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Germany says ‘Valkyrie’ not banned

Ministry would welcome Cruise's WWII film

BERLIN — Despite calls by some German officials to ban Bryan Singer’s World War II drama “Valkyrie” from shooting at government locations — due to Tom Cruise’s ties to Scientology — the project is getting plenty of support from the local film industry and looks likely to get the greenlight from authorities to film at historical sites here.

In the film, penned by Christopher McQuarrie and Nathan Alexander, Cruise is set to play German officer Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, a national hero who was executed in 1944 for attempting to assassinate Adolf Hitler in a plot code-named Valkyrie.

Cruise talked up the project at length at Cinema Expo in Amsterdam, where the new UA made its first presentation to attendees, but didn’t refer to the ruckus in Germany.

“It is a very powerful film in a very crucial moment in history about the resistance in Germany against the Nazi regime,” Cruise said. “This man had incredible integrity … a real hero. I have great admiration for him and what they tried to do.”

The courtyard in which Stauffenberg and his fellow conspirators were shot is now a memorial, but the building in which it’s located, the Bendlerblock, also houses part of the German Ministry of Defense.

That, and not Cruise’s affiliation to Scientology, poses the main hurdle to a film permit for Singer and his crew, according to Dirk Kuehnau, head of the Bundesanstalt fuer Immobilienaufgaben (BIMA), the company in charge of government buildings.

“In this country, we have constitutionally guaranteed rights,” Kuehnau said. “Articles four and five of the constitution protect freedom of faith and creed and freedom of expression. I don’t think those rights would be denied a film actor.”

If anything, it would be the lights and cables and camera teams that could disrupt work at the Defense Ministry, Kuehnau said, adding that if an arrangement is found where filming does not interfere with government business, a filming permit should be no problem.

Contrary to earlier reports, the defense minister has not banned the project from shooting at the site. In fact, the Defense Ministry, which would lease the building, does not have the right to grant or reject filming permits — that is up to BIMA.

Recent reports of government opposition to the film were triggered by Antje Blumenthal, a member of the Bundestag and cult expert for the conservative CDU/CSU party, who said she had been assured by Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung that the film would not be allowed to shoot at the site, due to the alleged danger posed by Scientology.

The German government does not recognize Scientology as a religion, and sees it as a dangerous cult with totalitarian aims as well as an exploitative, profit-based business.

For the local industry, however, Singer’s project is more of a godsend.

Studio Babelsberg toppers Christoph Fisser and Carl Woebcken are in negotiations with Gil Adler and Paula Wagner of United Artists to come aboard the film as co-production partners.

Fisser praised the project, saying there are sadly far too few examples of the military opposition to Hitler’s regime during the war.

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

(Leo Barraclough and Archie Thomas in Amsterdam contributed to this report.)

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