United Artist denies that Tom Cruise's film "Valkyrie" is being given a new, Oscars-friendly release date of Dec. 26 because of high kudos hopes, but now the Nazi thriller is back in the derby, like it or not.
Variety reports: "Sources close to events said the move was made for purely commercial reasons, after a screening of the film went well. The studio sees it as a holiday pic and award consideration was not a factor, they say."
Even if you believe that party line, Oscar expectations are inevitable. It's based upon a real, heroic person in a World War II flick (think past winners Adrien Brody in "The Pianist" or William Holden in "Stalag 17"), a guy with a handicap, no less (that eye patch — voters are suckers for stars who adopt a physical or mental disability, of course, like Daniel Day-Lewis in "My Left Foot" and Al Pacino in "Scent of a Woman") and it's directed by a chap who got Kevin Spacey that Oscar in the supporting slot for "The Usual Suspects" (Bryan Singer).
Originally, "Valkyrie" seemed like such obvious Oscars bait that it was set to open right at the start of derby season (Oct. 3), but then the first trailer came out and bloggers started lambasting Tom Cruise for not bothering with a German accent while portraying a Nazi officer who plots to murder Hitler. Director Singer had made that creative decision. He asked all of his actors to speak in their natural voices. But once the kvetching started, the studio pushed "Valkyrie" out of Oscar alley and moved its release to Presidents Day weekend next February where it would compete against Disney’s "Confessions of a Shopaholic" and Sony’s "Pink Panther 2."
But now it's moved back. Hmmm . . . the timing of the decision is rather curious, coming less than a day after Tom Cruise's biz partner Paula Wagner left her management job at UA. Coincidence?
Tom Cruise is ridiculously overdue for an Oscar, having suffered three defeats so far ("Born on the Fourth of July," "Jerry Maguire," "Magnolia"). But up until now, "Valkyrie" seemed more like Razzie than academy fare. Indeed, a photo of Tom Cruise in "Valkyrie" was shown at the tail end of last year's Razzie ceremony when that award's chiefs announced what movies they expect to see at the next fete. And when the Razzie audience saw the pic of Tom Cruise in that eye patch, it cheered.
Last year Cruise fans had high Oscar hopes for United Artists' "Lions for Lambs," but it flopped.
(Photo: United Artists)