Sometimes a nose is just a nose. As Tom Cruise knows.
In what is some much-needed good news for the actor's beleaguered WWII flick Valkyrie, Slate has been forced to publish an embarrassing correction retracting its claim that Cruise's United Artists may have digitally altered a photo of the film's subject, German hero Claus von Stauffenberg, to look more like Cruise.
The original article, titled "The Case of the Doctored Publicity Photo," quoted designers saying a side-by-side comparison of a studio-disseminated still of von Stauffenberg in profile and an Associated Press archive photo of the colonel appeared to show the UA version had been slightly tweaked to more match Cruise's features.
"Look @ the nose, mouth, and chin," opined Slate expert Jim Festante. "Definite (but slight) altering. Also, the head's width is squeezed slightly."
The designers then superimposed the AP photo over the UA picture to demonstrate the physical changes.
The online magazine suggested that finding out who made the tweaks could be "mission: possible," insinuating the Cruise-powered studio may have made the modifications to appease German critics. Many in the country, including relatives of von Stauffenberg, have said the 45-year-old thesp is woefully miscast as the national hero who attempted to assassinate Adolf Hitler.
Slate did take pains to state that its designers' research was "not definitive," considering no Photoshopping allegations had surfaced in the German press.
Still, the photo flap seemed to be another chapter in the bad buzz surrounding Valkyrie, which has been dogged by missteps, controversy and delays.
But it turns out Slate made an oops, and the publication offered a quick mea culpa.
"Because of insufficient photo research by Slate's editors, we failed to discover another archival image of von Stauffenberg, which appears to be the one UA used in its publicity campaign," the editors say in a statement. "As a result of this mistake, the question the piece raised—whether the photo had been doctored to make Claus von Stauffenberg look more like Tom Cruise—was unwarranted."
The AP confirmed its archival photo, which dates to 1943 and is part of Getty Images' database, was not the one the studio released.
Instead, United Artists said it obtained its version from the public domain.
"The picture United Artists used of Colonel Stauffenberg can be found all over the Internet," Valkyrie cowriter and producer Chris McQuarrie said in a statement.
In refuting any digital manipulations had been done, McQuarrie added that it would have been far easier for UA marketers to alter Cruise's picture than to go back and change every portrait of a famous historical figure.
Barring any more real disasters, the Bryan Singer-helmed Valkyrie is slated to hit theaters in February 2009.