Casting of Cruise as German hero raising ire

29th June 2007, Comments 0 comments

29 June 2007, BERLIN (AP) _ Two sensitive issues in Germany _ the Nazi era and Scientology _ have come together in a controversy over the production of a new film in which Tom Cruise plays the country's most famous anti-Hitler plotter.

29 June 2007

BERLIN (AP) _ Two sensitive issues in Germany _ the Nazi era and Scientology _ have come together in a controversy over the production of a new film in which Tom Cruise plays the country's most famous anti-Hitler plotter.

Cruise, one of Scientology's best-known adherents, is to play Col. Claus Graf Schenk von Stauffenberg _ the aristocratic army officer executed after a failed attempt to assassinate Hitler in 1944 _ in director Bryan Singer's new film "Valkyrie."

The film's German co-producers say they have initial permission to use the former German general staff headquarters in Berlin, where Stauffenberg worked and where he was executed by firing squad in the courtyard _ and plan a historically accurate treatment.

But word that a Scientologist would play Stauffenberg has rubbed some in Germany the wrong way. Germany's government considers Scientology a commercial enterprise that takes advantage of vulnerable people, and critics maintain that one of its adherents should not be playing one of the Nazi-era's few heroes.

Stauffenberg "is to be played by an actor whose sect, through dubious methods, attempts to lure people and make them pliable," Social Democratic lawmaker Klaus Uwe Benneter said on his Web site. "This is a slap in the face to all upstanding democrats, all resistance fighters during the Third Reich, and all victims of the Scientology sect."

Sabine Weber, a spokeswoman for Scientology in Berlin, said she was "shocked" that politicians would speak out against Cruise starring in the movie, saying that it was a "call to discrimination" against someone because of his religious beliefs, which violates German and European human-rights codes.

Film producers maintain the criticism is misguided and accuse politicians of making hay from a non-issue.

"Basically some politicians are using the popularity of Tom Cruise to become popular themselves," Babelsberg studio chief Carl Woebcken told The AP on Wednesday. Babelsberg is slated to co-produce the film in Germany.

"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," Woebcken said. "The personal beliefs of Tom Cruise have to be separated from his skills as an actor; he is one of the best, if not the best, actors in the world for heroic roles and that is why Bryan Singer approached him."

A statement from United Artists said, "Mr. Cruise's personal beliefs have absolutely no bearing on the movie's plot, themes or content." Filming was due to begin in mid-July.

The German federal agency that tracks extremism has had Scientology under observation for a decade on allegations that it "threatens the peaceful democratic order" of the country. The Scientologists have long battled to end the surveillance, saying it is an abuse of their right to freedom of religion. The U.S. State Department regularly criticizes Germany in its annual Human Rights Report for the monitoring practice.

Stauffenberg's son Berthold Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg was quoted by the newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung as saying that Cruise "should keep his fingers off my father," and adding he feared the movie would be "terrible kitsch."

Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung was quoted as saying such a film involving Cruise could not be made at his ministry _ the building where Stauffenberg had his offices and where he was shot.

Woebcken said the film company had not asked to film at the part of the Defense Ministry building occupied by the military, and already has preliminary permission from other agencies to film at the area where Stauffenberg's offices were.

A Defense Ministry spokesman confirmed that the moviemakers had not asked to film in the minister's part of the building, and said if they did, the application would be considered.

"The German military has a special interest in a serious and authentic treatment of the events of the 20th of July, 1944, and in the person of Stauffenberg himself _ serious and authentic _ and under those criteria it would be evaluated," the spokesman said, on customary condition of anonymity.

Woebcken said authorities should be welcoming the decision to shoot the film at original locations.

"The Defense Ministry ... says that if a Stauffenberg film is done, it has to be authentic, and for exactly that reason United Artists wants to do the film in Berlin in the original places," he said. "Otherwise they could have done the film anywhere in the world."

Woebcken added that the screenplay of Oscar-winner Christopher McQuarrie is "very authentic and very well researched."


Subject: German news

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