A German film studio has offered to negotiate a settlement with a dozen extras who were injured on the set of the Tom Cruise film “Valkyrie,” despite their demands that the actor and his production company, United Artists, pay them $11 million.
“We have offered a settlement,” Charles Woebcken, president and chief executive of Studio Babelsberg AG, which co-produced the film with United Artists. “But they haven’t even reacted.”
Though United Artists did not hire them, the 12 extras sent the company a letter demanding $11 million for injuries when the door of a truck they were riding in during the film shoot in August 2007 fell open. At the time, reports said several suffered cuts, bruises and some broken bones.
A statement from Julie Polkes, spokeswoman for Cruise and United Artists, said the production company does not comment on “pending or threatened legal matters.”
“To date, no lawsuits have been filed against United Artists or Mr. Cruise, nor have any allegations been made of any involvement of Mr. Cruise in this incident,” the statement read. “All press reports and comments to the press stating otherwise and designed to generate sensational headlines are false.”
The extras were hired by Achte Babelsberg Film GmbH, a sister company of Studio Babelsberg. Woebcken said there was a thorough investigation of the incident and, a week later, the legal department sent a letter to the extras’ attorney to begin the negotiation process for settlement.
The letter said the vehicle was inspected by authorities and was in full working order; the problem, according to the letter, was an operator error of the door locking mechanism.
“Please tell us what injuries your client suffered, with necessary evidence from a doctor. We would then make proposals for compensation,” the letter from Babelsberg said.
They received no response, Woebcken said.
Ariane Bluttner, the Berlin-based attorney for the actors, said they answered some inquiries from Babelsberg lawyers but received no offers of compensation. Bluttner said Tom Cruise and United Artists must be responsible for the actions of its contractors.
“Mr. Cruise, Ms. Wagner and United Artists Entertainment did not exercise reasonable care to select a reasonably competent, experienced, careful and properly equipped contractor,” Bluttner wrote in an e-mail Thursday.
Woebcken criticized the extras and Bluttner for going directly to United Artists, calling it a publicity stunt, and said his company’s legal department would handle any claims. Instead, Woebcken said they should have approached Achte Babelsberg, then Babelsberg Film GmbH, then Studio Babelsberg.
“In America, these things happen,” he said, referring to the $11 million demand. “You have a different system in Germany. If you lose an arm, it’s not worth a million dollars. This (is) a broken rib.”