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Interesting trivia facts about the World War II film Valkyrie

Ian Harvey

Valkyrie was a World War II film about a plot to assassinate Adolph Hitler in July of 1944.

Directed by Bryan Singer, the 2008 release follows the true story of Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, played by Tom Cruise, and his attempt to orchestrate the assassination of Hitler with the help a group of other high-ranking Nazi officials.  Filming was fraught with unusual incidents, including:

The Germans objected to Scientology

Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg

Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg

German officials and some of the subject’s family objected to Cruise’s membership of the Church of Scientology; they feared the movie would promote the belief.  They initially refused to allow the crew to film on authentic sites until Cruise and the film’s producer, Christopher McQuarrie, assured them the production had nothing to do with Scientology.

Tom Cruise had to use a secret entrance to the premiere

Bendlerblock, where the conspirators were executed in real life, was originally denied as a filming location for Valkyrie

Bendlerblock, where the conspirators were executed in real life, was originally denied as a filming location for Valkyrie

Protesters against Scientology attended almost every premiere.  At the December 18th screening in Los Angeles, Cruise was forced to enter through a tunnel to ensure his safety.

When the townspeople saw the swastika, they called the authorities

 

Stauffenberg, left, with Hitler (centre) and Wilhelm Keitel, right, in an aborted assassination attempt at Rastenburg on 15 July 1944. Photo Credit

Stauffenberg, left, with Hitler (centre) and Wilhelm Keitel, right, in an aborted assassination attempt at Rastenburg on 15 July 1944. Photo Credit

Germany has strict laws governing the use of the Nazi swastika symbol, with the only exception being for artist renditions in historical context.  During filming, warning signs were posted to indicate the swastika was being used.  Even so, locals who saw the Nazi logo painted on prop sets and airplanes filed formal complaints, resulting in several fines being placed on the landowners.

Colonel von Stauffenberg’s son told Cruise “Keep your hands off my father.”

Stauffenberg when in the 17th Cavalry Regiment in Bamberg (1926) Photo Credit

Stauffenberg when in the 17th Cavalry Regiment in Bamberg (1926) Photo Credit

Von Stauffenberg’s son, retired Bundeswehr General Berthold Maria Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, objected to Cruise playing the title role.  He had no objections to the project itself, but when he learned Cruise would be playing his father, he feared the movie would be clichéd and “bound to be rubbish.  Cruise should keep his hands off my father.”

The German film developers ruined the Bendlerblock scenes

When the scenes made at the Bendlerblock site were sent to be processed, the plant used the wrong chemical and ruined the film.  Cruise and producer Christopher McQuarrie had to go back to the German government and obtain permission to re-shoot the scene.

The crew paused for a moment of silence in von Stauffenberg’s honor

Memorial at the Bendlerblock in Berlin Photo Credit

Memorial at the Bendlerblock in Berlin Photo Credit

Cruise spent months studying historical documents and film clips, as well as visiting with the von Stauffenberg family to learn about his subject.   He became closely involved personally and used his influence to convince German authorities to allow filming on authentic locations.

It was on his insistence that the crew paused for a moment of silence in von Stauffenberg’s honor every night when filming shots that took place at Bendlerblock, the actual execution site of the conspirators.

Eleven extras were hurt during filming

Eleven extras were riding to the set in the back of a truck on August 19, 2007, when a side panel gave way, and they fell out of the truck.  One was sent to a hospital for his injuries.  The studio attempted to settle the matter quietly, but the injured parties demanded $11 million in damages.

German critics didn’t like Cruise’s performance.

Death certificate (issued in 1951)

Death certificate (issued in 1951)

Even though most German critics were harshly critical of Cruise’s performance, the film brought in over $200,000,000 in box offices worldwide. In Germany, the movie had the highest gross earnings of all European countries, earning $3.7 million.

Members of the von Stauffenberg family were in the movie

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Philipp von Schulthess, the grandson of Claus von Stauffenberg, played Henning von Tresckow’s aide, Fabian von Schlabrendorff, in the film.  The character of Nina Von Stauffenberg, the Colonel’s wife, was portrayed as being pregnant with von Schulthess’ mother, Konstanze von Schulthess.