Mission Expensive Nazi Extras Sue Tom Cruise's Film Studio for $11 Million

It all started when 11 extras dressed in Nazi army uniforms tumbled out of a World War II-era truck in Berlin during the filming of Tom Cruise's movie "Valkyrie." Now, the actors are suing United Studios for $11 million.

Falling out of a Nazi-era truck may have its benefits. Last summer, 11 extras in Tom Cruise's Nazi biopic "Valkyrie" (also known as "Rubicon") spilled out of the back of a World War II troop carrier as it swung around a corner in central Berlin. Now, the group is suing United Studios, in which Cruise also has a stake, for a total of $11 million (€7.4 million).

The accident happened almost exactly one year ago and saw all 11, still wearing their Wehrmacht uniforms, sent to the hospital with an array of injuries, ranging from bumps and bruises to broken ribs and pulled ligaments. One extra was kept in the hospital for four days on suspicion of internal injuries.

The actors fell onto the street when a fold-down side-rail on the bed of the truck -- against which the thespians were leaning -- failed. The group's lawyer, Ariane Bluttner, says that United Studios knew that the trucks used in the filming were not entirely safe.

"The studio knew the trucks were rickety," Bluttner told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "There had even been an internal memo about the railings."

Bluttner said she has sent the first letter to United Studios outlining her complaint and will take further steps should they not respond or show unwillingness to reach a settlement. In order to win the lawsuit, Bluttner would have to prove malice on the part of the production company to override the waivers extras signed before hopping onto the truck. Cruise was taking a day off the set at the time of the accident.

The movie, directed by Bryan Singer, features Cruise as Claus von Stauffenberg, leader of a failed July 20, 1944 plot to assassinate Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler. The officer planted a suitcase bomb that only broke Hitler's arm when it detonated in the dictator's hideout, the Wolf's Lair. Last year, Singer shot in various historical locations around Berlin and Brandenburg, including the Bendlerblock. The building, located in Western Berlin, was built in 1938 and used by the German military. Von Stauffenberg was shot in the building's courtyard on July 21, 1944.

Before the accident, United Studios had already kicked up controversy by asking to hang swastika banners in cordoned-off areas of the city during filming. Displaying the symbol is illegal in Germany, but Cruise's film got the go-ahead.

Cruise himself is not well-loved by Germans, many of whom look askance at his affiliation with Scientology, seen here as a money-making cult rather than a religion. Stauffenberg's eldest son, Berthold, publicly disapproved of the scientologist playing his father, but the German government did an about-face during filming and helped subsidize the movie.

The movie's release date has been delayed a number of times due to lackluster reactions to test screenings and faulty film rolls. It is currently scheduled for release February 5, 2009.

rbn -- with wire reports


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