Women, for all their tenderness, carry Lady Triệu Thị Trinh and Queen Boudica and St. Joan of Arc like wartime talismans, something clipped to the helmet or stored near the heart. There’s an inherent power in something with the ability to create life. It is holy, this ability—it is perhaps holiness itself. And while many men live in the fight-or-flight custody of subdued machismo, of watered-down brutality (or otherwise; I knew a man back home who once hit a guy so hard his eyeball spilled from its socket like an egg), women—in this man’s experience—are the stronger among us, engined as they seem to be by hardnosed logic and pragmatism. It is for this reason that many of them are, by nature, so mysterious and intimidating.
I’m thinking about men and women—our differences and similarities—while waiting for Diane Kruger in the Windows Lounge at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills. This is a woman who has starred in some of my favorite movies (Inglourious Basterds, Mr. Nobody, and, I’m not ashamed to admit, Wicker Park), who’s lived all over the world and speaks at least three languages, who’s been physically described as “angelic,” and who is, for lack of a more colorful word, quintessentially feminine. I’m sweating through my red woolen shirt in the 93° morning swelter, and I smell like a petting zoo. Diane Kruger played Helen of Troy, for Christ’s sake.
An employee walks up, points to a sign propped on the bar, and says, “We don’t open for another ten minutes, sir.”
I nod. “I’m just waiting for someone, thanks.”
Shortly after, another employee approaches and tells me the same thing, and then another. I feel like a raging alcoholic.
“Hello,” Diane Kruger says.
I whip around like I’ve taken a bullet; I had wanted to see her first, passing through the lobby, say, the way you spot a beautiful woman walk into a bar, slapping rain from her coat. There’s an aristocratic resonance in Kruger’s features, in her soft, prismatic eyes. This is offset by her casual manner—she’s wearing an outsize black jumper, and her hair is tied back. I relax. It’s like being onboard a plane that’s just righted itself after you thought for sure you’d wind up decapitated or liquefied amidst the wreckage in an open field somewhere.
Diane Kruger settles into a tufted sofa, crosses her legs, and checks her reflection in the mirrored wall.
Appropriately, we kick off the conversation with plane crashes.
“I hate flying,” she says, after mentioning a flight to Paris later that day.
“Statistically, if you know somebody who’s died in a plane crash, your odds of dying in a plane crash are really low.”
“I don’t know anybody who’s died in a plane crash.”
“Well,” I say, “I do, so maybe by proxy…”
A waiter materializes. Diane Kruger orders a Diet Coke, I get a mimosa.
“It’s too early for bourbon,” I say.
“Is it ever too early for bourbon?”
Diane Kruger’s energy is unique. Her presence itself breaks over you like hyperfine fog, her aura magnetic, a force of delicate magnitude. Her beauty, up close, is mathematically precise.
“So,” I say, “this is the Nine Lives Issue, focusing on reincarnation, reinvention, and, of course, cats. Are you a dog person or a cat person?”
“I think right now I’m a cat person. I do like dogs, but right now it’s impossible with my lifestyle and I don’t like little dogs, so I can’t see myself being one of those people who travels around with their little Chihuahua.”
“I’m one of those people.”
Diane Kruger (born Diane Heidkrüger in the village of Algermissen, Germany—one of the only facts on Algermissen’s sparse Wikipedia page: “The German actress Diane Kruger was born in Algermissen.”) got her start in the rigorous world of ballet, and then segued into modeling for a handful of years before answering the call to act.
“I was over [modeling],” she tells me. “I didn’t know then that I wanted to try acting… You know, I come from dance and ballet and, without me knowing it as a kid, I was used to expressing emotion through dance. There’s a creative process to dancing that I thought modeling would be like—and sometimes it is—but it’s very limiting. I just felt really bored by it.
“I don’t want to pooh-pooh it, because it allowed me to travel the world and be financially independent at a very young age, and I really appreciated and still have very good friends who are in the business—I just felt like it wasn’t for me, you know?”
Since then, Kruger has worked alongside some of Hollywood’s most imposing male forces—Dennis Hopper in The Piano Player, Nicolas Cage in the National Treasure franchise, Christoph Waltz and Brad Pitt in Tarantino’s Basterds, Russell Crowe in the upcoming drama Fathers and Daughters, and Jason Clarke in this year’s A.J. Edwards-directed/Terrence Malick-produced art house Abraham Lincoln biopic The Better Angels—but she nevertheless commands attention with a quiet strength whenever she’s onscreen.
“Are you drawn to a certain type of person?”
“I really admire just letting go of all the conventions I feel we have to live in,” she says. “I’ve always been attracted to people that just don’t give a fuck.”
It’s comments like these that lock this thing into a conversational compass; this is somebody I could go out for beers with. I say, “What’d you do over the weekend?”
