Branko Lustig, Two-Time Oscar-Winning Producer of ‘Schindler’s List’ and ‘Gladiator,’ Dies at 87

Croatian-born producer was a Holocaust survivor

Branko Lustig, an Oscar-winning producer of the Best Picture winners “Schindler’s List” and “Gladiator,” has died, according to an announcement Thursday via the Festival of Tolerance. He was 87.

Lustig, who was the president of Croatia’s Festival of Tolerance – the Jewish Film Festival, died in his home in Zagreb, Croatia. He worked in the film industry for 50 years and was a survivor of the Holocaust, having spent time in both the Auschwitz and BergenBelsen concentration camps during World War II.

Many of his family members were lost in the concentration camps, and his grandmother specifically was killed in a gas chamber, and his experience there helped inspire some of the stories for Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List.”

Lustig worked in the film industry in his home of Croatia before moving to Los Angeles in the 1980s. He served as a unit manager on films such as “Don’t Look Back, My Son” and “Kozara,” and also as a Yugoslavian production supervisor on “Sophie’s Choice.” Then after winning the Oscar in 1993 for “Schindler’s List,” he produced or executive produced many of Ridley Scott’s films including “Gladiator,” “Black Hawk Down,” “American Gangster” and “Kingdom of Heaven.”

According to the Festival of Tolerance, Lustig returned to Croatia in 2009 and this year was named an honorary citizen of Zagreb. As to why he left Los Angeles. “Honestly, I came back to die,” he said. “Hollywood is beautiful, I met great actors, worked with them, but still this is my country and I have experienced a lot here – both beautiful and distressing. I also have a lot of friends here, I have a lot of acquaintances in America, but only Spielberg is my friend.”