To commemorate the 25th Anniversary of Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-winning masterpiece Schindler’s List, STACK follows Oskar Schindler’s story to the screen.
- Poldeck Pfefferberg, one of the 1100 Jews saved from Nazi concentration and extermination camps by Oskar Schindler, was determined that the German businessman’s incredible wartime exploits be acknowledged. He emigrated to the US in 1948, setting up a leather luggage store in Beverly Hills. As early as 1951, Pfefferberg, who changed his name to Leopold Page, propositioned filmmaker Fritz Lang about a potential screen adaptation of Schindler’s story, after recognising the director in his shop.
- Schindler was keen to push his story, too. Following the end of the war, he had pursued a number of failed business ideas and was short of money. Part of his story was told in a 1960 German radio play called Licht in fer Finsternis (Light in the Darkness). Two years later he courted MCA (Germany) and Walt Disney Productions in Vienna with the idea for a film. Neither project progressed.
- In 1963, the wife of writer-director Martin Gosch walked into Page’s Beverly Hills shop. Page took the opportunity to relay Schindler’s story that was passed on to Gosch. Casablanca co-writer Howard Koch wrote a 130-page treatment, Delbert Mann was attached to direct, and Gosch identified Gregory Peck as the actor he wanted to play Schindler. MGM agreed to pay Schindler $50,000 for the story rights, giving him $25,000 up front. However, interest in the production stalled, but not before Schindler spent his advance.
- During a 1980 stopover in Los Angeles, Australian author Thomas Keneally visited Page’s luggage shop where he learned first-hand about Schindler. Although Schindler had died six years prior, Page furnished Keneally with all the information and interviews he had collated over the years and the novelist began work on what would become the 1982 book Schindler’s Ark. Former MCA/Universal president Sid Sheinberg sent Steven Spielberg the review of Schindler’s Ark in The New York Times and a copy of the book. Spielberg registered enough interest in the story (which he had never heard before) for Universal to secure the movie rights.
- However, Spielberg thought he was too young to make a movie about the Holocaust at that point in his career. He initially offered directorial duties to Roman Polanski and then Sydney Pollack. When both declined, Spielberg asked industry luminary Billy Wilder if he wanted the film as his final project. Wilder eventually rejected the offer and tried to convince Spielberg to direct it. Finally, after giving the film to Martin Scorsese, he reneged, gave Scorsese the Cape Fear remake, and decided to direct it himself.
- When Spielberg finished Hook in 1991, he was ready to begin work on Schindler’s List. However, Sid Sheinberg insisted that he would only green light the film if the director made Jurassic Park first. Spielberg agreed.
- Numerous actors were considered for, or expressed an interest in, the role of Oskar Schindler. They included Warren Beatty, Harrison Ford, Bruno Ganz, Kevin Costner and Mel Gibson. Although Liam Neeson did audition for the part, it wasn’t until Spielberg saw him in the Broadway production of ‘Anna Christie’ that the director offered him the role.
- Spielberg was so troubled by the subject matter he was filming that Robin Williams would call him on location in Poland weekly and do a 15-minute stand-up routine over the phone.
- The director tried to shoot as close to the original locations as possible. Unable to film at Auschwitz, he built replica parts of the camp just outside of the actual site.
- Filmed in just 72 days on a budget of $22 million, Schindler’s List would go on to win seven Academy Awards including Spielberg’s first Oscar for Best Director.
The Schindler’s List 25th Anniversary edition is out
on DVD, Blu-ray and 4K UHD + Blu-ray on February 20
- All three formats will include a bonus disc featuring 45-mins of new content comprising Schindler’s List: 25 Years Later and Let Their Memories Speak – Stronger Than Hate, as well as a USC Shoah Foundation insert.
- The following bonus features from the 20th Anniversary release are included on the Blu-ray and 4K UHD + Blu-ray:
USC Shoah Foundation Story with Steven Spielberg/ Voices from the List/ About iWitness