Filmmaker John Ottman says his experience of working with director Bryan Singer, actor Tom Cruise, and writer Christopher McQuarrie on World War 2 thriller Valkyrie brought him to tears.
Ottman, who acted as executive producer, composer, and editor on the 2008 film says Singer’s absence during the post-production stage of the film, coupled with Cruise’s micromanagement of the edit, made the project feel like “a rudderless ship going in circles”.
Speaking to Deadline, Ottman – who is competing for the Best Editing Oscar this Sunday – revealed that he would receive conflicting notes from the Bohemian Rhapsody director, from the film’s star Tom Cruise, and from its writer Christopher McQuarrie.
“Tom [Cruise] would come in and see what I had done and spend a week with me, kind of checking in the editing room, and then Chris [McQuarrie] would come in and check what Tom had done,” Ottman said.
“I would always stay with a table full of chess pieces, but I’m barely moving them. Chris would see what Tom had done, and he would make a couple little tweaks to what Tom had done, and then after a while, Bryan [Singer] would come in to see what Tom and Chris has asked him to do, and he’d put things back.
“So they would come back and sensed that he had put things back. I remember sitting and weeping. Literally, I would cry because I couldn’t finish because it got to the point where the changes I was making were not really making any difference one way or the other, and we were sort of a rudderless ship going in circles.”
Responding on Twitter, Mission: Impossible – Fallout director McQuarrie said he didn’t dispute the story, teasing there was more to it that meets the eye.
I’d never dispute John, but some day I’ll refresh his memory.
— Christopher McQuarrie (@chrismcquarrie) February 19, 2019
Despite all this, Ottman continued to work with Singer on subsequent films up to – and including – Bohemian Rhapsody. In the new interview Ottman also went on to praise Cruise for his storytelling nous, calling him “a really great filmmaker.”
“I told him he should be a director because he had a really good instinct for story,” Ottman adds. “He rarely come in the editing room and talked about his performance. He sort of trusted that you were doing the right thing with that. He was really more concerned about the story arc and really good at it.”
Opening on Christmas Day in America, and in 2009 in the U.K., Valkyrie was beset with delays and protests, and ended up being a critical and commercial dud. Variety’s Todd McCarthy wrote that Valkyrie “has visual splendour galore, but is a cold work lacking in the requisite tension and suspense”.
It told the tale of the failed plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, starring Tom Cruise as Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, one of the key plotters.
Bohemian Rhapsody – also directed by Bryan Singer – is nominated for five Academy Awards. The Oscars will take place this Sunday, 24 February.