Schindler’s List is arguably the best Steven Spielberg movie if not one of the greatest films ever made. A true masterpiece, the film captures the brutal horror of the Holocaust while reaffirming the notion that goodness can still exist even in the most hopeless of circumstances.
It’s hard to imagine any other filmmaker than Spielberg balancing that difficult tone but even he wasn’t convinced he could pull it off. According to EW when Spielberg was first approached about making Schindler’s List he wasn’t sure he was mature enough to make the war movie. Eventually, he handed the film over to his friend Martin Scorsese, convinced he was the man to tell the story of the morally grey Schindler.
Yet soon after giving the film to his friend Spielberg realised his mistake. “I thought Marty would do a great job with it,” Spielberg told EW. “He wouldn’t back down from truth or violence. But the minute I gave it to Marty, I missed it. I’d given away a chance to do something for my children and family about the Holocaust.”
The two directors agreed to a swap, Spielberg would make Schindler’s List while Scorsese would work on a remake of the thriller movie Cape Fear starring the one and only Robert DeNiro.
Universal greased the wheels of the deal, according to producer Tom Pollock, by allowing Scorsese to make his religious epic The Last Temptation of Christ first.
“With Marty, it was about making Last Temptation,” Pollock explained. “In return I got Cape Fear, Casino, and other more commercially successful movies, even though Marty is not a commercial filmmaker at heart.”
It all worked out in the end as well. Both Schindler’s List and Cape Fear were commercial and critical hits. Although it was Spielberg who probably got the better side of the deal.