Germans give Cruise pic a break

'Valkyrie' gets $6.5 mil in tax incentives from board

Seems the Germans like Tom Cruise after all.

Despite the controversy and permit problems surrounding the Bryan Singer-directed World War II drama "Valkyrie," Germany's federal film board has approved €4.8 million ($6.5 million) in tax incentives to the project.

A film board spokeswoman confirmed that "Valkyrie" qualified for automatic tax rebates because it is being co-produced by Germany's Studio Babelsberg.

Shooting on the film — the true story of German officer Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg and his failed plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler — is set to begin July 19 in Babelsberg, with Cruise playing the hero.

Because of a ruling by the German Finance Ministry, Cruise and Singer will not be able to shoot on location at the Bendlerblock building, where Stauffenberg plotted the assassination and was executed by the Nazis. A memorial to Stauffenberg and his fellow conspirators exists there today.

German culture minister Bernd Neumann defended the decision Thursday, saying the Bendler-block was a historic site that could be damaged by filming there.

The Finance Ministry has denied the shooting ban has anything to do with Cruise's high-profile association with the Church of Scientology.

For weeks, German politicians have criticized the decision to cast Cruise in the film. Even Stauffenberg's son, Graf Berthold von Stauffenberg, has attacked the project, saying a Scientologist like Cruise "should keep his hands off my father."

Scientology is viewed with suspicion in Germany, where it is considered a dangerous, democratically suspect and profit-oriented cult. Prominent Hollywood Scientologists Cruise and John Travolta have been targets of protests.

Three years ago, Cruise's production of "Mission: Impossible III" was denied permission to film key scenes in Berlin's Reichstag Parliament building. In addition to the general ban on commercial filming there, the government argued that the ban was necessary to preserve the building's "dignity."

In 2003, however, the Finance Ministry approved a shoot at Bendlerblock.

"Stauffenberg," a two-part miniseries on the failed assassination plot produced by German public broadcaster ARD shot key scenes on location. The Finance Ministry now says the shoot was a "painful experience" for curators of the memorial site.