Sunday, May 11, 2008

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Tom Cruise's Adolf Hitler film put back into Hollywood bunker

The fortunes of Hollywood actor Tom Cruise have suffered a blow with the news that his next big film has been postponed until 2009.

The release of Valkyrie, which tells the story of the 1944 assassination plot against Hitler, was first postponed from this summer to the autumn and is now not expected to appear until next year.

“We were originally expecting the film to be released in June,” said a senior executive at one of Britain’s leading cinema chains.

“I know there have been all sorts of problems with this production and we will not be screening it at all this year.”

The film is not only a blow to Cruise as an actor but in his more recent incarnation as a movie mogul at United Artists (UA), the studio which made the film.

One critic in Hollywood has declared “Valkyrie is dead”, with another arguing that the film’s problems could also wreck the revival of UA.

Cruise, whose earlier career saw hit after hit with Top Gun, Rain Man and Jerry Maguire, is a stakeholder in UA, which was originally founded by Charlie Chaplin and other stars.

It has since passed through several different owners until Cruise relaunched it as a major studio in 2006.

Cruise, who is married to the actress Katie Holmes, has a minority stake with his business partner Paula Wagner, but the pair have almost total control over which films are made.

UA’s first major film, Lions for Lambs, a story about the Iraq war with Cruise and Meryl Streep starring and Robert Redford directing, flopped.

Valkyrie has been directed by Bryan Singer, who is best known for The Usual Suspects and X-Men. The new film, which was mostly shot last year at a cost of £45m, has so far left test audiences unimpressed.

The quality of Cruise’s German accent was widely commented on. The film has also had to have reshoots after footage was damaged in labs.

Cruise plays the German officer Claus von Stauffenberg, who led the plot. Other German parts are played by British actors, including Bill Nighy and Kenneth Branagh.

A flop would not be good news either for Branagh, who directed three films last year – The Magic Flute, As You Like It and Sleuth – all of which had mixed reviews.

However, Branagh has usually fared better as an actor. He won awards for the film Conspiracy in 2001, where he played the Nazi bureaucrat Reinhard Heydrich, who chaired the conference during the second world war at which the policy of exterminating Jews was decided upon.

Roger Friedman, who has a widely read film blog and a column on, recently advised Cruise, who was formerly married to Nicole Kidman, to “do another Jerry Maguire-like comedy” to get his acting career back on track.