Views & Reviews From Writer Steve Miller
Formerly Reviews and Stuff at Rotten Tomatoes, 2005 - 2009.

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Friday, June 29, 2007

Tom Cruise vs. Germany comes full circle

When I commented on the first wire story about the German military supposedly banning "Valkyrie" from being filmed at real military site (here), I observed that UA and the production team hadn't even submitted a request to do so.

The reading public is now being reminded of that fact, but it's also reassuring to see that the Germans still have some sort of short-term memory problem going on... along the lines of the problems that have persisted since around World War 2. (We're even hearing now that the German military isn't even the entity that approves use of the site that's the main point of contension... the Finance Ministry are the ones who handle that.)

Still... when I compare some of the quotes and claims in this article to the ones made earlier, I still have to wonder if the claim that "Cruise is a cooties-infested Scientologist" aren't just a smoke-screen for some other reason why the Germans are carrying on about him. (I'll show what I mean after the article.

German military not categorical opposed to Cruise-starring movie filming on their bases
By Scott Roxborough

COLOGNE, Germany (Hollywood Reporter) - The German Defense Ministry is scrambling to qualify its stance on the Tom Cruise World War Two thriller "Valkyrie," saying Thursday that, despite reports to the contrary, it has no opposition to the film shooting in Germany.

News reports earlier this week had started officials would ban "Valkyrie" from shooting at German military sites because of star Cruise's belief in Scientology.

The ministry now says that, while it hasn't received an official request from "Valkyrie" producers United Artists to shoot in the country, it would "look agreeably" upon any such application.

The film, slated for a 2008 release, tells the true story of Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Cruise), the leader of a failed German military plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler in 1944. The film's title comes from Operation Valkyrie, the plot's code name.

The producers have expressed interest in shooting at the Bendlerblock memorial in Berlin. It is the actual location where Stauffenberg and his fellow conspirators hatched the plot to assassinate Hitler with a bomb hidden in a briefcase. It also is where Stauffenberg and the other plotters were executed after the attempt failed.

Now a memorial site, the Bendlerblock also houses part of the Defense Ministry.

The Defense Ministry said Thursday that it wasn't even responsible for approving film shoots at Bendlerblock because they are only tenants on the land. The location is under the authority of Germany's Finance Ministry, a Defense Ministry spokesman said.

The source of the "Valkyrie" controversy seems to have stemmed from a posting on the Web site of conservative German member of parliament Antje Blumenthal. Blumenthal posted a statement Friday claiming that Defense Minister Franz-Josef Jung had pledged to her that Cruise would not get permission to shoot because of the purported danger posed by his Scientology.

Blumenthal is a cult expert for the conservative CDU/CSU party and a longtime opponent of Scientology.

The German government does not recognize Scientology as a religion and sees it instead as a dangerous cult, which brainwashes and exploits its members. Scientology is under official observation by Germany authorities as a potentially threat to German democracy, putting the organization on par with neo-Nazi groups.

Germany's film industry, however, has embraced the "Valkyrie" project.

The heads of Studio Babelsberg, Christoph Fisser and Carl Woebcken, on Thursday praised "Valkyrie" as one of the "too few examples of military opposition to Hitler's regime."

Fisser and Woebcken are in negotiations with United Artists to join the project as co-producers. If UA executives reach a deal, "Valkyrie" could begin shooting at Babelsberg next month.

"The assassination attempt against Hitler is hardly known outside Germany," Fisser said. "We should therefore be delighted and welcome this wonderful opportunity to improve the image of our country."

So... the claim is now that some random politician is the one who opposed the filming. Does this mean that the Reuters news service made the following up?

Defence Ministry spokesman Harald Kammerbauer said the film makers "will not be allowed to film at German military sites if Count Stauffenberg is played by Tom Cruise, who has publicly professed to being a member of the Scientology cult".

Or is it more likely that the Germans thinking that the world has a short-term memory problem similar to theirs? (As in the way it's impossible to find anyone with grandparents who supported Hitler, or how no one remembered they had Jewish or Communist neighbors whose stuff they stole after the Nazis carted them off).

Of course, either the AP is lying about this next bit, or the German government needs to get their stories straight:

Following a decision by the German military to bar the producers of the film, titled Valkyrie, after the code name used by the plotters, from using military bases as locales, a number of German lawmakers have gone on record to denounce the entire project.

Social Democratic lawmaker Klaus Uwe Benneter said that having a Scientologist play Col. Claus Graf Schenk von Stauffenberg, who is now regarded as a national hero, represents "a slap in the face to all upstanding democrats, all resistance fighters during the Third Reich, and all victims of the Scientology sect."

What does Tom Cruise's religious beliefs have to do with the character he plays? Are Scientologists approaching Jew-status in the eyes of the modern Germans? Are they somehow unclean and naturally evil? Or are German leaders just naturally stupid?

Of course, the pro-Cruise side isn't much better....

In an interview with the AP, Carl Woebcken, head of Babelsberg studio, which is hoping to co-produce the movie with United Artists, commented, "This is not a Scientology film, it is a Bryan Singer film, and Bryan Singer is Jewish ... and they want to make this film to show that during the Nazi regime there was heroic resistance. [Tom Cruise] is one of the best, if not the best, actors in the world for heroic roles and that is why Bryan Singer approached him."

Mr. Woebecken either lying or being willfully ignorant. Or maybe I am. Cruise OWNS the current incarnation of United Artists, the company behind "Valkyrie". Singer was HIRED by Cruise, not the other way around.

I think it's safe to say at least some of the casting of "Valkyrie" took place before the director was found. It's not an uncomming thing... stars are often attached to a film before a director is found.

(And Cruise is one of the best best actors in the world for heroic roles? Please. That sort of hyperbole should be left to nobody commentators like me, or maybe marketing flaks. Studioheads hoping to appear like they're worth paying attention to try to sound a bit smarter.)

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