“I was in Vegas, went to see the Mayweather fight. It was pretty amazing, except for the riot that broke out afterwards. I think somebody pulled a gun. We were leaving the arena, we came up the stairs to go to the hotel and…I can only describe it as an eerie silence, and then there was this wall of energy, like a tsunami, a human tsunami. People got trampled, a poor guy in a wheelchair got pushed down the stairs.”
“There’s always a guy in a wheelchair who gets pushed down the stairs.”
“I was so scared,” she tells me. “We started running, but I couldn’t run quickly enough. Josh [Jackson], my boyfriend, literally picked me up, and we were running and people were screaming, and it was the scariest thing I’ve ever met.”
“I’m part of the hood now,” she says. “Total street cred.”
It’s interesting to think that, no matter who you are, the unpredictable is waiting, indiscriminately—riots outside Vegas boxing matches, stray bullets, earthquakes—and in these fight-or-flight events, a peristaltic sparkplug fires in the brain, and you pick up Diane Kruger and run a touchdown.
Speaking of unpredictable tragedy, of chaos and death, Kruger now stars as Detective Sonya Cross in FX’s grizzly series The Bridge, an allegorical drama about the tumultuous borderland warzone between the U.S. and Mexico.
“Sonya Cross has Asperger syndrome,” I say. “How’d you get into a role with such a complex affliction?”
“Well, there’s always that danger of just doing ticks, just to play it on the surface rather than understanding everything. For me, it was very daunting—and continues to be—because autism is very serious, and it took a lot of research. It’s impossible to know what it must be like to live with Asperger’s. There’s this daunting part of the unknown.” She pauses, reflectively. “It took me eight months before the first season to get into it. We have people from [advocacy organization] Autism Speaks who come onboard as partners of the show, and they help me.”
In the days leading up to this interview, I gave myself a sort of crash-course in the show, watching every episode of The Bridge. This resulted in some pretty intense nightmares. The show is visceral, suspenseful, and often terrifying. And Diane Kruger nails her character’s complex vulnerability with startling precision, a character who compensates for her clinical lack of empathy with obsessive-compulsive attention to detail.
“I was reading up on German people generalizations,” I say. “Very straightforward, very honest. Did any of those ingrained qualities make it easier to play a character like Sonya Cross?”
“You know, sometimes because I’m German, I think, it’s culturally that we’re very direct people. The straightforwardness is very German. Our language is very A to B. That’s especially in America not always a good thing.”
“Well, I think it’s at least respected.”
“It’s often respected in men,” she says, “not always in women.”
The interview is over. I shut off my recorder, and we continue to chat a little about traveling (she shows me some snapshots on her phone, lifting the proverbial sailcloth and revealing the candid underside of celebrity—there’s her and Joshua Jackson smiling against the backdrop of Chile’s Atacama Desert).
Outside, I’m again thinking about men and women—our differences and similarities—while waiting for my Uber in the unrelenting sun. I’m thinking about certain gender roles, however ambiguously assigned, and how they transcend species. Male birds, for instance, are brightly colored in order to distract predators from their mates. This is a duty, born into, and essential in its own blunt, courageous way. But consider the female, and the ancient power therein. If a hen’s diet isn’t providing enough calcium to produce eggs for her young, she’ll dissolve her own bones.
Beauty Notes: Sublimage L'Essence Ultimate Revitalizing and Light-Activating Concentrate and Sublimage La Crème Yeux Ultimate Skin Regeneration Eye Cream, Lumière Illuminating Makeup Base, Perfection Lumière Long-Wear Flawless Fluid Sunscreen Makeup Broad Spectrum SPF 15 in Beige Rose, Correcteur Perfection Long-Lasting Concealer in Beige Ivoire, les Beiges Healthy Glow Sheer Powder SPF 15, Le Blush Crème de Chanel in Cheeky, Les 4 Ombres Multi-Effect Quadra Eyeshadow in Tissé Mademoiselle, Le Crayon Khôl in Noir, and Rouge Coco Baume Hydrating Conditioning Lip Balm by Chanel.
Photographers: Hunter & Gatti for OpusReps.com. Stylist: Ada Kokosar for artlistparis.com. Hair: Oscar Blandi for Abtp.com. Makeup: Beau Nelson for thewallgroup.com. Manicure: Mar y Soul for cloutierremix.com using Chanel. Set Designer: Michael Bednark at bednarkstudio.com. Producers: Luz Pavon and Victoria Pavon at pavonnyc.com. Photography Assistants: Shirley Yu and and Mariah Postlethwaite. Lighting Manager: Julio Gamboa. Lighting Assistants: AJ Stover and Calvin Laszakovits at B2PRO Lighting www.b2pro.com. Styling Assistant: Marcelo Gaia. Production Assistant: Antonio Perez. Cat Model: Winston. Special Thanks to Winston’s owners Shaun Reader and Bernhards Ziverts.