Here’s something you don’t see every day in Tokyo. Last week, Tom Cruise, his wife Katie Holmes and their daughter Suri turned up in Hibiya Park after having lunch at a sushi restaurant. While Suri, who turns 3 in April, played with Japanese children, Cruise chatted with their startled moms. Afterwards, the 46-year-old star took his family to a baseball game.
Cruise loves Japan and the Japanese certainly love him. After being mobbed at Narita airport, he and his family were flown to Roppongi by helicopter. Following countless interviews and walking the red carpet at the Japan premiere of his latest film, “Valkyrie,” Cruise took a chartered flight, the “Sky Cruise,” from Haneda to Osaka with 40 fans selected from 3,000 applications. “It’s exciting to be here with my family for the first time,” said Cruise, fulfilling a promise he made when he was last here, in 2006. The total cost of his visit reportedly cost promoters 200 million yen.
Japan is the last stop on Cruise's worldwide tour to promote “Valkyrie.” Directed by Bryan Singer, it tells the true story of a plot by senior German officers to assassinate Adolf Hitler in the summer of 1944. Cruise, sporting an eye patch, plays Col Claus von Stauffenberg, one of the chief conspirators.
“I didn’t know this story,” admitted Cruise. “When I first read about it, I was fascinated. It has action and suspense, but it is really about how a man is called upon to make sacrifices in extreme circumstances. As an American, I never learned about World War II history from that perspective. I hate the Nazis but I never realized that there were Germans within that world, who were against the Nazis and who were willing to try and end the atrocities. Maintaining one’s integrity against great odds is a timeless theme.”
Cruise said that as a father, he could identify with the decision that Stauffenberg chose to make. “Fortunately for me, I don’t have to make such choices, but as a parent, we have to look at how our actions will affect the world our children live in. Stauffenberg couldn’t even discuss what he was planning with his wife and children.”
Not knowing much about the protagonist, Cruise said he read numerous biographies and was astounded at the man’s life. “He was in hospital with shrapnel in his back and had lost his eye, yet he never took painkillers. Everything I learned about him told me that he loved his family and country. For him, the Nazis were the antithesis of what he wanted for Germany and the world.” Wearing an eye patch was cool, he added. “I always wanted to wear one since I saw John Wayne in ‘True Grit,’” he joked.
Making a movie about the plot entailed an extra challenge since we know that the assassination attempt failed. “When I make movies, first and foremost, I want to entertain audiences,” Cruise said. “Even though the outcome is known, this story works as a conspiracy thriller set during World War II. When I made movies like ‘Mission: Impossible,’ ‘Minority Report’ and ‘War of the Worlds,’ we had to sit down and come up with drama and suspense. With this, we just had to pick up the history books. Bryan and I sneaked into a early preview for an audience. I was ready to take notes, wondering if they would get what we were trying to communicate. It was great when the audience stopped moving. Nobody left the cinema and at the end, there was a standing ovation.”
The biggest reception was in Berlin where the world premiere was held. “I‘ve been to Berlin several times,” said Cruise. “I went rowing on the lake at Wannsee one afternoon, and got to thinking that this is where so many atrocities originated and wondered how they could have happened in such a beautiful and cultural city.”
At first, the city authorities had been reluctant to let the film be made on location, but finally agreed. There was also early talk that some Germans objected to Cruise being cast as Stauffenberg. However, Cruise said he was embraced by the family. “They all came to the premiere. I signed at least 60 posters for Stauffenberg’s nieces, nephews and grandchildren. It’s a big family. I was in London one day and two of his grandnieces came up to me on the street. They’re everywhere.”
Despite the serious subject matter, Cruise said that everyone had fun on the set. “Usually, the more intense a scene is, the more laughter there is afterwards. I work very hard on each scene and I expect a lot from everyone else too because I want to give audiences the best possible movie. During the shoot, we went camping in the desert and got to fly the old warplanes.”
Cruise said that he has been to many countries to promote “Valkyrie,” meeting people and learning about their cultures, lifestyles and concerns. “For modern audiences, I hope the message of this World War II story will be that next time, everyone will stand up to tyranny and it won’t happen again.”
During his 4-day visit to Japan, Cruise took time out to appear on the "SMAPxSMAP" TV program and dined on tuna and Kobe beef, prepared by the boys. Looking ahead to his next project, Cruise said he has started working on a script for "Mission: Impossible 4."
"Valkyrie" opens in Japan on March 20.© Japan Today