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253525-blahDiane Kruger first satisfied her yearning for attention on the catwalks of Paris. Now starring opposite Brad Pitt as an Allied spy, it seems the German actor is comfortable in the spotlight, but buckles under interrogation.

The last time Diane Kruger was in Australia, she spent the night beneath a gigantic concrete prawn with Pacey from Dawson’s Creek.

It was Christmas 2008 and Kruger and Pacey – aka boyfriend Joshua Jackson – were in the middle of a drive between Sydney and Hayman Island.

“It was an amazing holiday,” she says. “A big road trip. We’d pull over and sleep in little shacks. One night, we couldn’t find anywhere, so we ended up under this huge prawn. It’s so funny. Do you know there’s also a banana?”

The irony of this story is that the 33-year-old German actor bothered to track down the monolithic seafood in the first place – in truth, she’s so tiny, she could have sheltered perfectly adequately under an actual prawn.

It’s rather a shock to see her perched daintily on the edge of her chair, in her scarlet and black Louis Vuitton dress, which, when she’s not rather unsubtly checking her watch, she’s tugging down obsessively over her thighs.

She seems nervous, finding it hard to make eye contact. Her general aura of timidity isn’t supported by the heavy mask of dark make-up she’s wearing, giving the impression that she’s constantly up-lit, or that she’s creeping around in the shadows of a medieval crypt.

All this couldn’t contrast more starkly with the Kruger I saw on the big screen yesterday, playing renegade Nazi death-minx Bridget von Hammersmark, in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. Inspired by the 1978 original,

The Inglorious Bastards (although this isn’t a remake), the Pulp Fiction director’s new effort is quite possibly the silliest WWII film ever made. Which isn’t necessarily an insult; Basterds is a high-gore horror-comedy in which every frame seems to delight in its own idiocy.

Its heroes (including Brad Pitt as brain-dead Nazi-scalper Lieutenant Aldo Raine) and villains (the hilarious Christoph Waltz as Colonel Hans Lands) may be equally psychopathic, but Inglourious Basterds isn’t a brave essay on war crimes or a meditation on moral relativism.

It’s a live-action cartoon in which America (naturally) saves the world and Hitler gets shot and set on fire in a cinema owned by a beautiful Jew.

“I was amazed at how funny it was,” says Kruger of the first time she saw it, at the Cannes Film Festival in front of her peers and the world’s movie media.

“It’s bad enough to see a film you’re in for the first time, but it’s a whole other ball of wax to discover it with the entire profession present.

“I was incredibly anxious and tense,” she says, tugging at that hem again. “Going (into the cinema) I was like, ‘What if I suck? What if the movie sucks?’ I couldn’t even move my face. I was, like, frozen.

“When I walked out, I said to Quentin, ‘I think I loved it, but I’ll have to see it again.’ I really just watched my performance.”

Similarly nerve-racking was the occasion in which Kruger’s grandfather travelled to Berlin to see the film; the 86-year-old WWII veteran served in the Russian campaign.

“He was injured in a house that collapsed [and] trapped for a week,” she says. “He still has a hole in his arm.”

Grandpa Kruger should count himself lucky nobody like Pitt’s Raine picked him out of that rubble; in the film, the modus operandi of the ‘basterds’ is to club German soldiers to death before scalping them.

“I was worried about it,” she nods. “But it was fine. He said, ‘It’s just a fairytale, it’s great. They didn’t get Goebbels right, though. He didn’t talk like that.’ I was like, ‘OK, Grandpa.’”

It’s no surprise to learn Kruger has proud grandparents. Unlike the film she’s currently promoting, her own story sounds more like a fairytale. Born Diane Heidkruger in rural Algermissen, Germany, she had a resolutely unstarry upbringing; her mother was a teacher and her father worked with computers.

During those early years, the only clues to any glittering celebrity future were her vast ambition and her love of attention.

“I wrote plays that I put on in my backyard. I’d play all the characters and force kids to watch me. And I loved ballet,” says the actor.

Kruger’s passion for ballet (encouraged by her mother, who enrolled her in classes at the age of two) led to a scholarship with the Royal Ballet School in London where, aged 13, she quit after being struck by a dicky knee.

