"What would Lina Wertmüller think?" a friend of mine wondered on reports that Tom Cruise's latest project, Valkyrie, about the German generals' assassination plot against Hitler in 1944, had run into some Teutonic heavy weather. Germany Bans Cruise's Hitler Film the day-one headlines read—a prohibition stemming, one might expect, from the producer/star's notorious Church of Scientology connections—though as David Hudson pointed out at GreenCine Daily (June 25), this wasn't exactly what went down [all links in quote from GreenCine posting]. "The New York Post's Lou Lumenick writes, 'Germany, which takes a dim view of Scientology, has banned a new movie starring the cult's most famous member from shooting in Deutschland.' Nope, not true, actually. The Reuters story he points to gets it right ...
"Long story short, Antje Blumenthal, party spokesperson for the Christian Democrats on sect issues, has asked Defense Minister Franz-Josef Jung to assure her that [Valkyrie's designated director] Bryan Singer and crew would not be permitted to shoot scenes at military sites ... as long as Tom Cruise is playing the lead: Claus von Stauffenberg, a Colonel in the German army who was a key figure in the attempt to assassinate Hitler in the summer of 1944.
"Thing is, Blumenthal has jumped the gun a bit. The production hasn't actually requested permission to shoot in the Bendlerblock, a building that would become known as a center of military resistance against Hitler, or at any other military site and ... it's still possible that the film might not be shot in or around Berlin at all. On the other hand, Cruise is said to have picked up a nifty little villa in an upscale neighborhood.
"Cruise's intention to take on the role of a resistance hero is irksome and the objections of Stauffenberg's son, Berthold Maria Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg (yes, it brings the Monty Python sketch to my mind, too), are understandable. ... Even so, the rhetoric of some opposed to the very idea is beginning to take on a slight whiff of hysteria." All of which had become a dead letter by week's end, when the German defense ministry called the dogs off and passed the buck (for Bendlerblock shooting permits) to the ministry of finance.
But what would La Signora W. think of all this? As I suggested to my friend, she'd probably install Shirley Stoler as Graf von Tom's zaftig romantic partner, a bit of sensitivity-impaired casting that nonetheless runs true to Wertmüller's inspirational canon. Also, arguably, it's the ultimate Scientologyland challenge, at least for nonaffiliated cynics: so how about another Linzer torte for meine schöne Fräulein?
Finally: my own favorite apercu out of this, um, kerfuffle—from the GreenCine comments page:
"Once I was walking out of a bookstore carrying a book I just bought for a relative who was ill and I ran into Karen Black who used to be married to a friend of mine. She went on and on about how the book I was holding had helped her and all her friends, so I asked, 'Do you have Diabetes?'
"The book I had was about diabetics.
"'Oh, I thought it was Dianetics! Well, you know there's help for that!'"