As everybody suspected, including the HFPA, Steven Spielberg was a director able to transcend the mere greatness of pop-culture entertainment (see Jaws, E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Raiders of the Lost Ark), and tackle serious issues with the same skill and artistry (see The Color Purple). With Schindler's List, Mr. Spielberg had everyone agreeing over what would be considered his masterpiece. The film, written by Steve Zaillian, tells the real story of German businessman Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), who saved the lives of more than a thousand Polish Jews from the Nazis, during WWII, by employing them in his factories. It also stars Ralph Fiennes as S.S. Officer Amon Göth, and Ben Kingsley as Schindler's Jewish accountant Itzhak Stern.
Schindler's List received six Golden Globe nominations, winning three: Best Picture – Drama, Best Director (Spielberg) and Best Screenplay (Zaillian). It went on to win seven Academy Awards. It was the first Golden Globe award for Spielberg after six nominations (starting with Jaws in 1975): he'd win again for Saving Private Ryan and received the Cecil B. deMille Award in 2008. It was also his first Academy Award.
At the 51st Golden Globe Awards, held on January 22, 1994, at the Beverly Hilton, Schindler's List came in as the big favorite, though the competition in the Drama section was particularly strong, the other nominees being In the Name of the Father, The Remains of the Day, The Piano, and The Age of Innocence. Neeson was nominated for Best Actor – Drama, but Tom Hanks won for Philadelphia. Fiennes was nominated for Best Supporting Actor–Tommy Lee Jones won forThe Fugitive.
Spielberg filmed Schindler's List in Krakow, Poland (including Auschwitz) and Israel. He was able to get permission to film inside Auschwitz, but chose not to, out of respect for the victims, so the death camp scenes were actually filmed outside the gates, on a set constructed in a mirror image of the real location on the other side. While the film is shot primarily in black and white, a red coat is used to distinguish a little girl in the scene depicting the Nazi roundup of the Kraków ghetto.
Spielberg wanted Roman Polanski to direct. Only later he decided to take the helm himself. Universal green-lit the film on the condition that Spielberg made Jurassic Park first. When Spielberg returned to Cal State Long Beach to earn his B.A., 34 years after dropping out, his film professor accepted Schindler's List in lieu of the short student film normally required to pass the class.