Rounding out our Basterd interviews, is the hottest on the bunch, double-agent Bridget von Hammersmark played by Diane Kruger in Quentin Tarantino’s war epic Inglourious Basterds. As we all know, it wouldn’t be a Tarantino film without some sexy, sassy blond with a mean pedicure shooting up someone.
We’ve already posted the interviews for B.J. Novak, Mélanie Laurent, Michael Fassbender, Eli Roth and Nazi detective Christoph Waltz, just click their names to read our interviews with them, or keep reading to see what Kruger had to say about shooting the film…
What was it like to work with Quentin Tarantino and what was the absolute craziest thing he said to you or made you do on-set?
Kruger: (Laughs) What didn’t he ask. Well, it is everything you would imagine a Quentin Tarantino movie is like. When you watch his films it’s pretty much what he’s like on-set. You know, he’s a little larger than life. He’s very exuberant, and mad, and manic running around. There is real childlike quality to him. He can sit next to the camera and he can get so excited about the scene you’re doing. But at the same time, he can also be incredibly soft-spoken and sensitive. I think what sets him apart from other directors is that he has the ability to sense what different actors needs for different scenes. And he just knows exactly what to tell you to serve [that scene], to help you open that door.
Did he give you any advice specifically on-set on opening doors?
Kruger: No, that’s not really how it works either. You can’t open a door by saying, “Take it this way.” You know? You have to find that door yourself; it’s like going to a psychiatrist, I guess. But sometimes someone will say something to you that makes you think, well, “Oh okay, maybe I’ll do it this way.”
Who were your inspirations for the role?
Kruger: No one in particular. I guess the only character in the movie that could have maybe existed is Bridget von Hammersmark, so it’s a bit of a puzzle of different people. [Quentin] had a lot of actresses that he loved that he wanted me to watch. Of course being German I knew a lot of German actresses of that period. So I really like Hilde Konetzni. So you take a little a bit and then make it your own. But it was pretty much on the page.
We don’t really get much of a back-story on her. So, we have to take her word for it that she’s as famous as she says she is.
Kruger: Well the truth is I could tell you 20 years of back-story on Bridget von Hammersmark, which is what Quentin does, right? He tells you about your character and why and why. Without getting into too much details, because I don’t know if that’s going to be in a prequel or not, but in my head she’s truly come to despise the Nazi regime for whatever reason and truly is trying to use her power, or her influence to get rid of the Third Reich or try to end the war?
Can you tell us a little about finding the tension in your character. As with every other character, she has a larger than life quality to her but she’s grounded in true reality? Can you break that down?
Kruger: It was very important to Quentin. When you watch movies from the ’40’s, acting was very different then. It was a little more formal in how people spoke. And especially for actresses, and there was, you can call it, a commanding presence. They all spoke formal, it’s less conversational-like. Real movie stars, you could really see they were stars. The lighting, the filter, and everything. And it was important when you first see [von Hammersmark] on-screen you immediately know she’s the movie star. And when she speaks nobody else does. And also, it was important you would see that fierce intelligence that Bridget von Hammersmark is. If you doubt she’s just this ditzy movie star, you’d never believe she was able to pull off this Operation, you know. It was her idea that she has been able to be this spy for two years without being discovered. That gave me a great arc to play later on. Because you do see the real Bridget when she’s in distress. She knows what she’s doing when she steps into that office. She thinks the Basterds are morons for messing it up. There was so much to play with her.
***SPOILER***What was it like filming the fight scene with Christoph, the cast and being throttled out of your chair, looked a little rough and tumble?
Kruger: It was rough, yeah. A really funny thing about that is that it is actually Quentin who was strangling me. I know it’s like, “Are you trying to tell me something!? Did I do something wrong?” It was my last day, and he came into my trailer and he said, “Christoph is just an actor. He’s going to squeeze too hard or too little and we’re going to do it over and over. I just know exactly what we need, so I think I should just strangle you.” I’m like, “sure thing, Quentin!” And then, we see Christoph and Quentin is about two heads taller than him. So none of his costumes would fit him. So they had to make strap on and fake SS sleaves, that are strapped to the back of his collar. And here is this huge man on top of me – squeezing. He really was a lot less strong than Christoph, and I couldn’t tell Christoph, “Oh yeah, no-no [feign coughing], we can do one more.” He’s so sweet, you know.
What was the casting process like? How was your first meeting with Quentin?
Kruger: Casting with me was not pleasant. [LAUGHS] You know, he had someone in mind when he originally wrote the script so there was never going to be the opportunity to meet with him. And that didn’t work out for whatever reason, so of course, everybody calls and you have to say it’s Diane! And he says, “No, no. I want a German.” Okay, so… you know that was hard. He didn’t believe I was German. He didn’t want someone that was American that had German roots or grandparents. So it took a little while to convince him that I was German. I guess he was casting in Germany and he didn’t find the person that he was looking for. So it took awhile for him to say, “You can come to Germany if you like and meet with me.” Thanks Quentin! So I flew myself to Berlin. I had two days to prepare thirty pages of dialogue in German and in English. And when we met it was the easiest thing in the world. It was obvious, you know, that we liked each other and that we had the same sort of idea about the character. And I think the humor of the character is very important, and so, I think we both saw the same humor.
Did you grow up in Germany and how long did you spend there?
Kruger: I did. Born and raised until I was 15. So German-German.
For someone that speaks different languages, from the acting side of it, are you more comfortable with one than the other?
Kruger: Not really, but you do tend to be different in different languages. I think German tends to be a lot tougher for whatever reason, and French is like soft, and English is sort of… normal for me.
