Valkyrie: Cruise’s Movie Continues to Stir Controversy

July 3, 2007–Tom Cruise and director Bryan Singer are still trying to find locations in Germany for their WWII drama “Valkyrie.”

After confusion about whether or not the picture would be granted the necessary permits, and the role Cruise’s high-profile association with the Church of Scientology was playing in the decision, the Finance Ministry has declined producers of the film permission to shoot at a Defense Ministry building where German officer Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, played by Cruise, was executed for attempting to assassinate Hitler.

The site, known as the Bendlerblock building, is now a memorial to Stauffenberg and other conspirators of the failed plot, which was codenamed “Operation Valkyrie.”

Singer’s picture continues to enjoy plenty of support from the local community, however. Writing in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, the director of “The Lives of Others,” said Cruise’s star power would make the neglected story of Stauffenberg’s heroism known to the entire world. Cruise as Stauffenberg, “would do more to promote Germany’s image than 10 World Cup soccer championships could ever do.”

Execs at Studio Babelsberg, which is partnering with United Artists on the production, have also said the project would be a great benefit to Germany.

German officials, however, stick by their decision. A Finance Ministry spokesman said the memorial, a “place of remembrance and mourning, would lose dignity if we were to exploit it as a film set.”

Another request to shoot at a Berlin police station was rejected, according to a spokesman for the Berlin police department. “The adverse impact to the facility would be so grave that the request had to be denied.”

Singer’s film is met with criticism and indignation due to Cruise’s involvement in Scientology, an organization the German government views as a dangerous, profit-based cult with totalitarian aims.

Stauffenberg’s son, Berthold von Stauffenberg, has also blasted the project, saying Cruise “should keep his hands off my father.”

Three years ago, Cruise’s production of “Mission: Impossible III” was denied permission to film key scenes in Berlin’s Reichstag parliament due to a general ban on commercial film shooting there and in an effort to maintain the building’s “dignity.”

In 2003, however, the TV movie about the failed conspiracy, “Operation Valkyrie,” directed by Jo Baier and starring Sebastian Koch (“The Lives of Others”) as Stauffenberg, was allowed to shoot at the Bendlerblock. Yet the presence of caterers and camera crews at the memorial was a “painful experience” for curators of the memorial site, said Finance Ministry spokesman Torsten Albig.