Last night, at the discussion following the 92nd Street Y's Reel Pieces premiere of Valkyrie, Tom Cruise was asked no fewer than three times about how his eye patch affected his performance as the movie's Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg: "You often give your most compelling performances playing crippled or maimed characters," began moderator Annette Insdorf. "Born on the Fourth of July or Vanilla Sky…" "What about Les Grossman?" interjected Cruise — citing the name of the totally non-handicapped film executive (who was purportedly based on Scott Rudin) that he played in Tropic Thunder — to a round laughter and applause from the sold-out crowd.
Insdorf tried again: "The depth perception that you lost, was that an element of your performance?" Sadly, he would share no hilarious stories about missed cues or accidental pratfalls (director Bryan Singer did talk some about the difficulty of blocking shots for an actor with one eye, though). Instead, Cruise spoke mostly about his character research and how much he admired Stauffenberg ("He was a fascinating guy … He liked to edit poetry"; "He started as a supply officer. That position in the military, you have to have great organizational skills"). Oh well. After the jump, some highlights from the Q&A.
Cruise on his religion and relating it to Valkyrie:
"I've studied many, many religions and I think the way that I was raised … I was always raised to have an open mind and to be able to think for myself and for me looking at this society where of course under that tyranny, where you must … that's why [Hitler's oath] … I read the oath. It was so bizarre to me to just blindly swear to follow one person and, where … I'm raised and I believe to question life and authority and find out what is true for you. And it took a bit, a lot of discussion, we were going to back and forth, to really grasp what that must've been like, what that society must've been like, and I'm glad that we have it at the opening of the film because it kind of puts into perspective what was drilled in, part of the inculcation of 'Don't think for yourself, just follow blindly these edicts.' And I think what's interesting to me is that this was a man who, by all accounts, did have the ability to rise above that, and did have the ability to think for himself and see a level of humanity and society and democracy, that I just found very compelling."
Singer on displaying swastikas while shooting in Germany:
"The Germans have a history of making films about this history, so it's not completely unusual for Berliners to see swastikas hung from buildings … maybe not as many as we hung."
Cruise answering a question from the audience ("Was it necessary for Goose to die for Maverick to achieve his full rite of passage?"):
"Goose was a friend of mine … but he had to go."
So how was Valkyrie? It was actually very good! It was well directed, most of the actors were great, and the film's second half was way more suspenseful than anyone who knows their history would ever expect. In fact, we'd even go so far as to call it the third best Holocaust-related film of the fall, which is no small feat.