Cruise movie uses Berlin memorial after ban lifted

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BERLIN, Sep 21 (Reuters) Preparations for filming in a movie about a plot to kill Adolf Hitler began today at a memorial site in Berlin after the German government reversed its decision to bar Tom Cruise.

It took the filmmakers months of persuasion to convince the German government that allowing the Hollywood actor to film at the site would not amount to its desecration but would honour the memory of the men who almost killed Hitler on July 20, 1944.

The film is called ''Valkyrie'', the plot's code name, and features Cruise as Claus von Stauffenberg, the conspirators' ringleader who placed a briefcase bomb next to the Nazi dictator at his ''Wolf's Lair'' hideaway in eastern Prussia.

Hitler miraculously survived the blast and suffered only minor injuries. Stauffenberg and his co-conspirators were arrested and executed hours later in the courtyard of the ''Bendlerblock'', now part of a Defence Ministry complex.

Because of the Bendlerblock's historical significance, the German government initially denied the filmmakers permission to film there.

It reversed its decision this month after receiving a letter from one of the film's co-producers.

Construction workers have erected wooden scaffolding and an earthen mound in the courtyard to recreate it as it was in 1944.

The scene showing Stauffenberg's final moments will be shot there, with filming scheduled to finish Sunday.

Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung had said the filmmakers could not shoot at any German military sites so long as Cruise played the lead role, citing Cruise's affiliation with the Church of Scientology.

The government later insisted Cruise's personal beliefs had nothing to do with its initial decision to prevent shooting in the Bendlerblock.

Germany does not recognise Scientology as a religion and sees it as a cult that masquerades as a church to make money. Scientologists reject this allegation.

The film, directed by Bryan Singer and co-starring British actor Kenneth Branagh, is slated for a 2008 release.

REUTERS AK PM0125

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