Germany has thwarted Tom Cruise’s plan to make a film about the Second World War plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler for a second time in a move that provoked angry protests from the country’s current Oscar-winning director.
Berlin police refused yesterday to allow the actor and controversial Church of Scientology member to use a police station in the city’s Kreuzberg district to shoot his film, Valkyrie, in which he plays Claus von Stauffenberg, a member of the German nobility who tried to kill Hitler in 1944.
A police statement said the presence of a film crew on the site would hamper the activities of police “so seriously” that permission to use the station as a location could not be granted.
It was the second time that Cruise was refused permission to use a Berlin location to shoot his film. Last week, the German Defence Ministry banned the actor from setting foot on key military sites in the German capital that were to have featured in the production. The ministry said the actor’s membership of the Church of Scientology was the reason behind the ban, and insisted that the makers of the film would not be allowed on its premises “if Count von Stauffenberg is played by Tom Cruise, who has publicly professed to being a member of the Scientology cult“.
Germany’s attempts to thwart Cruise were angrily criticised yesterday by Florian Henckel von Donnersmark, the Oscar-winning German director of the film Other People’s Lives, which graphically depicts the spying techniques of the Stasi, the former secret police force in Communist East Germany.
Writing in Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper, Von Donnersmarck said Cruise’s role as Stauffenberg would “improve Germany’s international image more than 10 World Cup football tournaments”. He added: “The biggest star of the (Second World War) victor nations is not good enough to play our superman Stauffenberg, if this star’s convictions are not exactly in line with those of Germany.”
Germany treats Scientology with suspicion and keeps it under surveillance. MPs have stated publicly that, although it is not banned, they regard the organisation as a cult which recruits impressionable young people and is bent on making money.
Antje Blumethal, a German conservative, defended the ban yesterday, saying: “If we had given permission to film to a leading Scientologist it would have amounted to official recognition for the sect.”
Cruise’s production company has protested and maintains that the actor is ideally suited to play Stauffenberg, a wartime army officer who became a hero in post-war Germany for attempting to assassinate Hitler with a suitcase bomb. The Nazi leader was wounded but survived and Stauffenberg was shot dead by firing squad shortly after the plot was uncovered.
The ban on Cruise has met with incomprehension in the United States. The Philadelphia Daily News was reported in Germany to have remarked in an editorial yesterday: “It would be difficult to find a better way of recalling the Nazi era than by preventing a man from doing his job because of his beliefs.”