Born in Lower Saxony, as a young girl Diane Heidkruger dreamed of becoming a ballet dancer, had a successful career as a model, and then gave it all up to become an actress. After shedding her German accent and the first syllable of her surname, she has starred in both European arthouse dramas and Hollywood blockbusters
In the 36 years of her life Diane Kruger has achieved a great deal and shown true german character in setting herself and then attaining one objective after another. now, after conquering yet another peak, this time in hollywood, she has again changed direction, deciding to concentrate on ‘quality, not quantity’ with a focus on european projects. She has always wanted to play in a ‘screwball’ film; now she has had her chance, alongside well-known French comic dany Boon in un plan parfait (2012).
At first sight, men have always played a decisive role in Kruger’s life story. her alcoholic father abandoned her mother, meaning that diane had to start working when still a child. luc Besson turned her down for Fifth element, but gave her useful advice: to change her surname and train to become an actress. She married ambitious guillaume canet at the age of 24, and he gave her a part in his Mon idole (2002), launching her screen career. quentin tarantino burnished her status in hollywood by engaging her for inglorious Basterds (2009). however, all these propulsive influences came on top of her own efforts.
Diane learnt to work her heart out while at ballet school. Subsequently, she arrived in paris at the age of 15, having only one obvious asset – her unique beauty – plus the protestant attitude to success as a reward for honest work. She was on her own, far from her mother’s watchful eye, in the Mecca of the modelling world. nevertheless, she did not go wild, steered clear of alcohol (mindful of her father’s alcoholism), and put aside money to pay for her future education. She worked for the best fashion houses, including christian dior and giorgio armani and for 10 years shuttled between paris, Milan, and new York – until one day she realized she had reached her ceiling as a model. She immediately gave up her successful career and took Besson’s advice to change profession. the French blockbuster Michel Vaillant (need for Speed, 2002) was the springboard that propelled her into hollywood.
Her first american film was paul Mcguigan’s wicker park, the remake of a French film which had launched the career of model Monica Bellucci. Kruger had the same role as Bellucci — a disappearing dream girl called lisa, who is unsuccessfully pursued by Josh hartnett in the main role. this was an untypical melodrama with a series of detective-storylike twists: at the end it emerges that the blame for the lovers’ repeated failures to link up lies with lisa’s spiteful best girlfriend. in the same year two other films involving Kruger were released. In national treasure she joined nicolas cage in a quest for riches concealed by Masons in an old church. in this indiana-Jones style adventure film she was classily beautiful without being outrageously sexy. Sexiness, on the other hand, was the order of the day when she played helen in the hollywood blockbuster troy. the film’s opening shots showed her half-naked, succumbing to delicious temptation in the form of orlando Bloom’s paris. during shooting director wolfgang petersen, who is german, spoke to her only in her native language.
“Wolfgang and i share the same work ethic,” remembers Kruger. “Each morning he and i would be the first to arrive on set.”
Kruger’s german blood played a crucial role when tarantino was looking for someone to play german spy Bridget von hammersmark in inglorious Basterds (2009). to begin with, tarantino almost turned diane down for the part: while living in the uS, she had with her usual dedication managed entirely to eliminate her german accent. Still, she had class, and that was what was needed for this role. “quentin asked me to look at about 20 old films to prepare for the part,” says Kruger.
“And he was very attentive to me on set. he even preferred to strangle me with his own hands.”
When she was making her first film for tV, dennis hopper gave Kruger a valuable piece of advice: never to base her choice of roles on prestige or money. after tarantino confirmed her star status, she started selecting parts with extreme care.
“After years spent in this profession, i’ve decided to go for small roles in european films, where i can really show myself as an actress.
She began appearing in French films again – playing first the doomed Marie-antoinette and then a French journalist seized by the taliban. recently, she agreed to play in the remake of danish tV series the Bridge (2013) – because tV is currently on the up and gives her scope to act to her full potential. She separated from guillaume canet in 2006 and has no intention of marrying again:
“I married very young and i no longer believe in marriage. i think that perhaps people should tie the knot at the end of the road, not at the beginning. But, you know, i definitely want to have children. My progress may be slow and gradual, but i shall follow my own path.”