The life of a celebrity Scientologist isn't easy. Just ask its posterboy, Tom Cruise. The avid follower of L. Ron Hubbard's church has become better known for his religious leanings than his acting career in recent years, and the publicity that he calls to his philosophies is beginning to catch up with him. After announcing that he planned to produce and star in a film about a plot to kill Adolf Hitler, Germany's Defense Ministry announced that the filmmaker would be barred from filming at German military sites crucial to production because of Cruise's "cultish" beliefs. Germany does not recognize the Church of Scientology and says it masquerades as a religion to make money, a charge Scientology leaders reject.
Cruise is poised to play Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, leader of the unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Hitler in July 1944 with a bomb hidden in his "Wolf's Lair" headquarters. The bomb went off, but only wounded the Fuehrer.
Defense Ministry spokesman Harald Kammerbauer issued a statement saying 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."
Stauffenberg agreed with Nazi nationalism, but found the Party's ideology repugnant. The Roman Catholic Church signed the Reichskonkordat (the concordat between the Holy See and Germany) in 1933, the year the Nazi Party came to power, but soon the Nazi government violated this agreement. As a staunch Catholic, this violation disturbed Stauffenberg, and the regime's systematic oppression of Jews, offended his Catholic sense of morality. Kristallnacht, he felt, brought shame upon the country.
Cruise's film-producing partner and chief executive of United Artists Entertainment, Paula Wagner, sharply criticized the government's decision. Cruise's "personal beliefs," she told Reuters, "have absolutely no bearing on the movie's plot, themes or content."
The Germans, however, aren't so sure. Cruise's Scientology takes a primary role in his life, and he is prone to publicizing it at every opportunity. In a 2005 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Cruise said that "psychiatry is a Nazi science" and that methadone was actually originally called Adolophine after Adolf Hitler, a myth well-known as an urban legend. He also advanced several erroneous theories, which the Entertainment Weekly editors helpfully pointed out in brackets: "Jung was an editor for the Nazi papers during World War II. [According to Aryeh Maidenbaum, the director of the New York Center for Jungian Studies, this is not true.] Look at the experimentation the Nazis did with electric shock and drugging."
Germany's concerns over Cruise's possible misinterpretation of history has only been compounded by his continued proselytizing of the religion that famously holds that humans bear the noxious traces of an annihilated alien civilization that was brought to Earth by an intergalactic warlord millions of years ago.
In 2005, the Paris city council revealed that Cruise had lobbied officials Nicolas Sarkozy and Jean-Claude Gaudin, who described him as a spokesman and militant for Scientology. The Irish Examiner reported that the council had barred any further dealings with him.
That same year, he also harshly criticized actress Brooke Shields on NBC's Today show for her reliance on prescription drugs to help her through post-partum depression, a choice antithetical to Scientology beliefs. He asserted that there is no such thing as a chemical imbalance. He was also widely rumored to have split with his second wife, Nicole Kidman, over her reluctance to embrace his beliefs. Those rumors were further strengthened when his new wife, actress Katie Holmes, began to take conversion courses in Scientology, seemingly abandoning her Catholic faith. She later delivered their baby Suri in April under Scientology rules - with no drugs and in complete silence.
There are, of course, other Scientologists in Hollywood. The faith has become somewhat trendy in the past decade, boasting followers such as John Travolta and his wife Kelly Preston, Leah Remini (King of Queens), Danny Masterson (That '70s Show), Jenna Elfman (Dharma and Greg), Erika Christensen (Traffic), Kirstie Alley (Cheers), Giovanni Ribisi (Friends) and Fox News anchor Greta Van Susteren. But Cruise is Scientology's star missionary, funding Scientology centers around the world and often spending time at the church's base camp in the middle of the Californian desert.
Cruise's film, slated for a 2008 release, will be directed by Bryan Singer and co-star Kenneth Branagh. It is called Valkyrie after Operation Valkyrie, the plot's codename.
In a statement, Wagner said von Stauffenberg is characterized as a "heroic and principled figure."
"We believe it [the film] will go a long way toward reminding the world that even within the ranks of the German military, there was real resistance to the Nazi regime," she said.
The main site of interest would be the "Bendlerblock" memorial inside the Defense Ministry complex in Berlin, where Stauffenberg and his co-conspirators hatched the plot and where he and his closest comrades were executed when it failed.
While Wagner did not cite requests for specific locations, she did state: "We believe Germany is the only place we can truly do the story justice."