On Thursday night, actor Liam Neeson appeared at Philadelphia’s Prince Music Theater to introduce a 20th anniversary screening of Steven Spielberg‘s acclaimed Holocaust drama “Schindler’s List.”
The event, which benefited the USC Shoah Foundation — a Spielberg-founded organization that preserves more than 52,000 eyewitness accounts of the Holocaust — included a special message from the director himself, and was attended by Holocaust survivors saved from the Plaszow labor camp by Oskar Schindler.
Neeson earned an Academy Award nomination for his performance as the German businessman who saved more than 1,000 Jewish refugees, and as the 61-year-old actor took the theater podium, he was immediately overcome with emotion.
“Forgive me,” he said as his voice began to crack. “It’s been many years since I’ve been in this sort of company. And it always floors me.”
After regaining his composure, Neeson explained the audition process that ultimately won him the role of Oskar Schindler, and frankly confessed he still “doesn’t know why” Spielberg chose him for the part.
“I did a screen test for Steven in 1992. It was just he and I in a room,” the actor began. “He had a video camera. I had learned some scenes from script. Two, three hours later, I thought, well, if I don’t get the part, I had this masterclass with one of the great cinematic storytellers in the world.”
After the screen test, Neeson went to New York City for a stint in Eugene O’Neill‘s Broadway play “Anna Christie,” which co-starred his late wife-to-be Natasha Richardson.
“Steven came to see it with his wife [Kate Capshaw] and his mother-in-law, and very graciously came backstage, and I was determined not to say, ‘Well, have I got the part?‘” Neeson said, but recalled hugging Capshaw’s mother upon their meeting instead. “And, apparently, Kate… said to Steven afterwards, on the drive back home, ‘That’s just what Schindler would have done.'”
He continued: “That’s maybe the myth. The fact is, Steven said to me, ‘You got it from your screen test.’ When it doubt, always print the myth.”
Check out Liam Neeson’s full speech from the Prince Music Theater in Philadelphia below.
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