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Diane Kruger: “Who needs to be told what to think?”

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Diane Kruger
Photo by Maarten de Boer
Short Profile

Name: Diane Heidkrüger
DOB: 15 July 1976
Place of birth: Algermissen, Lower Saxony, Germany
Occupation: Actress

Ms. Kruger, do you have a go-to person for advice?

Yes, I do — I go to therapy! That’s helped me a lot.

Is that the American influence on you?

Yeah! You’re absolutely right. Because in Europe nobody is like, “What’s wrong with you?” And you’re like, “So many things, you don’t even know!” (Laughs) In America people talk about it, so it’s no big deal. People take off work because they have to go to therapy. And at first, I thought this was crazy but I have to say, it’s freeing! And I think it’s actually made me a better actor.

How so?

Because you’re not confusing yourself. You know this is work, this is that… Or if you use something from your personal life for work, you’re able to, you know, make better categories of where to put things.

Do you need to partition things in your life?

I think to be able to do what I do, I need to. I just don’t want to bring work home anymore. Sometimes you can’t help yourself. If you’ve been crying all day, you’re not going to come home and be like, “Let’s go out and party!” I’m in love with my partner not with my co-star. You know? It’s true! It happens.

“My first movie was with Dennis Hopper and he literally was like, ‘You’re the greenest person I’ve ever seen.’ And he taught me everything.”

When you were growing up there was so much said about the method and DeNiro and that style of acting. Did you feel like you had to do that?

No. There’s always been two schools about that. I think Jack Nicholson said, “It’s called acting.” You know, switch it on and off. I don’t know if I’m able to completely switch it off sometimes… But I really, really try. I went to the method acting class for a day, and they asked me to be an artichoke. And I was like, “I don’t think I can ever use that.” Then I went to Le Cours Florent, which is a very old theater school in France, and I studied Victor Hugo and the old, old school stuff. It prepares you to be on stage, to be looked at and all those things that are awkward when you’re in front of a camera for the first little while.

Have you ever been camera shy?

Oh, of course! My first movie, I was trying to hide from the camera! I think it’s human to not want to expose yourself. If you have to cry, you don’t want everybody to look at you, you know? Obviously you know you’re playing for the camera, but it’s like you instinctively hold your hands in front of your face or something. But you learn through other actors. My first movie was with Dennis Hopper and he literally was like, “You’re the greenest person I’ve ever seen.” And he taught me everything.

What kinds of things?

The basics, you know? Like, don’t hide from the camera! If the camera can’t see you, it doesn’t really work does it?

Do you think that will be different for the next generation of actors who have grown up with smartphones and social media? They are constantly performing for the camera in a way.

Maybe. It’s hard to tell but I think so. Most people meet on Tinder, right? I was at a premiere recently and an actor that was in the movie brought his girlfriend. I was a little drunk and I was like, “Oh, how’d you two meet?” And they were like, “On Tinder!” And I was like, “What?!” I thought you only have sex on Tinder. I didn’t know you actually date. I’m so behind…

Most people meet on the internet these days.

Good for them! It’s so much easier, right?

I feel like I was cheated to not have that simplicity in dating.

Me too! I was like, “I’m never going to meet anyone!” You had to have friends who introduced you…

Unfortunately a lot of people don't wait for that and just hit on people in uncreative ways.

The worst kind is when I’m on location and I’m at the bar after work or whatever, and you know that a guy definitely knows who you are but he pretends he doesn’t know who you are. And he just comes over and he’s so nervous to come and talk to you, and he’s like, “So, what are you in town for?” And you’re like, “Well, you know, I’m here on work…” “Oh, for a movie – I mean, what kind of work do you do?” (Laughs)

Very smooth.

The awkwardness of it. I personally don’t like fake people. Especially in the industry that I work in, there can be a lot of superficiality. I do think you make that choice for yourself. You choose who’s around you.

You generally seem to be making your own choices. Not many Hollywood actresses would use their Instagram to post a headline of someone defecating in the seaweed at a Chinese restaurant.

I’ve always felt free. I don’t let anyone make decisions for me. I just opened this account a year ago, and it’s actually been really interesting to share aspects that I choose to share with the public and see the reactions. Sometimes people are not agreeing with me, sometimes they are. But I think it’s about showing or sharing an aspect of my life that a regular interview or a regular photo spread can’t do.

Do you feel like you can be more bold now, also in the roles you choose as an actress?

Yeah, as I get older and have more experiences in life I’m able to bring more to a role, you know? I am unafraid to ask for the things that I need to be able to perform, too. You learn that you have to speak up for yourself. If I work, it’s because I chose it and it’s a pleasure and I believe in what I’m doing.

How did you get through times in your career where that wasn’t the case?

You have to be very strong. I always say that when people say to me, “I want to be an actor!” It can be tough, you know? You hear “no” so much and you have moments where you work a lot and then others where you don’t. I’ve certainly questioned whether or not it’s worthwhile going on and considered doing something else. You don’t get the parts that you want… It’s such a mind fuck! And you play on your emotions all the time. It can be very confusing. Some films are more tense than others, you tend to mix your life with what you’re doing that day… It’s hard for your people, your family, you know? So, I don’t know. But my love for what I do, I guess, has always won so far.

Do you ever choose roles because you want to comment on world affairs?

I don’t think I choose roles because I want to comment… But I think as a citizen of the world I’m concerned with what’s happening in our world, right? So, if I read a script that talks about certain things, chances are I might be interested in that. I’m not sure that I want to make a personal political statement or comment on something. I’m not sure that’s my role as an actor. I’m just there to tell the story. But I know that as an audience I like films that have multiple layers. But, for example, when I made a film about Marie Antoinette – people in France are so split about whether she was a goddess or the worst person ever – I never, ever told anyone my personal point of view.

Why not?

Because that’s not my role. In a personal relationship, you know, if we go out for dinner, I could tell you about that. But I think people are smart enough to judge for themselves. I hate movies that are preachy! Who needs to be told what to think?