• During World War II, Oskar Schindler saved over 1,000 Jews by employing them in his factories and shielding them from the Nazis. One of the Jews he saved was a man named Leopold Page. When the war ended, Page moved to Beverly Hills and set up a shop on Rodeo Drive selling leather goods. He kept trying to get Hollywood interested in telling Schindler’s story.
• One day in 1980 a novelist came into Page’s shop to buy a briefcase. Page told him Schindler’s story, and the author ended up writing a book about it, called “Schindler’s List.” By the time it was published in 1982, Schindler had been dead for 8 years.
• The president of Universal Studios loved the book and bought the film rights, asking Steven Spielberg to direct the movie. Spielberg agreed and then immediately got cold feet. He was worried about properly portraying such an intense subject.
• Spielberg asked several other directors if they would take on the project, including Roman Polanski. Polanski told him that he had been incarcerated by the Nazis in the Krakow ghetto in Poland until he escaped at the age of 8, and that his mother had died in Auschwitz. He declined to take on the film, though he later won an Oscar for his 2003 film “The Pianist” which is also about the Holocaust.
• By the time Spielberg finally decided to make the movie in 1993, so much time had passed that Universal Studios balked, thinking the film too risky. They struck an agreement with Spielberg: if he first made a lucrative summer blockbuster called “Jurassic Park,” they would bankroll his passion project “Schindler’s List” to be released in December.
• Big-name actors including Kevin Costner, Mel Gibson, and Warren Beatty auditioned for the lead role, but Spielberg decided he didn’t want a famous actor for the part. A relatively unknown actor named Liam Neeson had auditioned for the part, and then went on to accept a role in a Broadway play. One evening after the play ended, there was a knock on Neeson’s dressing room door. He opened the door to find Steven Spielberg, offering him the role as Oskar Schindler.
• Branko Lustig became the producer after showing Spielberg his tattooed serial number from Auschwitz on his arm.
• Leopold Page was employed as a consultant.
• Spielberg originally wanted to shoot the movie completely in Polish and German using subtitles, but he eventually decided against it because it would detract from the urgency of the images onscreen. He decided to shoot the film in black and white instead of color in order to better portray the era. It turned out to be the most expensive black and white movie ever made, in spite of having a very trim budget of only $22 million.
• Much of the film was shot in the Jewish ghetto of Krakow over the course of 92 days. However, a replica of the Plaszow concentration camp was also built on the edge of the town, making it one of the largest sets ever constructed in Poland.
• Spielberg refused to take any pay for his work on this film. Instead, he used his portion of the profits to found the USC Shoah Foundation, established in 1994 to honor and remember the survivors of the Holocaust by collecting personal recollections and audio visual interviews.
• “Schindler’s List” was nominated for 12 Academy Awards and won seven of them.

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