Monday, May 18, 2009

At the Movies: Making molehills out of mountains

As is sometimes the case, the worst thing to come out of Ben Lyons' mouth in the past week occurred not on his TV show At the Movies--which is filmed under the security of a friendly director and a large cutting room floor--but during an appearance on another show, where he backtracked on his early enthusiasm for G.I. Joe--based on the trailer--after reconsidering it, still based on the trailer.

But the biggest flub of the show was in his DVD Out Now recommendation for Valkyrie. He says that the movie was controversial because,
All the talk surrounding the film of course focused on the star power of Tom Cruise. Was he miscast as Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, the German commander who in WWII found himself at the center of a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler? And why was he speaking in English without a German accent?

Well, yes, casting Cruise was controversial but not for the Hollywood-y reasons that Lyons comes up with. The controversy was around casting the role of a German hero--as much as any Nazi could possibly be thought of as a hero--with a leading voice for Scientology, a religion/cult which is highly unpopular in that country because it is seen as a totalitarian sect. Germans, after all, know something about the results of crazy cultish sects.

For example, the son of von Stauffenberg said that Cruise's religion was "off-putting" and that he "should keep his hands off my father." German politicians threatened to disallow production and the German Protestant Church said that Cruise's casting would "have the same propaganda advantages for Scientology as the 1936 Olympics had for the Nazis".

Now, that is not the entire story. The German government eventually allowed filming to commence and many came to defend Cruise's right to portray the character. I don't mean to either condone Scientology or the effort to keep Cruise out of the film. Just to say that this is the nature of the controversy--not his "star power" or whether he was using an accent.

All other criticism preceding the film's release was simply magnified by the political issues involved.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It was not just Cruise in regular cadence but you had actors (well just two) who were German speaking in English with a German accent and British actors with British accents, and they were all Nazis. Not really controversial but something Bryan Singer should have held better together instead of having actors going all over the place. Compare it to The Reader anyway and Daldry at least keeps the accents secondary from the production values and acting.