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    Cruise's Valkyrie Grounded

    Thanks to yet another production hangup, Tom Cruise's Valkyrie won't be taking flight as planned.

    United Artists and MGM have postponed the WWII thriller from Jun 27 to Oct. 3, 2008 to give director Bryan Singer extra time to film a key battle sequence.

    For Valkyrie, Cruise wields an eye patch and a German accent to play Claus von Stauffenberg, a Nazi colonel who plotted the only known assassination attempt against Adolf Hitler.

    The studios, which are cofinancing and codistributing the film, pushed back the premiere because Singer has struggled to find a suitable location to shoot the pivotal scene in which Cruise's character is severely wounded in Africa and ends up losing his eye and a hand.

    Following that incident, von Stauffenberg returned to Germany and hatched a conspiracy, dubbed Operation Valkyrie, to blow up Hitler with a bomb in his bunker to bring a swift end to the war.

    Producers initially planned to film the battle somewhere outside the U.S., but that plan was scrapped for unspecified reasons.Instead United Artists—which is run by Cruise and partner Paula Wagner—is searching for a new locale within the States.

    “We wrapped our production in Germany in October, but there was a desert sequence that needed to be prepped and the location finalized," explains UA spokesman Dennis Rice. "But with all the schedules and logistics we won’t be able to shoot that until the end of February. We wanted to do what’s right [in terms of marketing] and not put Bryan in a jam, so we said let’s postpone it.”

    With the company's first Cruise-led flick, Lions for Lambs, failing to generate commerical or critical success, UA has a lot riding on Valkyrie, which is easily the most ambitious project on the company's slate.

    Had Valkyrie remained on schedule, its chief competition would have been Disney-Pixar's animated robot farce, Wall-E, which was due to open the same day. Universal has since slotted the comic book movie, Wanted, into the vacated date.

    The October calendar is more crowded, but there are fewer films featuring actors of Cruise's star power.Valkyrie will now go up against The Express, Universal's football biopic starring Dennis Quaid; RocknRolla, Warner Bros.' Guy Ritchie-helmed crime saga with Gerard Butler, Jeremy Piven and Thandie Newton; and Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist, Sony's punk romance starring Michael Cera.

    The fall slot would also provide prime positioning for Valkyrie's presumed awards-season run. The film features an Oscar-worthy cast that, aside from Cruise, includes Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Stephen Fry and Terence Stamp. The script is by Christopher McQuarrie, the Academy Award-winning scribe behind Singer's 1995 breakthrough, The Usual Suspects.

    The delay is the lates bit of Sturm und Drang to beset Valkyrie since shooting began over the summer.

    First, members of von Stauffenberg's family, most notably the count's son, suggested Cruise didn't possess the gravitas to do justice to his father's legacy.

    Then, German officials initially refused to grant the filmmakers permission to shoot in the Bendlerblock memorial site, where von Stauffenberg and his coconspirators were executed in 1944 for the failed coup and filming is typically verboten.  But after intense negotiations and lobbying by the German film industry, the decision was reversed.

    In June, a conservative member of parliament posted a statement on her blog from Defense Minister Franz-Josef Jung, claiming Valkyrie would not be received well in Germany due to Cruise's close ties to Scientology.

    Two months later, 11 extras were injured on the set when they fell off the back of a truck while filming a scene. All were treated at a hospital for minor cuts and bruises and released.

    Finally, nighttime footage Singer and crew filmed in late September at the Defense Ministry ended up being irreversibly damaged after being given the wrong chemical during development, necessitating reshoots.

     

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