Martin Scorsese reveals why he left Schindler’s List with Steven Spielberg
Before Steven Spielberg directed the classic 1993 historical drama Schindler’s Listwas originally in the hands of Martin Scorsese. On the occasion of the Scorsese festival he went back to talking about the film and why in the end he gave the film back to Spielberg. Talking with Deadlines in an exclusive profile, the legendary director was asked about the film, and why Steven Spielberg offered him the chance to direct it. While Scorsese nearly succeeded, he ultimately handed the project back to Steven Spielberg and cited the reception of his 1988 film The Last Temptation of Christ as one of the factors in his decision.
“For Schindler’s List, I hired Steve Zaillian, and Steve and I worked on the scriptScorsese said. “I was going to direct it. But at one point I had reservations. Don’t forget, this is 1990, I’d say. I made The Last Temptation of Christ in 1988. The whole point of that film was to start a dialogue about something that is still important to me, which is the nature – the true nature – of love, which could be god, could be Jesus . I’m not culturally ambivalent here, it’s what’s in us. Is God in us? I really am like that; I can not do anything about it. I like to explore it”. Scorsese went on to say that he felt the story of Schindler’s List would probably be best told by an actual Jew.
“In the case of Schindler’s List, the trauma I had gone through was such that I felt comfortable addressing that subject… I knew there were Jewish people appalled that the writer of The Diary of Anne Frank was graciousScorsese said. “I heard that there were people complaining about Schindler, that he used inmates to make money off them. I said, ‘Wait a minute.’ I could… well, not defend him, but argue who he was. I think he was an extraordinary man, but I didn’t know if I was equipped for that at the time. I didn’t have the knowledge. I remember Steve Spielberg, over the years, always telling me about it. He showed the book while we were on a plane to Cannes and said, ‘This is my dark film and I will‘”.
“I used the phrase at the time“I’m not Jewish“. What I meant was, it’s the old story that the journey was to be taken by a Jewish person through that world, and I think Steven learned that too. It came from… [pausa] where is it set The Fabelmans, Phoenix? He told me there were only 200 Jews in Phoenix. I could not believe it. Because I’m from the Lower East Side and grew up with the Jewish community. I wasn’t selfless, but it made sense to me that he was the one who would have to go through all of this. I was worried that I might not be able to do justice to the situation“.