Liam Neeson in "Schindler's List"
ManOfTheCenturyMovie Film Why Martin Scorsese gave ‘Schindler’s List’ to Steven Spielberg after ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’ backlash

Why Martin Scorsese gave ‘Schindler’s List’ to Steven Spielberg after ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’ backlash

Liam Neeson in "Schindler's List"

Martin Scorsese is opening up about why he chose not to direct “Schindler’s List.”

The Oscar winner revealed in an extensive interview with Expiration who finally decided to hand ‘Schindler’s List’ to Steven Spielberg after the reception of his controversial 1988 film ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’. The film portrayed the life of Jesus Christ, including temptations to lust, in ways that sparked outrage from some Christians.

“For ‘Schindler’s List,’ I hired Steve Zaillian and Steve and I worked on the script. I was going to direct it. But at one point I had reservations,” Scorsese said. “Don’t forget, this is 1990, I would say. I did ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’ in 1988. 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’t help it. I like to explore it. I wanted a dialogue about this. But I didn’t know all of this yet.”

He continued, “So, I did ‘Last Temptation,’ I did it a certain way, and ‘Schindler’s List’ was scuttled by its reception. I have done my best. I’ve been around the world. Any discussion, I accepted it. I may have been wrong, but I’m not sure you can be wrong with the dogma. But we could discuss it.”

Scorsese worried that his own Christianity would impact the reception of the Holocaust drama “Schindler’s List” if he directed it.

“In the case of ‘Schindler’s List,’ the trauma I had gone through was such that I felt I had to address that subject… I knew there were Jewish people who were upset that the writer of ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ was gentle,” the “Killers of the Flower Moon” said the author. “I heard that there were people complaining about Schindler, that he used convicts 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.

Enter: Spielberg.

“I remember Steve Spielberg, over the years, always telling me about it. He held up the book while we were on a plane to Cannes and said, “This is my dark film and I’m going to do it.” It was 1975,” Scorsese recalled. “And I said, ‘Well, I have ‘The Last Temptation of Christ,’ and I will.’”

Scorsese continued, “I used the phrase ‘I’m not a Jew’ at the time. 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 to him, where is ‘The Fabelmans’ set, 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.”

Scorsese also pointed out that his career state may ultimately have hurt the Spielberg-directed 1993 period drama, which won seven Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay.

“I guarantee you, if I had, it wouldn’t have been the hit it has become,” Scorsese said. “It might have been good, I can tell you. I had some ideas. Most of it is there. I had a different ending. I admired the film a lot. But I know my films don’t go there. They don’t go to the academy.

Scorsese won his first directorial Oscar in 2007 for “The Departed” after 13 nominations, including one for “The Last Temptation of Christ”.

“You’ll say, ‘But you have so many nominations!’ Yes, it’s true. But when Paul Schrader and I weren’t nominated for Best Writing and Best Director for ‘Taxi Driver,’ that set the tone,” Scorsese said. “I realized, ‘Shut up and make movies.'”

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