Diane Kruger breezes into New York’s Bowery Hotel early for her interview. “Punctuality – that’s my German side,” she laughs, placing a giant Chanel handbag at her feet. Blond hair fixed in an Old Hollywood style, Gucci tiger-print sweater, dark jeans, delicate gold-and-pearl Victorian earrings found at a flea market… Kruger’s perfectly-pulled-together-yet-perfectly-casual appearance more than lives up to her style-icon status.
She may look unruffled, but the actress is in the middle of upheaval. “I just moved to an apartment in New York this week,” she says. “I need to unpack and buy house stuff, like candles and books.” For 10 years, Kruger and her boyfriend, actor Joshua Jackson, have relocated around the world for their alternate work projects, in an attempt not to spend huge swathes of time apart. “Deciding to take it in turns was a major commitment,” admits Kruger. “That was a big step for me, allowing that time for someone else out of my time.”
Being on the move has been a feature of Kruger’s life. She was born in a small German village called Algermissen, outside Hanover, and trained as a ballet dancer. At 16, she won an Elite modeling contest and went on to walk for Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel, Armani and countless other designers. Along the way, she met Karl Lagerfeld, whom she describes as “funny and cynical, very educated, very cultivated. He lives in books, always has great recommendations”. The two are constantly in contact, says Kruger, texting each other photographs of their cats: hers is a street cat, Hobbes, and his is the pampered social-media sensation, Choupette. Their friendship aside, modeling didn’t hold sway with Kruger for long. “I think when you’re 15 you want to be looked at, you’re testing out your womanly boundaries,” she says. “The second time I saw ’60s fashion trends come around, I was like, ‘Oh God, I’m done, I need to get out of here.’”
“People think I’m cold, but I’m just not a good schmoozer. That’s not good in my job, because it’s a big requirement”
“Parts in French films are more interesting for women. In American pictures, women support the male protagonist”
She turned her attentions to acting instead, studying at the prestigious Cours Florent school in Paris. After a few small parts, she landed her breakout role as the ethereally beautiful Helen in 2004’s Troy, beating a rumored 3,000 other women to play the face that launched a thousand ships. Vacillating between Hollywood and smaller European films, Kruger’s next major film, Quentin Tarantino’s 2009 WWII revenge fantasy Inglorious Basterds, earned her a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for her portrayal of double agent Bridget von Hammersmark.
But if success appeared to come easily, Kruger says the truth has been far from it. “I’m a loner,” she admits. “I think it has held me back in my life quite a bit. I’m socially awkward with people in a bigger group. People often say they think I’m cold or standoffish, but I’m just not a good schmoozer at all. And that’s not good in my job” – she starts laughing – “because, obviously, it is a big requirement.”
This month, Kruger stars in the French film drama Disorder, about a wealthy housewife and a military vet hired to protect her and her child. Aside from the lure of working with the film’s critically acclaimed director Alice Winocour, Disorder was an irresistible opportunity, says Kruger, because “parts in French films are more interesting for women. In American studio pictures, women are there to support the male protagonist in whatever his storyline is.”
“I didn’t have a great private life until recently. I was always looking for the next thing”
The actress’ next assignment will see her returning to France to begin filming a thriller in which she stars alongside Catherine Deneuve. “I thought Deneuve would be this posh, perfect Parisian, but she’s so not,” says Kruger. “The last time I saw her she was in this fur coat, sitting on one of the driver’s cars outside, smoking a cigarette and holding a glass of wine in the other hand. She’s so cool.”
As her 40th birthday approaches, Kruger says she realizes the self-awareness that comes with age. “I didn’t have a great private life until recently; I was always looking for the next thing. But when I turned 30, I realized I was being an idiot. I was living this accomplished life: I speak three languages, I’ve traveled the world, made good money. I realized that I really don’t know anything about what is going on in the world around me – and I was not so great about knowing myself, either.” She came to the conclusion, she says, to rise above her anxieties: “Now I’m not too self-centered!”
When it comes to Jackson, Kruger admits she doesn’t often watch his TV series The Affair: “He would rather not, with all the sex scenes. I think it brings up uncomfortable conversations.” And as far as marriage goes, she chimes in, “Welcome to my dilemma!” For now, the couple escape together as often as they can for fun-fueled adventures like Coachella festival, which they’ve attended for the past five years, usually renting a house with the designer Jason Wu and a few other friends.
“I’m not scared of fashion. You don’t like my skirt, big deal. Go to hell!”
Designer friendships are fairly commonplace then, but perhaps that is to be expected of a woman who appears on best-dressed lists as often as Kruger. The secret to her sartorial success, it seems, is a lack of fear. “People put a lot of pressure on themselves to look good. You want to be respected. Maybe it’s because I come from fashion, but I’m not scared of it,” she says. “You know, if you don’t like my skirt, big deal. Go to hell!”
While New York is home for now, Kruger is already contemplating her next move – and starting a family. “I feel very European and I think that I’m going to grow old in Paris. I have this fantasy of raising my kids there one day,” she says. “I just can’t imagine living my life sipping cocktails at the Chateau Marmont, you know?”
Wherever she ends up, the actress is determined to enjoy the journey: “It took me a long time to realize that I’m never going to play a better part than my own life.” And what a great role that is.
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