Like your everyday dominatrix assassin, Diane Kruger looked natural killing Nazis with Brad Pitt. This month she sidles up to Liam Neeson—and stands tall
BY DEVIN GORDON
PHOTOGRAPHS BY PEGGY SIROTA
One of the more bizarro details in the making-of-Inglourious-Basterds story is that Quentin Tarantino did not want to cast Diane Kruger in the role of Bridget von Hammersmark—the screen icon and Nazi turncoat—because he did not believe Kruger was really German. Evidently Tarantino was unconvinced by her blond hair, blue eyes, and flawless Master Race complexion, not to mention the slightly more compelling evidence that she was born in Lower Saxony, christened with the awfully German surname Heidkrüger, and is totally, completely, indisputably German. "You know how it is," Kruger says. "Sometimes filmmakers get hung up on something. I basically had to fly to Germany and show him my passport." Tarantino's disbelief was so peculiarly at odds with basic facts that one wonders if he just didn't have the heart to tell Kruger he thought she wasn't up to the job. At least that would have made sense. That Kruger delivered such a bold, brassy turn in Basterds was—just bein' honest here—more than a little stunning, because—still bein' honest here—her acting career did not begin with much promise. She was so forgettable in Troy and National Treasure that we forgot she was in them. But now Kruger has our full attention.
In conversation, she is much more Bridget von Hammersmark than Helen of Troy: It's easier to imagine her matching you shot for shot than launching a thousand ships. In her new film, the stolen-identity thriller Unknown, she stars alongside Liam Neeson—though to hear her tell it, "alongside" isn't quite the word. "I'm five foot seven, but Liam's about six foot...I dunno, ten? He's like a bus next to me." Funny, we forgot he was even on the screen.
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