At 16, she moved to Paris, where she found fame as a model, strutting for five highly successful years on behalf of Dior, Yves Saint Laurent and Armani and making the cover of Elle. By 21, though, she was bored and began pursuing a third dream – drama school.

When pushed to analyse why she craved attention so early and for so long, Kruger reveals her early years weren’t as idyllic as they sound.

“There were a lot of difficult things in my childhood,” she admits. “My dad was always battling alcoholism.

I felt, through performing, through my body, through music, that this was the only way I could get it all out.

And also, getting feedback from an audience – those are amazing, big emotional highs.”

The celluloid highs began for her in earnest in 2002, when she appeared in the European film Mon Idole. It was her first major role and she was cast by the man she’d married the year before, French actor/director and star of

The Beach, Guillaume Canet. It wasn’t long after this that she began sharing credits with even more celebrated names, such as Ed Harris in Copying Beethoven, Nicolas Cage
in National Treasure and Pitt in Troy.

“You can only get better as an actor if you work with people who are better,” she says, adding that the American actors she’s worked with are sometimes more “daring” than their European counterparts.

“Like Nicolas Cage,” she says. “He’s great because he’s not afraid to do a crazy take – he’ll go all the way to crazy.”

Harris, meanwhile, remains a significant mentor. “He took me under his wing. We prepared together – we had to learn how to conduct an orchestra and spent two months studying. He was kind and I’ve never been able to prepare for a movie in a different way since.”

How has she found the experience of twice acting with someone of Pitt’s status? “It doesn’t really affect my job,” she says.

“But it does change things from a production point of view. You have to have more security. The set is completely closed. For Brad, it’s good, because he can be who he actually is.”

Does that mean he’s more relaxed in that sort of environment? “Oh yeah, he’s one of us,” she says.

“I’m sure he’s not acting for the money. At this point, this is what he enjoys best and where he feels the most comfortable.” She looks nervous again and checks her watch. “I don’t know, I’m speaking for him,” she says. “But that’s the impression I get.”

She does insist, however, that seeing Pitt up close hasn’t altered the way she views the super-fame that increasingly looks as if it might be part of her future. Slightly defensively, she says, “That’s not why I do what I do.

But if it should happen, I’ll deal with it. You can’t live in fear or anticipation. You have to live for this moment.”

Which must be an especially pleasurable sentiment when your particular moment is one of wealth, fame and apparent romantic satisfaction. Kruger’s watch-checking goes into overdrive when I ask about Canet, the handsome Frenchman she married at 23 and from whom she split in 2006. “I don’t want to go there,” she says.

Happily, however, Cupid seems to be doing his job a lot better in the way of her current partner, Jackson. The pair got together within 12 months of her divorce.

“It’s hard at times, though,” she says of their conflicting schedules. “I miss him when one of us is filming.

But then when we see each other, we have lots to talk about. And there’s the anticipation of seeing him again – it adds something to the relationship.”

Jackson is a helpful person to have at home for line learning, of course, but he’s also proved useful in explaining uniquely American aspects of the scripts Hollywood sends Kruger. “He was a big help in getting me the

Inglourious Basterds job, because there were a lot of terms I didn’t know. Like ‘the light fantastic’? It’s a dance – an American thing, apparently.”

This sense of culture shock that Kruger feels as she flits between US blockbuster and Euro arthouse runs a lot deeper than strange dances.

“In America, sometimes it’s not about who’s right for the part, but who has more value at the box office. In France, the director is God. But in America, the studio has a say in who’s going to be the lead.

That shift in power, for me, is a little difficult to understand.”

And perhaps a little irritating, now that the reviews for Inglourious Basterds have come in. The consensus seems to be that, while fun, this is not the return to form for Tarantino we’ve been waiting for.

“I’m proud of the movie,” counters Kruger. “I’ll walk away from this with a lot of confidence, whether or not it’s a box-office hit.” And with that, she checks her watch one last time and ends our chat with a telling: “Wow, time flies.” SM

Inglourious Basterds is in cinemas now.

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Posted August 23rd, 2009 in Film Star by admin. Tags:
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