It’s too bad that Tom Cruise doesn’t listen to the pre-cogs he starred with in "Minority Report." Those predictors of the future would beg him not to make “Valkyrie,” the next movie on his slate.
But it’s too late. The press releases have gone out. A cast is being signed for the Bryan Singer-directed film. And a crew is being rounded up. According to the Internet Movie Database, one of the first members of the crew who’s been secured is a prosthetics expert.
That’s because by the time Cruise’s character in "Valkyrie" — a Nazi general under Hitler’s command — is in full throttle on screen, he’s already lost an eye and a couple of limbs.
“Valkryie” is based on an original script by Singer cohorts Christopher McQuarrie and Nathan Alexander. It concerns an unsuccessful plot by his generals to murder Hitler in 1944 — not because the Cruise character opposes the Holocaust or Hitler’s other policies, but because he’s worried that the world’s most evil despot will ruin Germany in the history books.
Cruise is executive producer on this unusual project, which he’s making for United Artists with Merrill Lynch’s money.
He and Singer have already hired, according to trade reports, an eclectic cast including Carice van Houten, the sizzling sexpot from the misguided Paul Verhoeven thriller “Black Book.” Also coming aboard are said to be Tom Wilkinson, Kenneth Branagh, Patrick Wilson, Bill Nighy and Stephen Fry.
Tom’s character, just to keep you up to date, is Claus von Stauffenberg, who was executed by the Nazis for attempting to kill Hitler with two suitcase bombs on July 21, 1944. Prior to the assassination attempt, Claus was severely maimed, which means Cruise should be looking pretty grim for most of the film, unless he decides to alter history.
One reason Cruise may have agreed to do this project is because von Stauffenberg is considered by some Germans to be a folk hero.
Cruise, however, is not. In Germany, he’s taken a lot of hits for his unwavering devotion to Scientology. Germans consider the group a cult and do not recognize it as a religion. Cruise would like to change that.
Nevertheless, according to Spiegel Online, last Sunday — before Cruise staged photos in the South of France with wife Katie Holmes and baby Suri — the diminutive movie star spent many hours visiting the Scientology center in Berlin.
According to German press accounts, Cruise and Holmes toured the Scientology facilities, “taking in an exhibition on the history of the faith organization and also meeting with members.”
Meanwhile, it’s hard to imagine at this point why Cruise and company are calling their movie “Valkyrie.” A Valkryie is a female warrior from Norse mythology, perhaps best known from Wagner’s “Ring Cycle.” The von Stauffenberg story is heavily male, and includes no such characters unless van Houten decides to climb aboard a winged horse and kill Hitler herself.
Don Cheadle — who got snubbed out of a lot of awards for “Hotel Rwanda” — may finally have an Oscar vehicle.
Last night, his “Talk to Me” — directed by the talented Kasi Lemmons — opened the L.A. Film Festival to much acclaim.
Plenty of familiar faces turned out, too, including Andy Garcia, Radha Mitchell, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Victoria Rowell.
Cheadle has the plum role of real life Washington, D.C., deejay and commentator Petey Greene who soared to popularity in the late '60s and early '70s before flaming out.
The actor couldn’t be more perfect in this highly entertaining film that also includes stellar performances from Chiwetel Ejiofor, Cedric the Entertainer and the funny, sexy Taraji Henson. You know the latter from “Hustle and Flow.” In her next film, the hilarious, hot and yes, black actress plays — are you ready? — Brad Pitt’s mother in “Benjamin Button.”
“Can you believe it?” she said last night. “That’s not the part I thought I’d play one day with Brad Pitt!”
Lemmons also includes her famous actor-director husband Vondie Curtis Hall as a laid-back deejay and the always terrific Martin Sheen as the white owner of D.C.’s most important R&B station of the civil rights era.
But it’s the director and her screenwriters (Michael Genet and Rick Famuyiwa) who get everything right, including the historically important concert given by James Brown in D.C. the night after Martin Luther King was assassinated. It’s black history that is rarely seen on big screen.
“Talk to Me” is wonderful for many reasons, starting, of course with Cheadle. The versatile actor gets to let loose in this one, and shows off lots of different talents from stand-up comedy to naked audacity.
The film is also filled with lots of terrific R&B music the station was playing at the time, but you’ll only hear one Motown record — the rest are mostly from Atlantic and Stax.
The reason? In real life, Petey Greene bad-mouthed Motown founder Berry Gordy on his very first broadcast. And Motown music licenses prohibit use of any songs published by Jobete —Motown’s publishing arm — if Gordy is demeaned in any way in a film in which the music is used. (This is why, for example, there’s no movie of Mary Wilson’s autobiography as a Supreme.)
The big question now is whether or not Focus Features, which hasn’t had a lot of luck lately, can make a go of “Talk to Me” when it hits theaters next month.
Last year, Focus was completely off the radar after a busy 2005 with “Brokeback Mountain.” But serious movies with black casts and themes are notoriously hard sells — just ask Sony Pictures Classics, which couldn’t do anything for Mario van Peebles’ amazingly good “Badasss.” Focus had better focus themselves, and make some “Lemmon-ade” for Lemmons.
More from backstage at Wednesday’s Police concert: “Entourage” star Jeremy Piven parked his hot date to the side during the post-party in Sting’s dressing room. Piven positioned himself on the floor at the feet of Dustin Hoffman, and looked like he was praying to the “Tootsie” star. It was a great picture no one took. …
Courteney Cox and David Arquette are very excited about the renewal of their series, “Dirt,” by FX. They are still a happy-looking married couple despite tabloid reports. …
Producer Brian Grazer says there won’t be any reporter contracts on his Angelina Jolie movie, to be directed by Clint Eastwood. Grazer brought his teenage son with him to the show. …
Jennifer Aniston may have been at the show, but skipped the after party completely. …
Also paying homage, the record company genius who gave life to the Police over 25 years ago, Jerry Moss, one half of A&M Records. He was grinning from ear to ear. If only there were some Jerry Moss’ out there now. …
Meanwhile, lunching together at the Grill on Wednesday: famed producers Irwin Winkler and Richard Zanuck. …
Elsewhere in the room: Ari Emanuel, the Endeavor superstar who inspired Piven’s character. ...
More talk: Hollywood is bracing for Prince’s short, expensive run of shows starting tomorrow night at the Roosevelt Hotel. Tickets are said to be over $1,000. Listen to what it sounds like when fans cry. …
Monday brings Paul McCartney to L.A. for the West Coast edition of his “secret” show. It’s free if you can find it. ...