Steven Spielberg, Liam Neeson reflect on ‘Schindler’s List’ 25 years later

Tribeca Film Festival’s retrospective screening of “Schindler’s List” marked the first time the cast had seen the acclaimed movie in 25 years.

“I feel so blessed I had the opportunity to tell this story,” said Steven Spielberg, who won Oscars for best directing and best picture for “Schindler’s List” in 1993. “Twenty-five years later, I sat through the whole film, which I hadn’t done in so long, and I was just proud.”

Spielberg and cast members Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, Embeth Davidtz, and Caroline Goodall were greeted after the screening with a standing ovation at the Beacon Theater in New York.

During the panel, Spielberg set the record straight on the origins of “Schindler’s List”: Is it true Martin Scorsese could have directed it? “Yes, that’s true.” Is it true Mel Gibson could have been cast in the lead? “That’s not true.”

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Celebs at 2018 Tribeca Film Festival
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Celebs at 2018 Tribeca Film Festival
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 27: Businesswoman Nicky Hilton Rothschild is seen arriving to the screening of 'The American Meme' during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at Spring Studios on April 27, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 27: Actress Paris Hilton is seen arriving to the screening of 'The American Meme' during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at Spring Studios on April 27, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 28: Julianne Moore attends 'Time's Up' during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at Spring Studios on April 28, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 27: Paris Hilton (L) and Hailey Baldwin attend 'The American Meme' screening premiere during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at Spring Studios on April 27, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Gary Gershoff/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 27: Viola Davis attends the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival screening of 'The Last Defense' at SVA Theater on April 27, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Paul Zimmerman/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 19: Actor Ethan Hawke attends a screening of 'Stockholm' during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at SVA Theatre on April 19, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 28: Lupita Nyong'o speaks onstage at 'Time's Up' during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at Spring Studios on April 28, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 26: Actress Claire Danes attends Director's Series: Lesli Linka Glatter with Claire Danes during 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at Spring Studios on April 26, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 26: (L-R) Steven Spielberg, Liam Neeson and Sir Ben Kingsley attend the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival - 'Schindler's List' Reunion at Beacon Theatre on April 26, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Paul Zimmerman/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 24: Actress Rachel Weisz attends the 'Disobedience' premiere during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at BMCC Tribeca PAC on April 24, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)
NEW YORK, USA - APRIL 24: Rachel McAdams attends a screening of 'Disobedience' during the Tribeca Film Festival at the BMCC Tribeca PAC in New York, United States on April 24, 2018. (Photo by Atilgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 23: Bruce Springsteen performs during 'Horses: Patti Smith and Her Band' - 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at Beacon Theatre on April 23, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 23: Actor Jamie Foxx attends the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival - Tribeca Talks: Storytellers - at BMCC Tribeca PAC on April 23, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Paul Zimmerman/WireImage)
NEW YORK, USA - APRIL 23: Patti Smith, attends a screening of 'Horses' during the Tribeca Film Festival at Beacon Theatre in New York, United States on April 23, 2018. (Photo by Atilgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 21: Saoirse Ronan is seen attending 'The Seagull' premiere during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at BMCC Tribeca PAC on April 21, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Nancy Rivera/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 22: Chloe Grace Moretz attend 'The Miseducation of Cameron Post' premiere during the Tribeca Film Festival at BMCC Tribeca PAC on April 22, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Ben Gabbe/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)
Christina Hendricks at the afterparty for "Egg," hosted by the IMDbPro App at TAO Downtown, in an eye-popping black lace top.
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 20: Actor Antonio Banderas attends 'Genius: Picasso' during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at BMCC Tribeca PAC on April 20, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Gary Gershoff/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 21: Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro attend the Storytellers: Bradley Cooper & Robert DeNiro talk during 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at Spring Studios on April 21, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 21: Whoopi Goldberg attends the Shorts Program: The History of White People in America during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at Regal Battery Park 11 on April 21, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)
Aubrey Plaza (L) and Alia Shawkat attend the after party hosted by Ciroc for 'Duck Butter' during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at Bar Gonzo on April 20, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for 2018 Tribeca Film Festival)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 21: Violetta Komyshan and actor Ansel Elgort arrives to the 'Jonathan' screening during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at SVA Theater on April 21, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images)
Alec Baldwin and Annette Bening attend 'The Seagull' screening during 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at SVA Theatre on April 21, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by ANGELA WEISS / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images)
Annette Bening and Saoirse Ronan were among the guests at the afterparty for "The Seagull," hosted by Bulleit at Mailroom.
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 21: Ewan McGregor attends the 'Zoe' premiere during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at BMCC Tribeca PAC on April 21, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Ben Gabbe/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 19: Michelle Pfeiffer attends a screening of 'Scarface' during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at Beacon Theatre on April 19, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Taylor Hill/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 19: Actor Al Pacino attends a screening of 'Scarface' during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at Beacon Theatre on April 19, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Taylor Hill/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 19: Michelle Pfeiffer and Al Pacino attend the 'Scarface' 35th Anniversary Cast Reunion - 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at Beacon Theatre on April 19, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 19: John Legend attends the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival - Tribeca Talks: Storytellers - John Legend at SVA Theater on April 19, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Paul Zimmerman/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 19: Sarah Jessica Parker arrives to the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival - 'Blue Night' at SVA Theatre on April 19, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by James Devaney/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 19: Actors Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker are seen leaving the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival after-party for 'Blue Night' hosted by Nespresso at The Ainsworth on April 19, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images)
