You already knew that if you had to pick one action start to assassinate the Nazi high command, Tom Cruise is the easy choice. But you may not have known some of the amazing details about Valkyrie.
1. A memorial inspired the film.
Co-screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie found the inspiration for Valkyrie while vacationing in Berlin in 2002. During a tour of the Bendlerblock—the HQ of the German resistance, which is now a museum—a guide showed him the memorial erected to Claus von Stauffenberg and the July 20th co-conspirators.
2. Tom Cruise was perfect for his part.
Cruise was initially attracted to the project because of his uncanny resemblance to the actual Claus von Stauffenberg.
3. But he needed a German coach.
Cruise received pronunciation advice on his German lines at the beginning of the film from the Oscar-winning director of The Lives of Others and The Tourist, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. Donnersmarck is a German-born friend of Valkyrie director Bryan Singer.
4. First things came last.
The African Campaign sequence at the beginning of the film was actually shot last. The scene was added after principal photography was complete because the filmmakers wanted to give context to Stauffenberg’s motives, and didn’t want the audience to think he helped initiate the coup because of the injuries suffered during the war. Singer scouted locations in Jordan and Spain for the scene, but it was ultimately shot in the Mojave Desert in California.
5. Cruise ran afoul of the German government.
The German government initially banned the production from shooting on location in Berlin because of Tom Cruise’s ties to Scientology - Germany does not recognize Scientology as a religion.
6. Claus von Stauffenberg’s real grandson is in the film.
He plays the aide to Major General Treschow.
7. Pay close attention to the hospital.
The hospital where Cruise’s character recovers following his injuries wasn’t a set. The production renovated an actual period German military hospital where Adolf Hitler himself convalesced after gas attack injuries suffered during World War I.
8. All the airplanes, cars, trucks, and artillery are legit.
They’re actual 1940s period pieces, not CGI.
9. Some of the costumes were nearly illegal.
It’s illegal to display swastikas in present-day Germany. To dress the on-location sets with period-appropriate designs—which included Nazi swastikas—the production had to go through an extensive permit process.
10. Hitler’s personal staff worked on Valkyrie.
Hitler's surviving bodyguard, Rochus Misch, was a key advisor on the film.
11. The sets were painstakingly accurate.
The conference room where the bomb goes off was built to exact specifications—including who was there and in what position. The production looked into the highly detailed Gestapo investigation papers created after the coup to ensure accuracy.
12. Singer wore a lot of hats.
The small insert shots that show Cruise in a JU-52 Junker plane were filmed by director Bryan Singer himself. Space for crewmembers was so tight in the plane that Singer also applied the actor’s makeup for these shots. Cruise, an avid aviator, landed the antique plane himself.
13. The explosion was quick work.
The explosion scene, with stuntmen attached to wires and a small detonation to portray the explosion meant to kill Hitler, was shot in one take.
14. Hitler lost a scene to the cutting room floor.
The filmmakers originally shot a scene that immediately showed Hitler stumbling out of the rubble of the Wolf’s Lair conference room to let the audience know the assassination attempt was unsuccessful, but they discarded it in favor of the dramatic irony of not knowing whether Hitler was dead.
15. Watch the camera work.
As a directorial choice, all scenes in the film after the explosion were shot with handheld cameras and told from the point of view from the conspirators to give the coup and its aftermath an uneasy feeling. Only when the conspirators are punished does the film pick back up with steadicam or crane shots.