Diane Kruger almost didn’t win the part of German movie-star-turned- Mata-Hari Bridget von Hammersmark in Inglourious Basterds because Quentin Tarantino’s didn’t think she was German enough. He was familiar with her from National Treasure, Wicker Park and Troy, but assumed she was American and would have trouble with the German dialogue and accent.
“It’s a testament to my dialect coaches throughout the years,” says the actress, born Diane Heidkrüger thirty-four years ago in Algermissen, Germany. “They eventually convinced him I was actually German,” she says, but unfortunately Tarantino wanted Natasha Kinski for the role.
When Kinski backed out Kruger saw her chance. “I can be really obnoxious when I want something badly,” she says. For the audition she flew herself to Berlin and learned thirty pages of dialogue in German and in English. “I knew if I got my chance he couldn’t hire anyone else.”
The Berlin set of Inglourious Basterds was a long way from Algermissen. “I come from the middle of nowhere,” she says. “No one in my family knows anyone in the business.”
Her first taste of “the business” was at the Royal Ballet in London before an injury sidelined her dancing career. Returning to Germany she pursued modeling and became a top model. After starring in campaigns for Chanel and Giorgio Armani it was time for a change.
“You can only care so much about free clothes and posing. I wanted to be intellectually engaged.
At the suggestion of The Fifth Element filmmaker Luc Besson she left the runway to try acting. Working internationally—she’s fluent in three languages—she made an impression in a series of French films like Mon idole before Wolfgang Petersen cast her as Helen of Troy opposite Brad Pitt in the big budget epic Troy.
Admitting to being “inexperienced and completely overwhelmed” while making the movie, it nonetheless put her “on the map” in Hollywood. Soon she was starring opposite Nicolas Cage in National Treasure and its sequel while still finding time to make challenging films like Frankie and the Oscar nominated Joyeux Noël.
Inglourious Basterds is another jewel in her crown, but don’t expect her to return to that kind of role again anytime soon.
“Every movie has to be a different challenge,” she says. “I don’t want to play the same part that I’ve played in a different movie. I have to be scared of it to want to do it.”