If Helen of Troy was the face that launched a thousand ships, then beautiful German actress Diane Kruger’s face is launching a thousand magazine covers. Next starring opposite Josh Hartnett in “Wicker Park”, and Nicolas Cage in “National Treasure”, Kruger plays the infamous Helen to Eric Bana’s Hector and Brad Pitt’s Achilles in the monumental epic. If she’s a star on the rise, Ms Kruger is not showing signs of ego quite yet. Paul Fischer met Hollywood’s latest Helen in New York.
Question: Was there any intimidation at all in taking on the role of the most beautiful woman who’s ever walked the Earth?
Kruger: It’s a lot of pressure. I feel like people [are] either going to go, “Yeah, I can relate to her face,” or they’ll be like, “What were they thinking?” But quite honestly, personally, I was much more concerned – I mean, there’s not much I can do about my appearance obviously other than spending four hours in hair and makeup – but I was much more concerned to make – the part was a very challenging part for me – so I was much more concerned to look beyond that and make her more youthful, vulnerable, and show how sad she must have been from stories. So tragic.
Question: Did you want more of the relationship between Helen and Paris to come across? Personally I wanted to see more of why Paris was willing to sacrifice so much for Helen…
Kruger: I guess the script was always like that. It’s not something they cut out or whatever. I think they went with the idea that people know the story pretty much- knowing that he’s going to take her when she’s going to go with him. Also, the movie is really focused on Achilles and Hector and their battles.
Question: What is your interpretation? Why did she go if she knew there was going to be war?
Kruger: What I really tried to do with Helen was make her show this sad side of her. She was married off at 16, was so young and living in this castle that can’t leave because of how she looks, and married to a man she hates and three times her age. Her beauty didn’t do her any good and she couldn’t use it in any positive way or manipulative way. I just hope that people will look and see and believe in that hope of love, that hope of freedom, even if it was just for a limited time. It must have been so impossible to think about it and dare [to] do that, so they feel compassionate for her. I don’t think the movie would work otherwise.
Question: Did it raise your self-esteem to be cast as the most beautiful woman in the world?
Kruger: For a while, I guess. It’s pretty flattering.
Question: Talk about the love scene with Orlando. Were you nervous about it and did you have any discussions about nudity and how much nudity should be in it?
Kruger: The script was very explicit about the nudity that was supposed to be in the movie. Actually, they don’t show everything we shot. They would cut here and it was floored. It was very embarrassing. I just met him over a week ago and he had never done a love scene. I sort of have one in “Wicker Park” but never on that scale. He’s in full armour and I’m getting up and I’m taking the pins out his dress and it falls off completely and he’s like “Uh, huh.” That’s his speech. Feel free, fifty people standing around, take a good look. Also, the scene that follows when I’m on the bed was actually hard to do because I was naked obviously and I’m sitting up and it’s an emotional scene on top of that so it made me feel very vulnerable.
Question: How was working with Orlando?
Kruger: It was really fun. He’s a really cool guy. I don’t know if you get a chance to talk to him but we have the same age, and our careers started a bit similar. They hired him for “Lord of the Rings” out of drama school. He’s very new at this still and doesn’t have a lot of experience. So we were in this together and we’ve tried to help each other out. We felt very equal which was good.
Question: Did he try to do anything to make the love scene more comfortable? Did he set you aside and try to calm you down?
Kruger: He just took me aside and actually said, “This is the first time I’m doing this.” I don’t think we looked at each other in the eyes for a week or so because we were so embarrassed by it.
Question: At that time, how devastating was that dance injury to you? Did you think that your life or career was over at that point?
Kruger: It was pretty devastating, especially when you’re 13 and you’re overdramatizing everything. Looking back at it now, I really feel like it was a gift because I don’t know if I have the talent to become a prima ballerina. It’s such a hard job to have. I don’t have any regrets about it. I really feel like the first day I went to drama school and I went up on stage, that I found my vocation. It’s kind of a cliched thing to say but I really feel like it was what I was meant to do.
Question: How are you prepared for the possible onslaught of celebrity in this profession?
Kruger: I’m not prepared for it. I don’t know how you prepare for something like that. I cannot imagine living in a fishbowl like that. I don’t live here so I don’t know it will be that bad anyway because I live in Paris and we don’t have that sort of phenomenon there. So I don’t know, we’ll see what happens.
