German-born actress Diane Kruger, 37, has her hands full with work on both the big screen, in the upcoming French film A Perfect Plan (Un Plan Parfait), as well as having a hit on her hands in the US drama, The Bridge, in which she plays Detective Sonya Cross, who is afflicted with Asperger Syndrome.
Kruger is known for such roles as Helen in Troy, Dr Chase in National Treasure and its sequel, as well as Inglourious Basterds, Unknown and The Host.
In her personal life she was married to French actor and director Guillaume Canet from 2001 to 2006, and they remain friends. She’s been in a steady relationship with Joshua Jackson, 35, since 2006. You may remember Jackson from the TV hit, Dawson’s Creek, in which he starred from the late 90s to 2003. He is currently starring in a new TV series called The Affair.
Kruger is a former model and one of Hollywood’s most glamorous actresses.
Together: You’re often described as being very direct.
Diane Kruger: Well, I do think all my life I’ve been very direct because that’s part of the German language, which is of course my first language. It’s more of a shortcut than, I think, French or English, so people always say, “Oh you can be blunt or you can be very direct. You are very straight up, what you see is what you get.” And I guess that’s true.
You work in both Europe and America? A Perfect Plan was filmed in France.
Yes, I’ve always wanted to make at least one French film a year. I always do no matter what. Since Inglourious Basterds it’s been better. Quentin (Tarantino) gave me a lot of confidence, and he made it possible in America for people to see me in a different light. I don’t always play the girlfriend role now.
Why is it important to you to do a movie in French?
Well, I live in Paris, and it’s been my dream ever since I started as an international actress to work in French. I went to drama school in Paris, and so naturally it’s my dream to make French movies. That’s why I became an actress. When I met Catherine Deneuve, I couldn’t even talk (laughs). I just love French movies, and now that I’m getting the opportunities to make them, that’s a great feeling. And I’m European and want to work in Europe, and the way I see it, French movies usually have great parts for women.
Why are they better parts than in American movies?
Because studio movies get made because of the box office, and mostly young boys go to the movies, so the girls need to be hot or to serve the male plot. Or else it’s a romantic comedy, where they talk about clothes and lipstick (laughs).
You’re in great shape. Do you still do ballet?
No, I don’t do ballet anymore. I’m not a big gym person. I like hiking and bicycling. I just like living life. Seriously, I love hanging out with my friends and travelling and seeing the world on my own, at my own pace. I really enjoy just having free time with my loved ones.
Which actress inspired you growing up?
Romy Schneider. She was my big idol, and I grew up watching her in German films. She made some cheesy movies, but I loved her. And then I moved to Paris as a model, and I discovered all her French movies. She was the best actress of her generation, and it gave me hope because they loved that accent.
What kind of driver are you?
I’m an excellent driver. I learned in Paris. I excel at driving, and I can deal with LA traffic. I’ve even driven in Naples once (laughs). When I first learned to drive, I picked my mother up from the airport in Paris, and you know what it’s like – there are no lights or anything, you just go, go, go. And my mum freaked out, screaming at me in the car, “What about the blinker? Get out of the car and let me drive!” So she got in the car and put the blinker on. Nobody cared about her blinker. (laughs)
Are you a bit of a rebel?
I’m opinionated, but I don’t think I’m rebellious. I was a pretty good girl growing up.
(laughs) I’ve become less stupid as I’ve got older, but I was certainly raised to voice my opinion. That’s not always a good thing because I’ve learned that diplomacy is something that’s very good at times. (laughs)
Why were you not interested in doing television before The Bridge? Did your boyfriend Josh persuade you?
No, I always felt like that commitment, the nine months per year commitment over seven years, seemed too much. I have run away from commitment all my life. (laughs) That’s way too much commitment for me. I think I started getting interested when all the cable shows came out. I am a huge Mad Men fan, and I think House of Cards is one of the smartest shows and has better writing than most movies these days. That’s what I found interesting. I feel like cable television in America is in its Golden Age, and you have directors like Soderbergh or David Fincher doing television that says something.
Did you have any police training before you started The Bridge?
No, it’s laughable. I am getting better at it. I wear a holster, but I’m not playing a gun-toting cop anyway.
Apparently you had some problems holding the gun?
(laughs) Oh my God, it’s so embarrassing. I’m like, “Hold up your hands!” Plop. (laughter) All the boys make fun of me. Yeah, guns and I don’t go together. She’s not that kind of cop. She is a detective, she’s brainier, and I don’t really like guns. So I am fine with that.
Did you do any other special preparation?
Well, a lot of it was for the Asperger’s aspect, because I do feel a huge responsibility, and I don’t ever want this to be an affectation or a thing that is the comic relief of the show because it affects so many people. And, like I said, I didn’t know very much about autism, or this version of autism. I deliver lines completely the opposite of what my instinct would be as an actor if that makes sense.
What did you learn about the condition?
Well, the challenges that they meet every day, the social anxieties that they have, what overwhelms them and, also, that they are geniuses. A lot of people who have Asperger’s are brilliant people in one thing; they get obsessed about a subject or about something. For example, Steve Jobs had Asperger’s, and they think Einstein had it. It’s very sad, but at the same time, it’s kind of a cool thing to have. Like how great would life be if you didn’t have to do the niceties that society wants you to do?
Are you afraid of mental illness?
Not anymore. I used to be when I was younger, because you have that romantic idea of going crazy, like any teenager. It’s like a Sylvia Plath period, especially for women but no, not now. I know that I am not crazy.
What gives you strength to deal with bad reviews?
I learned that on Troy. Don’t read reviews! (laughs)
In which language do you think?
I think in English, because I speak English. I very rarely get to speak German. But when I am in France for a long time, it goes back and forth. French is a little less blunt than English. German is very blunt. When I speak German to my mother, my boyfriend is always like, “Why are you yelling at your mother?”
The show The Bridge deals with America’s relationship with Mexico. How much did you know about the issues?
I have lived in the US on and off for 20 years. The problems with immigration are in every paper most days. I am very politically interested, and I wanted to learn more, so we went to Juarez, and I walked the bridge.
What was it like working with Demián Bichir?
He’s so charming. He has every girl wrapped around his little finger. I call him ‘the porn actor’ because of the way he talks. (laughs) I’m like, “Really?” (laughs) And he speaks Spanish, right? And all the catering people, they all speak Spanish, so he gets a special sandwich. He gets special treatment (laughs), but I love him. He’s great.