. Upon his return, he told Spielberg he deserved a better composer. Spielberg replied, "I know, but they're all dead."
At his insistence (citing that it would be "blood money"), all royalties and residuals from this movie that would normally have gone to 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.
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.
Ralph Fiennes put on twenty-eight pounds (thirteen kilograms) by drinking Guinness for his role of Amon Goeth. Steven Spielberg cast him because of his "evil sexuality".
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 eight, when he escaped on the day of the liquidation. His mother later died at the Auschwitz concentration camp. After learning this, Spielberg immediately and repeatedly apologized for bringing up such a traumatic memory. Polanski directed his own movie about the Holocaust, The Pianist (2002).
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 filmed outside the gates on a set constructed in a mirror image of the real location on the other side.
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.
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.
During production, the atmosphere was so grim and depressing that Steven Spielberg asked his friend Robin Williams if he could tell some jokes and do comedy sketches while Spielberg would watch episodes of Seinfeld (1989). Some of Williams' sketches, while played through the speaker phone to the cast and crew, ended up being part of dialogue material for his character in Aladdin (1992), the Genie.
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.
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. There was a similar situation in Malaysia, but with no intervention. Hence, the film was banned.
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.
The ending of real-life survivors visiting Oskar 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.
Harrison Ford was the first choice for the title role, but declined, saying that some people would not be able to look past his Indiana Jones persona to see the importance of the film.
When Steven Spielberg returned to Cal State Long Beach to earn his BA thirty-four 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.
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.
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 room 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.
Though Oskar Schindler did in fact have a Jewish accountant named Itzhak Stern, his role was expanded in the movie, where he served as a composite of several accountants Schindler had working for him.
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.
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.
During filming, Sir Ben Kingsley (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 Anne Frank: The Whole Story (2001).
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. He agreed to hand the project to Steven Spielberg, who was working on Cape Fear (1991), which Scorsese took over), 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.
The most expensive black-and-white film to date. The previous record was held for over thirty years by another film set during World War II, The Longest Day (1962).
Steven Spielberg watched episodes of Seinfeld (1989) every night after work to lighten his mood.
In the epilogue, all actors accompany the original Schindlerjuden they portray in the movie in pairs.
Steven Spielberg waited ten years to make the film, because he felt he wasn't ready to tackle the Holocaust in 1983 at the age of thirty-seven.
As 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."
After filming this movie, Liam Neeson (Schindler) and Ralph Fiennes (Göth) became very good friends.
Spielberg opted to make Jurassic Park (1993) before this film in terms of his projects for 1993. It was even written into his contract, because had he made this film first, he would have been too drained to film Jurassic Park (1993).
A direct copy of the real list, which was amongst other things in Thomas Keneally collection, was found by the staff of the National Library in New South Wales, Australia. The thirteen-page list, after the restoration, is displayed in the library's museum.
Production designer Allan Starski's replica of the forced labor camp at Plaszow was one of the largest sets ever built in Poland. The set was constructed from the plans of the original camp. The production built thirty-four barracks and seven watchtowers, and also re-created the road into the camp that was paved with Jewish tombstones.
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.
The film's tagline "Whoever saves one life saves the world entire" is a quotation from the Talmud.
The first published account of Oskar Schindler's story was an article by Kurt R. Grossman, "The Humanitarian Who Cheated Adolf Hitler", which appeared in the September 1959 issue of Coronet Magazine.
The shots featuring a red-coat-girl came from a story that Audrey Hepburn told Steven Spielberg while they were filming her final movie Always (1989). She told him of an incident during World War II where she saw a little girl with the same attire while the other people were loaded onto trains. That moment was forever etched in her memory, and it struck Spielberg when he made this film. Due to the amount of violence and horror depicted, Spielberg made Oliwia Dabrowska, the red-coat-girl, and her parents to promise him not to watch the film until she reaches eighteen (in 2007). True to what he said, she was horrified of the result when she violated the promise at the age of eleven.
DIRECTOR CAMEO (Steven Spielberg): A liberated Schindler Jew among the hundreds crossing a field near the end of the film.
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.
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.
This film and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) are the two films for which Steven Spielberg would best like to be remembered.
During the nighttime raid on the Krakow ghetto by the S.S., 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.
Embeth Davidtz deliberately chose not to meet Helen Hirsch, the character she was playing in the film, until after shooting had been completed.
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 1,200 saved by Oskar Schindler. In the fifty 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.
