If you ask people about the best movies of all time, it won’t be too long until you hear the words Schindler’s List. Set during World War 2, the historical drama movie from director Steven Spielberg is regarded as a masterpiece, following Oskar Schindler as he attempts to save over a thousand Polish-Jewish refugees from the Holocaust, at huge personal risk.
The movie based on a true story has Star Wars movie actor Liam Neeson in the leading role as Oskar Schindler, which is considered to be one of the actor’s greatest performances and led to an Oscar nomination.
However, while Neeson still has enormous admiration for Schindler’s List, the action movie legend has been upfront about the fact that he found working with Spielberg intense and difficult, and that he was unhappy at various stages.
Speaking with The Late Late Show on RTE, Neeson explored his reasoning. “I think it’s a wonderful film, I think Steven has done a really extraordinary film. I’m not happy with my performance at all. Because I don’t see any of me in it. Just me, Liam Neeson, you know?
“Steven directed me very, very, very, very minutely. There were times — like there’s a shot there of me with a cigarette … I was a smoker at the time, he’d be telling me when to smoke. He’d be telling me when to breathe.”
The actor continued, explaining the impact this had on him, “I remember saying, ‘I can’t handle this. I’m not a puppet,’ you know? Anyway there’s a lot of scenes so when I see it I’m aware of Steven directing me on exactly how to hold the cigarette, and when to breathe, and when to look here and when to look there. So I’m not happy with my performance, even though I think the film is masterful.”
The ever-honest Neeson’s comments are fascinating, giving an insight into what it was like to work under Spielberg in a year where he also directed Jurassic Park. Perhaps the most noteworthy part of Neeson’s thoughts, though, is how he is able to draw a distinction between the success of the movie itself, and how he perceives the success of his performance within it.
Despite Neeson’s own issues with the end-product, the movie still stands as his best role within one of the most significant movies of all time. For more on Spielberg, check out our lists of the best science fiction movies, the best thriller movies, the best disaster movies, and the best war movies. He’s on them all.