Diane Kruger is one of the six names in entertainment being celebrated at the inaugural IndieWire Honors on Nov. 2. Kruger won the best actress prize at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival for her starring role in Fatih Akin’s “In the Fade,” in which she plays a woman whose husband and son are killed in a terrorist attack. Read more about Kruger’s experiences with the project here.
Akin shared these thoughts about how his collaboration with Kruger came together:
I first noticed Diane Kruger as an actress in “National Treasure,” but I was definitely not the audience for a film like that. It didn’t hook me. A couple of years later, I saw “Inglorious Basterds” in a movie theater in Germany. I liked the whole film, especially her small role. In 2007, I won the screenplay at Cannes for my film “The Edge of Heaven” and she was the mistress of ceremonies. That was when I was like, “Oh. She brings positive vibrations to the room.”
Five years later, I was back at Cannes with a documentary called “Polluting Paradise.” I threw a tiny party for the film, and late at night, Diane Kruger appeared. She was on the jury that year, she’d heard I was having a party and came because she wanted to meet me. It was midnight, and I was drunk. We chatted on the beach, speaking in German. She was telling me that she’d like to work with me.
Years later, I was trying to figure out who to cast as the lead for “In the Fade,” and the meeting from that special night on the beach came back to me. I realized that even if I’m not the audience for her mainstream films, I’d never seen her give a bad performance. I didn’t have this prejudice that a lot of people in Germany had about her — that she’s not a real actress. There was this strange gap, this image she had in Germany, but Cannes really honored and respected her.
Later, I found out later why. She had done all these great films in France. In “Farewell, My Queen,” she played Marie Antoinette in a beautiful film. When I was writing “In the Fade,” I didn’t want to cast the usual suspects from Germany. So we trusted each other very early. When I sent her a screenplay, it was more like a treatment. I had written a biography of her character. I had a vision about this mother character. Sometimes, you’re lucky to have an honest dialogue with an actor. I could come up with half an idea and she could so together we could make one. We were like two musicians playing different notes and together they made a song.
In the beginning of the movie, there’s this bomb attack and the police bring her to this gym where there are many relatives. There is this officer, and he’s telling her that they don’t know where her husband and son is. They only found pieces of two bodies. In the screenplay, she didn’t have a breakdown until later, when the bodies were confirmed as her relatives. But Diane follow the instinct to play whatever she played there, and she just let go, and had the breakdown. I knew she was right. That bit of information was enough for her. She was surfing on that wave, and all I could do was leave it the way she was acting it. So I changed the story for her.
Later on, in a courtroom scene, a judge tells her they can’t penalize the Nazis responsible for the bombing. There’s this shot that moves in on her. The idea in the screenplay was that she would be furious. After a couple of takes, it was tricky to pull off. She said, “Can I try something else? I want to try doing nothing.” And on the seventh take, she played it completely empty. That was the expression on her face. She forced the film to adhere to her understanding of that moment.
When I cast Diane, a lot of my friends in German theater were like, “You want to cast her? She’s not an actress! She’s so boring!” I didn’t feel that. I’ve worked with a lot of Germany actors and they’re all good, but I’ve never worked with such a focused actress my whole career. She’s so curious and had no fear; she’s not afraid to embarrass herself. It’s always nice to watch someone turn the prejudice about them upside down. I’m very proud to have been a part of that. I think she can do anything.
I’m writing something in Germany now about a serial killer and I don’t know who to cast — it’s a male character — and I did think about casting her as a man. I won’t do it because it’ll be too much for this film. But somehow she would make it work. She’s that good, so ambitious and powerful.
We’ve been talking about making a film about Marlene Dietrich. The Germans were angry that Dietrich left to go to America. They weren’t celebrating her. That was how the Germans considered Diane before “In the Fade.” But while Diane can be glamorous — she’s a very beautiful person — she’s so down to earth, and she can do anything. I didn’t have to reinvent anything about her. It was there all along.
IndieWire Honors is presented by Vizio and DTS with premier support from Harold Ramis Film School at The Second City.