"Valkyrie" challenges fans to rethink Tom Cruise

Fri Dec 26, 2008 6:05pm EST
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By Bob Tourtellotte

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - It was an improbable plot hatched during World War Two and to match it on movie screens, Hollywood offered perhaps the most unlikely casting of a hero at the holidays -- Tom Cruise playing a German army officer.

Cruise, of course, enjoys All-American looks that helped send him to movie stardom playing heroic young men such as Lt. Pete "Maverick" Mitchell in 1986 movie, "Top Gun." As of late, he's been on a mea culpa tour to explain his odd behavior in recent years and to regain his good-guy image with fans.

The improbable plot was a plan by German officers to kill Adolf Hitler by placing a bomb near him at a top secret meeting, and the resulting movie about that attempt is "Valkyrie," starring Cruise as Colonel Claus Von Stauffenberg who was at the center of the assassination attempt.

"Stauffenberg was unique, handsome, and Tom had a lot of the same attributes, besides the physical looks of the character," "Valkyrie" director Bryan Singer told Reuters.

"I look for similarities in the actor and the person and in that world -- you take all (Tom's) baggage away -- and you've got a good casting choice," he said.

But it didn't always seem that way to Hollywood watchers, and like most movies, "Valkyrie" did not make it from script to screen without some bumps along the way.

Its release, initially set for summer 2008 was moved several times before landing on December 25, leading industry watchers to wonder if problems with the film caused the delay.

The crew had difficulty getting permission to film at historical sites in Germany where Singer and Cruise wanted to shoot, although they eventually prevailed. And the film's big budget was cited by some industry insiders as one reason for the exit of Cruise's long-time business partner Paula Wagner from her job as chief executive of United Artists in August.   Continued...

<p>Cast member Tom Cruise poses at the premiere of the movie "Valkyrie" at the Directors Guild of America in Los Angeles, December 18, 2008. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>