'Basterds' portrayals draw fire in Germany

Quentin Tarantino's script leaks, sparks controversy

BERLIN -- Seems you can't even be nasty to Nazis anymore.

A leaked script of Quentin Tarantino's World War II drama "Inglourious Basterds" already is stirring up controversy for scenes of vengeful Americans bashing, scalping, shooting and strangling German soldiers.

What began as an Internet murmur here went mainstream with a recent article by Tobias Kneibe, film editor of the Suddeutsche Zeitung, who predicted the project could have an explosive effect similar to that of Tom Cruise's "Valkyrie," which has been savaged in the German media even though it won't hit theaters until 2009.

"All the German historians and critics who were left gasping for breath by Tom Cruise and his worthy attempts will be so shocked by 'Inglourious Basterds' that they will savage it on the spot," Kniebe wrote.

Even though he personally likes the script, Kneibe saidthat "the collision between Tarantino-style pop culture with the themes of the Holocaust and Jewish revenge (the 'Basterds' of the film are Jewish-American Nazi hunters) is unprecedented in Germany and its results are completely unpredictable."

More potential fuel for the fire: Tarantino's pulp fiction version of German history will almost certainly get German state financing. Germany's DFFF film fund gives automatic tax breaks for local shoots and "Basterds" is set to shoot almost entirely in Studio Babelsberg outside Berlin.

"I don't see how it should not be eligible for DFFF money," said Kirsten Niehuus, director of the Berlin-Brandenburg regional film fund.

Producers the Weinstein Co. declined comment but sources near the shoot said the controversy has had no effect on Tarantino or the German talent connected to the film, which includes Til Schweiger, Daniel Bruhl, Christoph Waltz and Diane Kruger.

"Most in the German industry love it that Tarantino's in Berlin," one insider said. "They love it that this kind of popcorn film is getting made here."