Cameo: [Co-producer Branko Lustig, Auschwitz survivor)] nightclub maître d' in Oskar Schindler's first scene. On receiving his Oscar, he recited his serial number A3317.
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.
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.
The most expensive black & white film ever made to date. The previous record was held for over 30 years by another film about World War II, The Longest Day (1962).
According to the art directors; no green was used on the set in form of paint or clothing because it did 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.
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.
Harrison Ford was offered the title role but declined, saying that some people would not be able to look past him as a star to see the importance of the film.
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 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.
For the epilogue scene, all actors are required to accompany the original Schindlerjuden they portrayed in the movie in pairs (actor and the Jew they portrayed carrying and placing a pebble on the grave). This actually explains why Liam Neeson was the one placing the flowers on the stone before the end credits roll in.
Swiss actor Bruno Ganz was sought to play the role of Oskar Schindler, but turned it down. Ganz later appeared in an important WWII movie, that of Adolf Hitler in Downfall (2004).
Director Trademark: [Steven Spielberg] [mirror] An important image in the rear-view mirror of a car (see Duel (1971), Jurassic Park (1993)).
About 40% of the film was shot using a handheld camera.
When we see the Jews marching across the bridge into the ghetto, this is not the direction they would have walked in real life. Since the movie company couldn't get permission to film on the other side of the bridge (the actual location of the Jewish ghetto) the actors are walking the wrong way. Also, a large modern radio tower exists in direct view when walking in the correct historical direction across the bridge into the Krakow ghetto - another reason this shot was filmed in the other direction.
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).
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 is why the cast and the Schindlerjuden cover Oskar Schindler's grave with stones at the end of the movie.
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.
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.
The film's tagline "Whoever saves one life saves the world entire" is a quotation from the Talmud.
Sidney Lumet was originally attached to direct but felt that he had already covered the subject of the Holocaust with his film The Pawnbroker (1964). Then Billy Wilder turned in a draft of the screenplay before deciding that he wanted to retire from film-making.
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.
Ranked #3 on the American Film Institute's 100 Most Inspiring Movies of All Time (2006).
[June 2008] Ranked #3 on the American Film Institute's list of the 10 greatest films in the genre "Epic".
In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked this as the #8 Greatest Movie of All Time.
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).
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.
Amon Goeth's name is pronounced "Aimen Gert". Ralph Fiennes ("Rayf Fines") said in an interview that one of the reasons he was interested in playing Amon was because both their names are spelled differently then they are pronounced.
During the liquidation scene, 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.
Ralph Fiennes put on 13kg by drinking Guinness for his role. Steven Spielberg cast him because of his "evil sexuality".
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.
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.
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 George Lucas.
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.
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.
Steven Spielberg was not paid for this film. He refused to accept a salary citing that it would be "blood money".
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 Auschwitz concentration camp. Polanski would later direct his own film about the Holocaust, The Pianist (2002).