Question: Is there any pressure for you to move to the United States?
Kruger: No, not really because I did a movie right after. Maybe, at one point, I will have to take up a place in L.A. But I think once people know you and know your work…
Question: How long have you lived in Paris?
Kruger: About nine years.
Question: What made you decide Paris out of all places?
Kruger: I started modelling there. They brought me over from Germany to model. I love Paris. I love the language, I love French movies.
Question: Did the press give you a hard time about betraying them and moving to another part of Europe?
Kruger: Not so far because they don’t really know who I am. They will now but so far…and I’m German and I love Germany because my family is there.
Question: What language do you like to work with the most?
Kruger: English. It’s just because it’s easier because I speak in English and it’s a great movie language. I love French but you need a lot more work to say the same things.
Question: Where did you learn your English?
Kruger: Well I learned in school. I was here for four years and I work on it a lot. Just trying to get better the accent. It’s really hard.
Question: Did you have some fun with your husband by telling him you’re the most beautiful woman in the world now?
Kruger: He’s going to hate that I’m saying this but he doesn’t tell me everyday how gorgeous I am but I was shooting in Montreal and I was gaining weight for the part and he had flown in to see me. I remember coming home and he started the shower and I was like, “Sweetie, I’m home.” He looked at me and said, “Oh my god, you have to stop gaining weight. You’re getting a double chin.” That was the first thing he said! I hadn’t seen him in four months.
Question: What were you shooting in Montreal?
Kruger: “Wicker Park.”
Question: Which is the L’Appartement remake?
Question: With Rose Byrne again…
Kruger: Yes. Funny, huh?
Question: Do you play the [Monica] Belucci part in this one?
Question: How different is it?
Kruger: Pretty different. I think Monica, in the original, is an actress. I’m a dancer in the movie. It’s less that her ex-boyfriend stalks her.
Question: Is it as much of a thriller as the original version was?
Kruger: Probably a little less. A little less of a thriller. But there’s still an element of mystery.
Question: What about your film with Nic Cage, “National Treasure”?
Kruger: I love Nic Cage. He was so much fun to work with.
Question: So what can you tell us?
Kruger: I play a curator, the most American part you can think of. My work is to protect the Declaration of Independence. I work at the National Archives in Washington. I’m a very serious woman, sort of stuck-up. Nic Cage plays a treasure hunter. He believes there is a hidden map on the back of the Declaration of Independence.
Question: Do you do it with a foreign or American accent?
Kruger: I try but they make me half American.
Question: The other half being…?
Kruger: German. In “Wicker Park,” I’m half-Czech I think.
Question: Are there any directors you would like to work with?
Kruger: I really want to work with Paul Thomas Anderson. He’s my favourite filmmaker. Steven Spielberg obviously, Soderbergh for sure.
Question: Do you have anything beyond “National Treasure,” something signed?
Kruger: I have two projects. I’m going to do an American independent film with Ed Harris called “Touching (or Copying?) Beethoven” which is directed by (name unable to spell)
Question: Do you see yourself doing more with dance?
Kruger: No, not really.
Question: And what was the other project?
Kruger: I made a French film called “Merry Christmas” which is a very European film. It’s a World War I piece. It’s quite a famous story that takes place on Christmas Eve, and the Germans, French, and Scottish are trying to make peace one night and they bury their dead and they play football. I play a German opera singer, in German, which I never have so I am really excited about that.
Question: There seems to be an attraction between Hector and Helen and a little hint of something which Eric said “I’m glad you picked up on that”…
Kruger: Really? I didn’t notice that. I think that in “The Iliad,” there was something. You don’t know what’s going on. I don’t think the movie went for that.
Question: Did you do the karaoke party?
Kruger: I did.
Question: What did you sing?
Kruger: You really want to know? The only song I can sing is “Lady in Red” so that must tell you how great it must have been.
Question: What was Eric Bana like?
Kruger: He’s a great actor. I saw the movie yesterday and was blown away. I thought he was incredible and he’s a very normal guy too. He always travels with his wife and children. It’s very refreshing to see and he’s very committed. I really felt he was terrific in the movie.