Family of German war hero slam Cruise casting

The Guardian, UK/March 27, 2007

A forthcoming film about Adolf Hitler's would-be assassin has sparked criticism from the dead man's family. Descendants of Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg object to the choice of Tom Cruise for the lead role, fearing that the story will be turned into "propaganda" for the actor's Scientology beliefs.

Focus, a German news magazine, has reported that Cruise is currently considering the role of von Stauffenberg. A spokesperson for United Artists, the film's backers, is believed to have confirmed the news.

Born into an aristocratic Bavarian family, Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg was the Wehrmacht colonel behind the July 20 plot to kill the Führer in 1944.

The German officer placed a bomb in a suitcase under a table at a meeting Hitler was attending. The bomb detonated but was not strong enough to kill the German leader, although four members of his inner circle died in the blast. Von Stauffenberg was subsequently caught and executed.

The movie adaptation is to be produced at United Artists, the Hollywood studio Cruise is heading with his business partner Paula Wagner. Entitled Valkyrie - the codename for the operation, named after the Richard Wagner opera - the film is to be directed by Bryan Singer. The script was co-written by Christopher McQuarrie, who penned the Singer-directed thriller The Usual Suspects.

The role of Hitler has yet to be cast, reports Focus, adding that the film is to be shot in Berlin and in eastern Europe.

But Von Stauffenberg's descendants are concerned at the plans. "I have nothing against him [Cruise] and can even separate his work from his beliefs in Scientology," Count Caspar Schenk von Stauffenberg, the officer's grandson told the Scotsman, which notes that the family is staunchly Catholic.

"But I and other family members are worried that the picture will be financed by the sect and be used to get across its propaganda," he added. "Unfortunately the family Stauffenberg can do nothing about this. My grandfather is a figure from history."

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