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Schindler’s List opens, wins Spielberg his first Oscar

On this day in 1993, Schindler’s List, starring Liam Neeson in the true story of a German businessman who saves the lives of more than a thousand Polish Jews during the Holocaust, opens in theaters. The film was nominated for 12 Academy Awards and took home seven Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director. It was the first Best Director win for Spielberg, who had been nominated in the category for three of his earlier films: 1977’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 1981’s Raiders of the LostArk and 1982’s E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. Schindler’s List was adapted from Thomas Keneally’s 1982 book Schindler’s Ark, about the Catholic businessman Oskar Schindler, who saved a large number of Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in a factory that made supplies for the German army. The film co-starred Ben Kingsley as Schindler’s Jewish accountant and Ralph Fiennes as an evil Nazi officer.

Spielberg, born on December 18, 1946, had his first major success as a director with 1975’s Jaws, about a killer shark that terrorizes a New England beach community. Jaws became the first movie in history to gross more than $100 million. Spielberg’s next film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, about several humans who have life-changing run-ins with UFOs, was another huge box-office success. Spielberg scored yet another massive hit with 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, which starred Harrison Ford as the adventurous archeologist Indiana Jones. The movie, co-written by George Lucas (Star Wars), was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. It became a successful movie franchise, and Spielberg helmed the film’s sequels: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) and Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull (2008). Spielberg’s credits also include E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial and Jurassic Park (1993), two of Hollywood’s all-time highest-grossing movies, as well as the Academy Award-winning dramas The Color Purple (1985) and Saving Private Ryan (1998), which earned him his second Best Director Oscar. Among Spielberg’s more recent directorial credits are Minority Report (2002), with Tom Cruise; Catch Me if You Can (2002), with Leonardo DiCaprio; and Munich (2005), for which he received another Best Director Oscar nomination.

Liam Neeson, born on June 7, 1952, in Ballymena, Northern Ireland, began his stage career in the 1970s and during the 1980s appeared in such films as Excalibur (1981), The Mission (1986), Suspect (1987), with Cher, and The Good Mother (1988), with Diane Keaton. Following his performance in Schindler’s List, for which he earned a Best Actor Oscar nomination, Neeson starred in such movies as Rob Roy (1995), Michael Collins (1996) and Star Wars: Episode 1-The Phantom Menace (1999). Among Neeson’s other credits are the director Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York (2002), Love Actually (2003), with Hugh Grant; the biopic Kinsey (2004), Batman Begins (2005) and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe (2005).

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