Diane Kruger: From Helen of Troy to a kidnapping by the Taliban

Her big break came opposite Brad Pitt, as the Ancient World's pin-up girl, but the polyglot former model's new movie is bang up to date, she tells Kaleem Aftab

In Special Forces Diane Kruger plays a French journalist kidnapped by the Taliban in Afghanistan. Shot in Tajikistan, the French-language role is another that displays the German-born star's penchant for changing nationalities, accents and languages. Last time out, in the action thriller Unknown, the 35-year-old played a Bosnian taxi driver. Also on her increasingly illustrious CV are turns as a German actress spying for the British in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, and speaking German in the 2005 First World War hit Joyeux Noel. She played a Chicago resident in Wicker Park and got her big break playing Helen opposite Brad Pitt in Troy.

"I always said that was my big dream as an actor, to be between two chairs," she says about her jump from studio films to more independent fare. "I never wanted to be typecast as a nationality. This does have the result of consistently having to do more work for a role, to be able to speak without an accent in English, to be able to speak with all different kinds of accents playing other nationalities or when I speak in French or German."

There is though, one accent the actress admits that she is afraid to try: "Scottish, oh my god, that would be hard." She adds, in English that betrays no hint of her German roots: "It's all a matter of rehearsal. You can learn any accent you want. It's a fascinating thing." Her skill with accents doesn't extend to impressions, though. "I'm not a very good impersonator, my friends maybe, but not famous people. I can do Karl very well, Karl Lagerfeld, because he speaks the same in every language."

She doesn't give a rendition of her Lagerfeld, sadly but adds: "He's like my stepfather, I love Karl. He's the funniest person I know. He's a big inspiration actually."

Kruger got to know Lagerfeld after she began modelling in Paris, aged 15. Her move to the French capital as a teenager came after a tumultuous couple of years. Born in the tiny hamlet of Algermissen, near Hanover, her parents divorced when she was 13. Her father worked as a cinema projectionist and her mother in a bank. She stayed with her mother, pursuing a career in ballet, but after auditioning for the Royal Ballet in London an injury put paid to her dancing dreams.

Walking catwalks around the world exposed her to many different accents, but, after the initial excitement, she found the life of a model "a bit boring" and began to take a more serious interest in acting. Her love-life and career overlapped when in 2001 she married Tell No One actor and director Guillaume Canet and appeared in his directorial debut Mon Idole a year later. The couple divorced in 2006.

The actress now dates Dawson's Creek actor Joshua Jackson. The relationship and a growing interest from Hollywood in her work has led to Kruger spending more and more time in LA, although she still thinks of Paris as her home and it remains her primary base. Being in California has forced her to get into car culture. Her choice of ride is driven by environmental, not fashionable concerns .

"I sold my car in Paris and I'm driving this diesel in LA. But I want to get a hydrogen car that Mercedes are doing. It's an electric car but of course electricity is not necessarily green, especially in America where it's still 60 per cent coal. So it's better to use hydrogen gas or high-power gas to put into the car to power the electrics."

To prepare for the role in Special Forces, the actress interviewed journalists who had been in war zones, an "eye opening" experience. It gave her a greater understanding of "the lengths journalists will go to relate a story." The filming of Special Forces was far from the usual luxuries of a Hollywood set, with the actress staying in a traditional Central Asian yurt rather than a hotel. "I didn't really expect it to be so cold and arduous when I signed on to play the part", she admits.

She has had to do plenty of research for her next, more regal, role, playing Marie Antoinette in Farewell, My Queen. Based on the novel by Chantal Thomas, it follows the relationship between the queen and one of her readers during the final days of the French Revolution. It just finished shooting.

"It's directed by Benoît Jacqout and is super intellectual," she admits. "But I'm a little anxious about it because I always feel with those big historical characters you set yourself up for failure because everyone has their opinion on them. The truth is that no one really knows what she is like, and at the end of the day it's up to me and her researcher to decide who she is. She is interesting but kind of strange." It's a role that the actress feels she was born to play.

"I feel like the universe does conspire and I do believe that roles find actors and I have always been fascinated with her from school... [with] what you read about her and myself being German living in France... I've always been aware of her history . This part just came to me. I'm the age she was when she died and the movie concentrates on her last four days."

As her friendship with Lagerfeld suggests, she's never completely lost interest in modelling and, like many top actresses, adds to her income by fronting campaigns.

"From my modelling days, I have relationships with all these people and it's kind of a cool thing that I still do that as well. It's better these days as I now have more of a say in what I do and so I don't sign with people that I don't stand behind... It's very cool to be the face of a perfume, that's a very flattering thing. When Calvin Klein asked me to be the face of a perfume called Beauty I was like, 'who are you kidding?' when they told me the name. I was thinking people are going to say, 'who does she think she is from Helen of Troy to Beauty?' Then with all the work I've done for cosmetics companies too it becomes very global."

She prefers to work on campaigns for products that are aimed at the High Street: "I like the idea of accessibility, coming from a lower-middle-class background myself, I feel like beauty and products should be accessible to all women over the world."

This seems to sum up Kruger. From afar and in magazines, she seems to belong to a high-end glamorous, unobtainable world, but she really is just one of the girls.

'Special Forces' is out on 18 November

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished

TV reviewGrace Dent: Jimmy McGovern's new drama sheds light on sex slavery in the colonies

Arts and Entertainment
Australia's Eurovision contestant and former Australian Idol winner Guy Sebastian

Eurovision 2015Australian Idol winner unveiled as representative Down Under

Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable