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Interview with Diane Kruger on "Anything for her"Still only 32, Diane Kruger has achieved more in her career than most manage in a lifetime. Born in a little village in Germany, from the tender age of two, her first love was ballet – a discipline she studied at the Royal Academy in Hanover. Though once she picked up a knee injury, she decided she was not good enough to make it as a professional and gave it up. By the age of 15, however, she had won a modelling competition which led to spells in Paris (where almost overnight she landed on the cover of French Elle) and New York. Though eventually becoming the face of Armani scent Acqua di Gio, she decided to quit the business when she was only 22.
At the suggestion of filmmaker Luc Besson, she returned to Paris and began pursuing a career as an actress. By 2004, she won her breakthrough role as the beautiful Helen in the blockbuster Troy, opposite Brad Pitt and Orlando Bloom. While she continued to make films in Hollywood – notably the ultra-successful National Treasure and its sequel – Kruger is just as comfortable acting in European films. Her latest, Anything For Her, is a pulsating French thriller, in which she plays Lisa, an ordinary woman falsely imprisoned for murder. Her husband, a teacher named Julien (Vincent Lindon), embarks on a daring plan to break her out of jail. Below she talks about the project, and her work on Quentin Tarantino’s hotly anticipated Inglourious Basterds.
Anything for her
Q: Anything For Her has been a huge success in France. How did that feel?
A: It was certainly very well reviewed. It was a big departure for me. That’s the first time I had such a dramatic and deep part. It’s been really great for me.
Q: So was part of the appeal making something you wouldn’t normally get cast in?
A: Yeah…I’m trying to broaden my range. I still feel like I have to explore a lot. I want to do parts that scare me. The Hunting Party, for example, was a real challenge. I had two really good scenes and I felt like I was going to get something out of that – and I did. It was the best experience. And then I want to try to work with better directors. Sometimes you take a small part because at the end of the day, you take something away from it and that’s more valuable than being the leading lady in a blockbuster.
Q: You act in French here, though you are German. How hard is that?
A: I studied Latin for eight years, and then I learned English in school. But I never studied French. I picked it up in five months, living in Paris. I think that’s my strength. And I’m very good with accents. I really pick up accents very easily, which is probably because it’s not my first language and my ears are trained.
Q: One of the most shocking things in the film is how little make-up you wear…
A: Well, that’s not why I wanted to do it! But it was liberating! What it was, was liberating! There was nothing else I could fall back to. I couldn’t hide between costume and make-up. It was all about raw emotion. And it was very, very, very liberating.
Q: You don’t strike me as an actress who needs her home comforts. Is that right?
A: Yeah. Like on Frankie…it was literally the director, and a sound person, and me. We had no trailers, nothing. We had to shoot over three years because she kept running out of money. Then you make something like National Treasure, and it’s totally out of proportion. You’re doing it for six months. But each movie is fantastic to make. Some are more comfortable and you have a better time than others. On Anything For Her, I had a terrible time on set. My character is in so much pain and so distant and so detached from reality and in prison…I didn’t have a great time on set, but it was a great movie to make.
Q: Did you shoot in a real prison?
A: Not the inside. But all the outsides are a real prison.
Q: Did you visit a real prison, though?
A: I did, yeah. Not so much for day-to-day life, but I was really interested in seeing what the routine is, and it’s really shocking. I don’t know if you’ve ever visited a prison. No matter what you’ve done – you stole, you killed or whatever – if you’re in prison, everybody gets treated the same. I kinda thought that was really shocking. When they strip away your basic human rights, there’s a routine of going anywhere – one door closes, another one opens. If they have a suspicion that you have anything on you, they strip-search you. You can’t do what you want to do anymore. And that to me was a lot more shocking. They don’t make a difference – like he raped 58 women and killed 10 or if you didn’t pay your parking tickets and you’re in prison for six months, it doesn’t matter. It’s the same.
A: I don’t want to be just another pretty face in Hollywood. I love the profession very much. I’m European, so I really want to make European films as well. I just want to mix it up. I don’t want to be typecast. I don’t think it has happened yet. But there’s a danger always, definitely in America, so I want to make sure that it’s not going to happen.
Q: There’s a US remake of Anything For Her in the works, with Paul Haggis directing. Are you involved?
A: I don’t think so. I’d like to be. It would be weird if I played my own part. I know Penelope Cruz did it [on Open Your Eyes and Vanilla Sky] but I don’t know.
Q: You started as a model. Did you always have ambitions to become a cover girl?
A: To be honest, I never had. But also mainly because I wasn’t that well known as a model. I don’t really look like one – I’m not six-foot tall! I went to drama school, classical theatre school, in France. I started out like any other actress – short films and really bad TV stuff. So I didn’t jump any steps. Also, I come from ballet. I was used to being on stage. If anything, I think the modelling helped me be prepared…I’m not afraid of the camera. A lot of actresses have issues with light and how they look, and I don’t.
Q: Why did you quit modelling?
A: I definitely chose to leave modelling. I left when I was 22. I was very tired of travelling all the time. You’re constantly on the move, and you don’t really have time to make great friends. I still to this day feel like I have no specific roots. I don’t feel at home anywhere in the world. And especially when you’re young, it’s quite a harrowing feeling. I don’t know how to explain it – this sense of loneliness.
Q: You’re coming up in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. Was that a long-held ambition to work with him?
Diane Kruger and Quentin Tarantino
Q: Talking of Pitt, you worked with him before on Troy. Was it nice to reunite?
A: We didn’t have any scenes in Troy. We met but we didn’t get to work. It was actually nice to see him in a working light. Because he’s such a persona, such a movie star, and you hear so much about him, it was nice to see the simplicity of him as an actor, just being on set.
Q: Do you hope the Tarantino film will push you up the Hollywood ladder further?
A: Of course you hope so. You always hope that every part you do, a director will see a different side to you, definitely. But that’s not the reason you make a movie. It’s not about that. It’s a personal accomplishment, I guess.
Q: How was your experience on Troy?
A: They put me through such a ringer to get that part and hired me three weeks before we started shooting, and I had to audition so many times, I felt like I knew the scenes by heart. The set was crazy and also there was a feeling that was overwhelming – not the set but the whole process. All these movie stars and the press it generated. It was like being thrown into an arena and also feeling afterwards, once it was over, that I don’t have a back-up or experience as an actor at all. It was my third movie. All of a sudden there was so much light on my career – and some people liked it, some people didn’t. And there was so much expectation on you. I felt like I was put straight into a category. I come from this working class family. All of a sudden, all of the parts I got were icons or really beautiful women, that men fall in love with or give up their wives for! Which is great – I’m not complaining. But that’s not all I aspired to do. It’s a little frustrating and finally I feel doors are opening.
Q: You’re also in Inhale, with Dermot Mulroney. What’s that about?
A: It’s about organ tourism. How people go to Mexico for a heart or lungs…I have a young daughter who needs new lungs. She’s been on this list for six years and she will die – and this is our last resource to save her life, to buy some lungs in Mexico. It’s a hard and difficult movie.
Q: What other directors would you like to work with?
A: I would love to work with Darren Aronofsky. He was one of my favourite actors. Before I was an actress, I think I saw Pi twice. I thought it was brilliant. Soderbergh I love. And Jacques Audiard in France – he’s my favourite filmmaker there.
Q: Do you get much hassle from the paparazzi?
Diane Kruger and Orlando Blum in Troy
Q: How do you envisage your career panning out?
A: I think I will try very hard to do this for a while, but I can definitely imagine giving it all up in fifteen years and having a family and doing something else. I don’t think I could sit around, especially at that age in America where all of a sudden you can’t get jobs.
Q: Would you be prepared to give up acting for a family life?
A: No. I don’t know how you feel about it, but I do believe there’s time for everything in life. There’s time to be crazy, and run around and do stupid things, and time to work…if I had children, I’d want to be around. I know some people seem to do it all – like Cate Blanchett and Kate Winslet. I just don’t see how I could do it. They’re in a great movies – at least a movie a year.
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