What is the German film industry like as opposed to the American film industry?
Kruger: It is a big – it’s like the studio system here, you know. It’s sort of like the legend of Germany. Some big movie stars came out of that system just like here. So it was a dream factor that I guess people are responding to.
Was it honor for you to be the foot fetish in the film?
Kruger: [LAUGHS] It was funny thing because I guess, I was lazy, I didn’t know about that. And then I was interviewed by a journalist as I just got the job. And he said, “So, ah, have you heard about this?” And I said, “no.” And he said, “Really, you don’t have a foot scene?” And I said, “actually, I do!” And then the day comes and I’m like, “Quentin, are you excited?! It’s the foot day!” And he was like, “No, it’s not true. It’s all made up. Journalists made it up.” And I was like, Okay. [Pretends to hide]. Six close-ups later on my foot and not on my face, and I thought, maybe there is some truth to it. I don’t know!
It was your foot?
Kruger: Oh yeah. It never looked better, are you kidding? The pedicure lasted forever. [LAUGHS]
How did working on this movie change or affect your attitude on Quentin?
Kruger: The truth is I feel confident. I think that’s what he does. He installs confidence in actors and he has faith in actors. And I feel you can do anything when someone has faith in you. And especially as a woman who works in Hollywood to feel valued, to be given, a dialogue that is intelligent and nuanced, and you’re not just being treated as an accessory to whatever male story is happening in the movie. It makes you – it’s empowering. He empowers women. I think women should be thanking him for the parts he writes for him.
***SPOILER*** How was it wearing a high-heeled leg cast?
Kruger: I just think it’s a genius idea when I first saw it, I thought, you’re kidding – it has a heel, really! It was genius but it was not comfortable. But it sure looked good.
How do you think this film will be received in Germany? Do you think it will be different from America because there is comedy, there’s parody in this film. Is it still a sensitive subject in Germany for going back to WWII?
Kruger: I know it’s going to play well in Germany because we premiered it there two weeks ago. It’s funny thing because journalists have asked us the same question since we’ve screened the movie in Cannes. The thing is it’s the same audience that is here, because it has been 60 years, three generations that have not lived through the war – and had to grow up with this heavy shadow on their shoulders. And honestly, they don’t want to hang out to Adolph any longer than you guys do. If they could, they would have killed him themselves. If anything, it’s even more positive towards seeing a movie like this that has so this revenge aspect, and you know, let’s change the ending of World War II.
So what was the reaction in the theaters in Germany?
Kruger: It brought down the house. It was Cannes times three. You know, my grandfather came to see it. I was a little nervous about that. And he was all like, “It was all fairytale. They messed up [Joseph] Goebbels, he didn’t talk like that!”
***SPOILER*** When you first read that you were going to rewrite history what was your first response?
Kruger: That’s why I wanted to do it. You can imagine as someone born in Germany, I get offered World War II movies once a week. And I never wanted to do it. Because why should I associate myself with that just because I’m German. So this came along, and I was like, that is cool. I will be able through Bridget von Hammersmark to bring down the Third Reich. I like it, let’s do it!
What was your favorite scene?
Kruger: They all were different. The tavern scene was exhausting to film. It was a two weeks scene. Just imagine keeping up that energy for two weeks. Ten or twelve minute takes and you’re in every shot. So even when you’re not on, you’re on… I think the funniest one was the one in the theater with Brad and the two other Basterds trying to pass for Italian. It was really hard to keep a straight face. [SPEAKS BAD DIALECT] Bongiorno! I loved it because my character could really go big. “Are you a fucking moron?!” It was so funny, like an old screwball comedy to do?
What was it like to work with Brad Pitt again after Troy?
Kruger: I’m glad I got the opportunity to meet him later on in my career because I was so green and inexperienced and completely overwhelmed when we were doing Troy. That was my second or third movie, ever. Being a little calmer about the whole thing, having experience and having such a cool character to play, and so did he. And knowing each other it helps because we were laughing, we had such a good time. His accent [THICK], “What are you talking about?” And everybody’s doing accents, and the dog’s barking. It was great.
What do you have coming up next?
Kruger: A movie I shot just before, Mr. Nobody which was just selected for the Venice Film Festival which is cool because I’ve never had a movie in competition there. So I am going to go to that. And then I’m going to do a French film in French. It’s a love project, I’ve been trying to get this movie made for years and it’s finally coming together. And I try to make one French movie per year at least.
Was it difficult or refreshing getting used to Quentin’s on-set demands and requirements?
Kruger: Well I think the ban on cell phones should be a given. I don’t know what idiot would bring a cell phone onto a movie set. Seriously, I think that’s disrespectful. I would never do that anyway. But I think that will happen because a cell phone went off while we were filming, and he went ballistic… obviously. No, but what he’s so strict about, what takes time getting used to – he’s so attached to his words – if you don’t say one word he will break a scene. He wants you say every single word. That’s an exercise that is quite difficult actually. You know because you could forget an “and” or a “but” or whatever – that takes time getting used to.
Quentin likes to play movies for his cast, I heard he played them on Thursday nights. Was there a special movie he played for you?
Kruger: All his favorite movies. He loves spaghetti westerns, so there was a lot of that. I saw The Good, The Bad & The Ugly. But the funny thing about it is, it’s not actually the movies that are so good, he has a popcorn machine and hot dogs and he sits through every one of them. He does that on every movie. He has seen all these movies 200 times, and he [MOCK IMITATION QUENTIN LAUGHTER] and you just watch him really be like a boy.
Check out Inglourious Basterds in theaters this Friday, August 21st.