A lot has been written about Bryan Singer’s “Valkyrie” without a lot of information from the makers themselves. For months, controversies and whispers have surrounded the project, which stars Tom Cruise.
The German government, objecting to Cruise’s religious beliefs, initially refused to let the production film in their country. Early photos of the star wearing an eye patch were met with a healthy dose of mocking on the web. And then there are the release-date changes (no fewer than four), never an encouraging sign for a film, much less one with as much riding on it as this.
“Valkyrie” tells the remarkable true story of a group of German officers who, in 1944, plotted to assassinate Adolf Hitler. Cruise leads an impressive ensemble of actors (including Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy and Terrence Stamp) in the thriller, set for release at long last on December 26.
A few days ago, Singer — the much-lauded director of “The Usual Suspects” and “X-Men” — agreed to speak with MTV News for one of his first interviews since completing the film. Here, he weighs in on the controversies that have plagued the production and deftly dodges talk of a rumored “Superman” follow-up.
MTV: Is “Valkyrie” done?
Bryan Singer: The film is done! Yesterday, I looked at the first completed film print. That was pretty much the final process for “Valkyrie,” or so I’ve been led to believe. [Laughs.]
MTV: It’s been a long road for this one, with a lot of shuffling of release dates. Are you happy with where you ended up?
Singer: Ultimately, it was the right decision. By the time the release date moved up to Christmas, I was already on track to finish it. It all worked out probably the way it should have from the very beginning.
MTV: What was the toughest nut to crack when it came to tackling this story?
Singer: The big goal was to maintain the balance between a thriller and a historical drama. It’s a history that I find very important to maintain. The movie should never lose momentum. It should first and foremost be a thriller. It’s also my first historical film, and I never wanted to take that history lightly, even though the history isn’t known by many people outside Germany.
MTV: It looks to be a return for you to the thrillers that defined your career in the beginning, like “The Usual Suspects.”
Singer: It reminded me very much of the experiences in the beginning. I was working with ["Usual Suspects" writer] Chris McQuarrie again. You’re talking about a guy I used to make 8mm World War II films with in my backyard in Jersey. It also touched upon the Nazi subject matter that “Apt Pupil” and “X-Men” did. And I grew up watching Tom Cruise films!
MTV: It occurs to me that this is actually the first movie-star-driven vehicle you’ve helmed.
Singer: Yes, it’s the first time I’ve ever made a movie with a movie star. A lot of my friends say, “You’ve worked with movie stars before,” and I have to remind them that I worked with people who have become movie stars. A historical drama and working with a movie star were two things I had never done and two things I wanted to do. I’ve been talking with Tom about working together since “Mission: Impossible”!
MTV: Was there anything surprising about working with a star of his caliber?
Singer: The nice part is, we became friends. We spent a lot of time together researching the character and discussing the script and getting to know each other. By the time we were shooting, there was a familiarity that existed. He was pretty extraordinary at taking off his studio-head hat and his movie-star hat and just be an actor. He would do anything that I would ask. He wanted to get it right.
MTV: This film had more than its share of negative publicity, chief among it the conflict with Germany over whether they would let you film there because of Tom’s beliefs. Did all the negative hype get to you?
Singer: I’m used to speculation because of “X-Men” and “Superman Returns,” so it’s not something that was a surprise to me, but it does weigh on you. It’s an extra stress and an extra burden, because in the end, all the Germans really want from this story is it to be told well. When I would read speculation while I was making “X-Men,” I would remind myself that the best I can do for these people is make a great movie. I can’t do anything about their speculation. I’m not Hitler. I can’t blot it out. I want people to see the film. It’s a film that people need to see before they judge. It opens with a bit of a bang, and then, about a third of the way in, a little ticking clock starts, and it moves faster and faster right up until the last frame. And you get to see Tom Cruise come face to face with Adolf Hitler!
MTV: There’s a lot of confusion about whether you will be directing another Superman film. Can you set the record straight?
Singer: At the moment, I can’t really talk about that. I wish I could. From my perspective, I’m going to take a brief pause. This movie has taken a long time, so I’m going to take a pause. A movie like that takes some time to do right. That’s all I can say about that.
MTV: Have you ever talked superhero shop with “Dark Knight” director Christopher Nolan?
Singer: We had dinner, and [Marvel Studios founder] Avi Arad ran into us. Isn’t that strange? It was such a moment. The three of us were just sitting there thinking, “Isn’t this bizarre?” I should have called ["Spider-Man" director Sam] Raimi up and said, “We’ve got sushi. Get over here!”
Check out everything we’ve got on “Valkyrie.”
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