According to Christopher McQuarrie, "Valkyrie" was supposed to be a tiny, fast-moving production. The Oscar-winning screenwriter of "The Usual Suspects" got his friend, "Suspects" and "X-Men" director Bryan Singer, interested in filming McQuarrie's tense, unapologetically old-school World War II screenplay (co-written with Nathan Alexander) -- which recounts a failed conspiracy by German officers to kill Hitler, take over the government and end the war in July 1944.
"Bryan and I were going to make this as a little movie between two giant studio movies that Bryan would make," says McQuarrie. "This was going to be $17.5 million, a little project we were gonna have fun doing, and it was going to be us getting back to our roots: 'From the creators of "The Usual Suspects" comes a different kind of lineup.'"
Fate -- or, more specifically, Tom Cruise -- had other plans.
They took the film to Cruise's studio, United Artists, which "led inevitably to a meeting with Tom, and it was expressly understood that this was not a meeting with Tom the actor -- this was a meeting with Tom the studio," says McQuarrie. "We were happy with that.... We weren't there to ask, and he wasn't there to impose. But out of that meeting emerged this partnership. And the movie took on a life of its own."
By "a life of its own," McQuarrie means Cruise decided to take the lead role of conspirator Col. Claus von Stauffenberg, the budget blew up to somewhere in the neighborhood of $75-90 million, and the film found itself the subject of endless entertainment-press chatter -- fueled by Cruise's controversial celebrity antics -- about everything from a rough shoot to budget bloat to speculation about whether the accents worked.
"What do you want to know? I'll tell you anything," McQuarrie says. (He'll lay out in detail how an expensive opening battle scene was always in the script, how the "troubled" test screenings never happened, how Cruise was a thoughtful producer, and how "the accent issue" was carefully considered.) "No one called us to verify any of the stories. And in the cut-and-paste universe of bloggers as journalists, they would just forward the story with their own spin on it -- and all of it was reading tea leaves....
"What I'm most proud of in this movie is that it never stopped being that film that we set out to make," he says. "It got bigger, and we got a lot of toys to play with, but it kept the spirit of that gritty, straightforward World War II movie."
McQuarrie (who also wrote and directed the 2000 cult crime flick "The Way of the Gun," which he grossly underrates) talked for nearly an hour about the myths and facts surrounding "Valkyrie," among other things. An edited transcript follows the jump.