By Gregory Kirschling
Updated December 23, 2008 at 05:00 AM EST

Starring: Tom Cruise, Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy
Directed by: Bryan Singer
Release date: December 26

Tom Cruise met Bryan Singer at the premiere of Mission: Impossible in 1996, when Singer was hot off directing a movie Cruise had already seen a couple of times — The Usual Suspects. It took them 12 years, but they’ve finally teamed up for Valkyrie, a historical thriller that casts Cruise as Claus von Stauffenberg, the eye-patch-wearing, real-life WWII German officer who led a 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler. If you know anything about history, you know what happens to Hitler in the movie, but that didn’t bother Cruise. ”It’s like when I saw Apollo 13,” he says. ”If you know how it ends, it doesn’t matter. You’re still on the edge of your seat.”

Valkyrie has actually been in the news since the summer of 2007, when German officials spoke out publicly against Cruise’s Scientology and initially refused to allow filming in Berlin’s historic Bendlerblock building complex. ”I’ve been through stuff like this on movies, and it’s part of the process,” says Cruise. ”You always go, ‘Oh, boy, that could’ve been [handled] better.’ But the important thing is we did get to shoot in the Bendlerblock and make the movie we wanted to make.” Singer says the attention ”took everybody by surprise,” but nobody let it get in the way — even as more rumors sprang up about the film in light of its ever-shifting release date. ”Having been through speculation — sometimes outlandish speculation — on the X-Men and Superman pictures,” Singer says, ”this was not something I would let affect my work, ever, ever.”