Diane Kruger is the face of Louis Vuitton

Diane Kruger is the face of Louis Vuitton, starred with Brad and Orlando in the spring blockbuster Troy and faces Josh Hartnett in the upcoming Wicker Park. Not bad for a self-professed “German country girl.”

What goes around doesn’t always come around in this unjust world, so let’s pause a moment to take just a smidgen of glee over the legions of Frenchmen whose own snobbishness cost them a shot at the most beautiful woman in the world. True, there was no way for them to know when Diane Kruger first arrived in Paris more than 10 years ago, to begin modelling at age 16, that she would someday become Helen of Troy, albeit in a Hollywood epic. All they knew was that, being from small-town Germany, she couldn’t speak a word of French. But really, where was the old Gallic gallantry?

“Basically, for six months, I had dinner by myself,” Kruger recalls now, relaxing after a FASHION photoshoot in Los Angeles, “because of how rude French people can be-20 people and they can all speak English, but they will not.”

As Nietzsche said, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, and being that soundly ignored forced Kruger to quickly add French to the Latin, German and English she already spoke. So did theatre school in Paris, where a firm grounding in the Old French of Molière and Victor Hugo gave her a leg up when she finally made the jump to professional acting three years ago. It certainly helped her land the Frenchman of her choice: In September 2001, she married Guillaume Canet, the dreamy, scruffy actor best known to North American audiences as Leonardo DiCaprio’s young rival for Virginie Ledoyen’s affections in The Beach.

Still, Kruger’s sights were set far beyond France. She grew up with images of classic Hollywood women in her head, sensible and elegant gals like Audrey Hepburn, and Hollywood had shaped her life even before she began to act. In one campaign shot for the luxury jeweller Folli Follie, she was styled to look like Grace Kelly. This fall, you’ll see her evoking the essence of old Hollywood noir, recalling Veronica Lake in a campaign for Louis Vuitton that matches her with Chloë Sevigny, Scarlett Johansson and Christina Ricci.

Kruger is living the sort of American dream that only immigrants buy without irony. “Nobody in my family has ever been in show business. I’m from the country; I would have never in my wildest dreams thought I would be an actress,” she says breathlessly. But whenever she gets too caught up in the fantasy, the neuroses of her mother, who works for a bank and has little contact with the movie world, bring her back to earth. “She’s a little bit worried in a way, because the only one she’s really known was Romy Schneider [the Austrian-born actress whose sad life-divorce, drugs, drink-ended in Paris in 1982, arguably as a suicide]. She had a really tragic life and died sadly. So she’s worried that I’m going to end up like that.”

Unlikely. Kruger isn’t yet wholly embracing Hollywood, choosing instead to keep her base in Paris so that the circus of competition for work in L.A. doesn’t wear her down. She and Guillaume have a turn-of-the-century farmhouse outside the city that they’re restoring with their own hands. The manual labour keeps her grounded, which helped especially last spring when fans around the world, especially back home in Germany, hailed her as Helen of Troy.

This fall, she’ll be in two more films: the Nicolas Cage adventure National Treasure and the romantic thriller Wicker Park (which she shot in Montreal with Josh Hartnett), extending a streak of on-screen intimacy with hot leading men that also enveloped Orlando Bloom in Troy.

But don’t get too envious. “I don’t think love scenes are great fun to do,” she says. “They’re really technical. It’s not like you just fool around; it’s choreographed. It’s not romantic; it’s awkward. Not only to be nude in front of someone you have to make out with that you just met, but also 25 people who say, ‘Oh no, bend your butt a bit to the left, you’re covering a light.’ It’s weird, you know?”

Well, no, we don’t know, having never had the opportunity to get naked with Josh or Orlando. It still sort of sounds like fun, whatever language you speak.

By Simon Houpt
Photography by Jeff Lipsky

Silk dress with rhinestones, $9,320, and pumps, $755, both by Lanvin.

Styling by Tammy Eckenswiller.
Makeup by Fran Kooper for Stephen Knoll Salon/Stephanie Louise Inc.
Hair by Robert Vetica for Magnet/Neutrogena.
Fashion assistant, Jennifer Newman.

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