Ewan McGregor hit the afterparty for ZOE, where guests were treated to bites by Nutella at The Ainsworth FiDi.
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 19: Thandie Newton attends 'Westworld' during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at BMCC Tribeca PAC on April 19, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by John Lamparski/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 19: James Marsden attends 'Westworld' during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at BMCC Tribeca PAC on April 19, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by John Lamparski/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 19: Evan Rachel Wood attends 'Westworld' during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at BMCC Tribeca PAC on April 19, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by John Lamparski/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 18: Ray Liotta and Silva Lombardo attend the Opening Night Gala of 'Love, Gilda' - 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at Beacon Theatre on April 18, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)
NEW YORK, NY, UNITED STATES - 2018/04/18: Ray Liotta and Silva Lombardo at the Tribeca Film Festival red carpet arrivals for the film 'Love, Gilda' at the Beacon Theatre. (Photo by Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 18: Tina Fey attends the Opening Night Gala of 'Love, Gilda' during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at Beacon Theatre on April 18, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Taylor Hill/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 18: Robert De Niro attends the opening night gala of 'Love, Gilda' during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at Beacon Theatre on April 18, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 18: Lorne Michaels attends the Opening Night Gala of 'Love, Gilda' during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at Beacon Theatre on April 18, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Taylor Hill/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 18: Chevy Chase attends the Opening Night Gala of 'Love, Gilda' during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at Beacon Theatre on April 18, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Taylor Hill/FilmMagic)
Billy Crystal attends the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival opening night premiere of 'Love, Gilda' at Beacon Theatre on April 18, 2018 in New York City. / AFP PHOTO / ANGELA WEISS (Photo credit should read ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 18: Keegan-Michael Key attends the Opening Night Gala of 'Love, Gilda' during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at Beacon Theatre on April 18, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Taylor Hill/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 18: Paul Shaffer attends the Opening Night Gala of 'Love, Gilda' - 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at Beacon Theatre on April 18, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)
NEW YORK, NY, UNITED STATES - 2018/04/18: Gilbert Gottfried at the Tribeca Film Festival red carpet arrivals for the film 'Love, Gilda' at the Beacon Theatre. (Photo by Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Cobie Smulders attends the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival opening night premiere of 'Love, Gilda' at Beacon Theatre on April 18, 2018 in New York City. / AFP PHOTO / ANGELA WEISS (Photo credit should read ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images)
Jenny Cipolett of Margo and Me at the Chloe Wine Collection screening of the film 'Blue Night'.
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 19: Musician Common attends a screening of 'Blue Night' during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at SVA Theatre on April 19, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 19: Actress Jacqueline Bisset is seen arriving to the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival after-party for 'Blue Night' hosted by Nespresso at The Ainsworth on April 19, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 19: Actor Martin Freeman attends 'Cargo' Red Carpet Premiere - 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at SVA Theatre on April 19, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Netflix)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 19: Sara Bareilles attends the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival - Tribeca Talks: Storytellers - John Legend at SVA Theater on April 19, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Paul Zimmerman/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 20: Actress Jennifer Morrison leaving the screening of 'Back Roads' during the Tribeca Film Festival at Cinepolis Chelsea on April 20, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 20: Actor T.R. Knight attends 'Genius: Picasso' during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at BMCC Tribeca PAC on April 20, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Gary Gershoff/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 20: Elijah Wood attends the screening of '7 Stages to Achieve Eternal Bliss By Passing Through The Gateway Chosen By the Holy Storsh' during the Tribeca Film Festival at SVA Theatre on April 20, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 22: Actress Eliza Dushku arriving to the Screening of 'Mapplethorpe' during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at SVA Theatre on April 22, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images)
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The lead role of Oskar Schindler went to Neeson, who admitted he was “feeling unworthy,” despite being cast by Spielberg himself. Neeson recalled having difficulty putting on weight for the part. “However, pints of Guinness in Poland did work,” he joked.

Neeson reflected on a memorable scene that was shot outside the gates of Auschwitz. Producer Branko Lustig went up to him and said, “See that hut there? That was the hut I was in.” Neeson said, “It hit me, big f—ing time.”

Spielberg said when he was about three quarters done filming, he started to fear people wouldn’t believe “Schindler’s List” was a true story. “I’m so known for films that are nothing like this,” he pointed out.

In turn, conquering that fear led to one of the most poignant and powerful moments in the film, where survivors and their cinematic counterparts put stones on Schindler’s grave in Jerusalem.

“That was a desperate attempt by me to find validation from the survivor community, to be able to certify that what we had done was credible,” Spielberg explained.

To keep his spirits up on the somber set, Spielberg said he would watch “Seinfeld” episodes and talk to Robin Williams on the phone once a week. “He would call and do 15 minutes of stand-up on the phone,” Spielberg recalled. “He never said bye. He hung up on the loudest laugh you gave him.”

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