At Steven Spielberg's request, Aaron Sorkin did an uncredited touch up and "dialogue wash" on the verbose script.
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 Amblin Entertainment 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, was not shown in this film. The final credit simply reads, "From Amblin Entertainment."
Bruno Ganz was sought to play the role of Oskar Schindler, but turned it down. Ganz appeared in another critically-acclaimed World War II movie, Downfall (2004), in which he played Adolf Hitler.
Ranked #3 on the American Film Institute's 100 Most Inspiring Movies of All Time (2006).
Contrary to popular belief, this was not the first film Steven Spielberg directed that received an R-rating by the Motion Picture Association of America. That credit goes to his short film Amblin' (1968).
When Schindler berates Itzhak Stern for sending too many forced-labor camp workers to his factory, Stern reminds him about Amon Göth shooting twenty-five men from Bejski's camp. The Bejski that Stern refers to is Moshe Bejski, who eventually became Oskar Schindler's document forger, and later an 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 his occupation was a draftsman.
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).
In 1962, on his birthday, Oskar Schindler planted a tree on the Avenue of the Righteous Among the Nations in Jerusalem.
The film was banned in several Muslim-majority nations, including Malaysia, Indonesia, and Egypt. The general excuse was that it was "unfair" towards Germans (meaning Nazis) and overly sympathetic to Jews. Neo-Nazis in Western countries, including the U.S. and Canada, campaigned for the film to be banned there, but were ignored.
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.
In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked this as the #8 Greatest Movie of All Time, and Steven Spielberg's greatest film.
The film finally netted Steven Spielberg the Oscar for Best Director, something that had eluded him in the past.
Sid Sheinberg brought "Schindler's Ark" 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.
In 1994, John Williams conducted the scores for this film and Jurassic Park (1993) in concert. He took a break from film scoring assignments while doing so.
Steven Spielberg cast Ralph Fiennes as Amon Göth after he'd been moved by Fiennes' performance as T.E. Lawrence in A Dangerous Man: Lawrence After Arabia (1992). Spielberg has been a lifelong fan of Sir David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia (1962).
Thomas Keneally (the author of the book "Schindler's Ark") has claimed in an interview that he was personally shown a six-hour-plus "rough cut" of the film by Steven Spielberg that he found far better than the final theatrical version. As of 2016, this rough-cut version has never been released in any authorized format.
In a memorable scene when Poldek Pfefferberg (Jonathan Sagall) runs into a German patrol during the Ghetto clearing, he is forced to improvise and snaps to attention and salutes the Germans with two fingers to his forehead (he explains that he was ordered to clear the road of rubble so the troops could run without hindrance). This two-finger salute is actually the correct way of saluting in the Polish military, though the Germans were obviously not impressed by it.
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 Göth. This is why in the next scene where Göth 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.
According to Liam Neeson's account on Inside the Actors Studio: Liam Neeson (2012), this film was the first Steven Spielberg feature film not to be storyboarded.
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.
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), Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Empire of the Sun (1987), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), a remake of the World War II movie A Guy Named Joe (1943) titled, Always (1989), Schindler's List (1993), and Saving Private Ryan (1998).
After finishing Hook (1991), Steven Spielberg opted to make this film next. Universal Pictures Chairman Sid Sheinberg greenlit the film, on the condition that Spielberg make Jurassic Park (1993) first.
When Steven Spielberg was dividing time between this film and Jurassic Park (1993), he was in contact with special effects company Industrial Light & Magic 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.
The cufflinks Schindler is seen putting on in the opening scene have the logo of the Seabourn cruise line on them. Steven Spielberg was given them as a gift by his cousin, who had taken a Seabourn cruise.
Helen Hirsch is based on Helen Jonas (nee Sternlicht), whose story is shown in the documentary Inheritance (2006).
The film, as shown in most countries, had the song "Yerushalayim Shel Zahav", Jerusalem of Gold, at the end. When it was shown in Israel, audiences laughed at this, as this song was written after the 1967 war as a pop song. The producers then re-dubbed the song "Eli Eli", which was written by Hannah Senesh during World War II, 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.
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.
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.
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."
The song being played when Schindler enters the nightclub and meets all of the Nazi officials is called "Por Una Cabeza". The same song is played as the tango in True Lies (1994) and Scent of a Woman (1992).
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 in direct view when walking in the correct historical direction across the bridge into the Krakow ghetto.
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 for which she was considered is unknown.
Steven Spielberg watched Good Evening, Mr. Wallenberg (1990) six times before the shooting.
