Published June 26, 2007
On Monday, the German Defense Ministry stepped up to the plate and tried to stop Tom Cruise from playing World War II hero Col. Claus von Stauffenberg.
The ministry said it would prohibit Cruise from filming his Nazi movie, “Valkyrie,” at historic government sites. Cruise, they said, represents Scientology, a group that the German authorities do not recognize as a religion. They consider it a cult.
Last week, Cruise was in Berlin meeting with local Scientology associates as he prepared to film “Valkyrie” with director Bryan Singer. People magazine said he was seeing “business associates,” but German publications reported the real story.
German Defense Ministry spokesman Harald Kammerbauer told Reuters that the filmmakers "will not be allowed to film at German military sites if Count Stauffenberg is played by Tom Cruise, who has publicly professed to being a member of the Scientology cult.”
“In general, the Bundeswehr (German military) has a special interest in the serious and authentic portrayal of the events of July 20, 1944, and Stauffenberg's person,” Kammerbauer said.
This column first reported weeks ago that Cruise was intent on playing von Stauffenberg to bolster his negative image in Germany. Of course, making such a movie has a lot of negative connotations, anyway. By the time von Stauffenberg attempts to assassinate Hitler, he is missing a leg, an arm and an eye.
“It sounds like a 'Monty Python' sketch,” quipped one movie insider last night at a premiere.
But now the Germans have made a bold move against Cruise and Scientology. It remains to be seen whether there will be a public outcry of religious oppression or applause for a government determined to protect its populace from a perceived threat.
There is no question that Scientology is pervasive and skilled at public relations. In this week’s Us Weekly, the new Helio phone is featured in the Buzz-o-meter section as a desirable gadget. The copy reads with this celebrity endorsement: “Katie Holmes and Laura Prepon use this phone…”
What the copy doesn’t say is that Holmes and Prepon are both Scientologists, and that Helio is a Scientology-based company descended from another one, Earthlink.
Both Helio and Earthlink were founded by Sky Dayton, an avowed Scientologist whose history with the organization dates back to his high school education at the Scientology school in Oregon.
According to published bios, that’s where Dayton met his wife, Arwen Dayton, a science fiction writer who also was raised in the organization.
The Germans might be more interested to know that Boingo, a satellite system designed for Wi-Fi Internet and phone that was featured in Monday’s New York Times, is part of Dayton’s empire.
The Times, however, failed to mention Boingo’s ownership or that it was named for the pop band Oingo Boingo, which was co-founded by Scientologist Richard Elfman (father-in-law of actress Jenna Elfman and brother of composer Danny Elfman, the latter his partner in the group).
Boingo Wireless is designed to make Wi-Fi easy internationally and put billions of dollars into Scientology coffers.
Dayton, if you don’t know, co-founded Earthlink with Reed Slatkin, who eventually went to jail as the creator of the largest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history.
Slatkin, a Scientology minister, pled guilty to bilking $600 million from 800 investors over a 15-year period and redirecting much of it to the Church of Scientology. He’s serving a 14-year prison sentence at Taft federal prison in California.
As for “Valkyrie,” such a harsh move against it by the Germans doesn’t bode well. Cruise’s production deal with partner Paula Wagner at United Artists is still not completely funded by Merrill Lynch. The latter investment house may not be so keen on putting up $500 million — a portion of which would be needed to complete “Valkyrie” — if bad publicity is already rolling in.
But Wagner is optimistic. She issued a statement on Monday that read in part:
"To set the record straight, “Valkyrie” is a historically accurate thriller that presents the World War Two resistance hero Col. Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg as the heroic and principled figure he was, and we believe it will go a long way towards reminding the world that even within the ranks of the German military there was real resistance to the Nazi regime …
"Aside from his obvious admiration of the man he is portraying, Mr. Cruise’s personal beliefs have absolutely no bearing on the movie’s plot, themes or content. And even though we could shoot the movie anywhere in the world, we believe Germany is the only place we can truly do the story justice."
Let’s correct something erroneous from last week. I reported that Journey lead singer Steve Perry appeared in the last scene of “The Sopranos” while his song “Don’t Stop Believing” was playing on the jukebox. Apparently, the man in the Members Only jacket only looked like Perry.
If Chase chose the guy because he resembled Perry, then it’s just another weird part of the jigsaw puzzle. But the man in question was Paolo Colandrea, who’s not an actor but owner in real life of Paul’s Penndel Pizza in Bucks County, Pa.
According to an article published June 9 on phillyBurbs.com, Colandrea was hired by a casting director who happened into his shop. Colandrea says in the interview that he worked two days as “mystery man.” The bigger mystery was that Colandrea also said that Jamie-Lynn Sigler, who played Meadow, had bodyguards on the set. …
Harry Shearer, aka Derek Smalls, sported large mutton-chop sideburns on Friday night at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica, Calif.
Shearer played the upright bass while his wife, singer-songwriter Judith Owen, put on a magnificently funny and tuneful show at McCabe’s. Julia Fordham dropped in for a cameo duet on one song, as well. Shearer explained that he’d grown the ‘burns for Spinal Tap’s upcoming appearance at the London Live Earth Show on July 7.
Owen, like Fordham, has a huge library of extremely coverable songs. One of them, “Here” (2006), is a Grammy nominee waiting to happen. Check out the video that was made for this song on YouTube, directed by Jamie Lee Curtis. More than any other pop writer I can think of, Owen is ripe for composing a Broadway musical, too. ...