Steven Spielberg left the editing on Jurassic Park (1993) for two weeks so he could start shooting this film in Poland.
Ralph Fiennes' character (Amon Göth) doesn't appear until nearly fifty-two minutes into the film.
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).
Sidney Lumet was approached to direct, but felt that he had already covered the subject of the Holocaust with The Pawnbroker (1964).
DIRECTOR TRADEMARK (Steven Spielberg): (mirror): An important image in the rear-view mirror of a car.
At the 66th Academy Awards, this film and Jurassic Park (1993), both directed by Steven Spielberg, competed for the Best Sound category. Jurassic Park (1993) won.
During the list scene, there was an exchange between Itzhak Stern and Oskar Schindler. Stern--"How many cigarettes do you smoke?" Schindler--"Too many". This 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.
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 by Skarsgård.
After one of Schindler's workers is killed by the S.S., mention is made of the "S.S. Office of Budget and Construction" which was an agency set up in the late 1930s to coordinate construction (and later slave labor) projects in occupied territories. This office was merged with several others in 1941 to become the extremely powerful "S.S. Main Office of Economics and Administration", known as the W.V.H.A., which ran all slave labor and concentration camps throughout Nazi Germany. Department W of the W.V.H.A. (which Schindler mentions at the end of the film) was in charge of labor projects and frequently came into conflict with Department D (Concentration Camps) whose S.S. personnel were often the ones who arbitrarily killed workers.
In June 2008, this film was ranked #3 on the American Film Institute's list of the 10 greatest films in the genre "Epic".
The first collaboration between Steven Spielberg and cinematographer Janusz Kaminski.
Details about Thomas Keneally's book "Schindler's Ark", on which this film was based, is mentioned in the documentary Adolf Hitler: The Greatest Story Never Told (2013).
While the Nazis are moving confiscated luggage, one of the bags is labelled "Sonnenschein". Ralph Fiennes (Amon Göth) appeared in the Holocaust movie Sunshine (1999) as Ignatz Sonnenschein.
As of 2018, the only film which won Best Picture at the Academy Awards and featured an Oscar winning score by John Williams.
In a television interview with Larry King on Larry King Live (1985), Dustin Hoffman claimed that he was originally offered the role of Itzhak Stern by Steven Spielberg, and accepted it, but was quoted in the media as declining the part, due to a mix-up in communication between his agent and Spielberg. However, he praised Sir Ben Kingsley's performance of Itzhak Stern as "a marvelous job".
Selected by the Vatican in the "values" category of its list of forty-five "great films".
Amon Göth (Ralph Fiennes) quotes William Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice" to Helen Hirsch, saying, "Hath not a Jew eyes?" Fiennes' brother, Joseph, appeared in the movie The Merchant of Venice (2004).
Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
This is the first war film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture Oscar since Platoon (1986), the first predominantly black-and-white war film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture Oscar since The Longest Day (1962) and 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). It is also 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), 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), the first predominantly black-and-white film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture Oscar since The Apartment (1960), the first war film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture Oscar since Born on the Fourth of July (1989), 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). It is the first Steven Spielberg war film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture since Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), the first was Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).
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. Here, Neeson's character wants to save people from death, while in Clash of the Titans (2010), Fiennes character wants to destroy people.
As of 2018, the only film produced and directed by Steven Spielberg to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards.
Only Hollywood film to date (2017) to be filmed by Polish cinematographer Janusz Kaminski on-location in his homeland of Poland.
The first film to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards, Producers Guild of America Awards, and BAFTA Awards, as well as Best Picture - Drama at the Golden Globe Awards.
The set decorator on this film, who shared the Best Art Direction Academy Award with Allan Starski, is named Ewa Braun. Eva Braun was also the name of Adolf Hitler's mistress. Billy Crystal later said that he regretted not being the host of the Oscars that year because he heard the name on television and wanted to call host Whoopi Goldberg right away and point out the odd coincidence.
Kevin Costner expressed an interest in playing Oskar Schindler, he even contacted Spielberg personally and said he'd play the part for free.
Steven Spielberg directs Sir Ben Kingsley, the star of Gandhi (1982), to which he had lost the Best Picture and Best Director Oscars eleven years before. His previous movie, Jurassic Park (1993), featured Sir Richard Attenborough, to whom he had lost them. For this film, Spielberg finally won both.
Included among the American Film Institute's 1998 list of the Top 100 Greatest American Movies.