TIFF: Diane Kruger on Sexism in Hollywood and Working With Husband Joshua Jackson

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Ever since she embodied Helen in Brad Pitt’s 2004, Troy, Diane Kruger has found a balance between beauty and strength in her on-screen roles. She played the book smart archivist Dr. Abigail Chase in National Treasure, a stunning yet sly actress turned conspirator in Inglorious Basterds, and more recently, a detective with Asperger syndrome in the FX series, The Bridge.

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In her new film, Sky, the 39-year-old actress is reuniting with her best friend and French filmmaker, Fabienne Berthaud, with whom she has made two other films. Their third project stars Kruger as Romy, a woman finally fed up with her drifting marriage and ready to move through a new world on her own terms. While on her aimless travels through the southwestern states, she encounters costars Norman Reedus, Lena Dunham, and her husband, Joshua Jackson.

While at the Toronto Film Festival to promote the film’s premiere, Kruger sat down with ETonline to discuss the problems women face in Hollywood, working with her husband, and bonding with Dunham. 

ETonline: There are two moments that stick out in Sky. First, when Romy fights back against her husband’s attempted rape, and second, how she finds strength, not just in herself as the story moves along, but in other women.

Diane Kruger: I don’t know that Fabienne was out to make a feminist view about finding strength in other women, but I love the idea that violence -- in French, it’s déclencher [to release, set off, activate] -- it’s the thing that makes her want to change her life. She was kind of idle. This horrific, violent assault made her realize there is no way back. I think that’s very true in real life -- not necessarily assault -- but something that gives you the déclencher. The point of departure for her comes out of violence, but I love the idea of not knowing what she’s going to do, where’s she’s going and that openness. Although Norman Reedus’ character is a man, I think it’s so random. After leaving her husband, the furthest thing from her mind is to be in another love story. But that’s how life works. You find love when you least expect it and with the person you least expect to fall in love with.

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What was one of the things you really grabbed on to about this script?

I’ve developed this character for four years with Fabienne. We are best friends, and we had this idea four years ago, so I’ve been a part of this process. I’ve read about 10 versions of the script. Her movies are very simplistic, but she’s not an intellectual. She’ll be the first one to say that. She makes movies about people and about emotions and her scripts are very much a reflection of that. Random slices of life. Some people may criticize Sky, but that’s life. That’s how it happens. She’s not interested in making a feminist stance on what a woman should be. 

Well, the term “strong woman,” it’s been in the zeitgeist recently. But women are weak as well. They’re complex and weak, you are and I am, and so is this character.

I agree.

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Well, good. Now to the important stuff: What’s your favorite Lena Dunham project?

Well, I love her show, for sure. I don’t think there is something I don’t like. And she just started The Lenny Letters. She loves other women.

What’s it like working with her?

I met her at a party. She’s really easy to talk to -- she’s a cinephile and loves French films. When we were casting, I emailed her and asked her if she wanted to be in a French arthouse film. We didn’t even have to talk to an agent, she was on board.

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Lena's been very vocal about the shortcomings in Hollywood for women. What's your take on being an actress in Hollywood?

It’s terrible. It really is. We have to have events like “Women in Hollywood.” I think there’s a real opportunity for us to prosper. There are great parts for women in television, and we can create it for ourselves with so many outlets and platforms. It’s hard though. Even if you come to work and have something to say, as a woman, you’re being labeled as difficult or being a diva, whereas a man might be interesting and a great actor and into his art.

Have you experienced ageism or sexism?

Sexism -- all the time. I’ve never been paid what my male costar was paid in America. 

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In this film?

No, not this film. I didn’t get paid in this film at all. I don’t think anyone was paid on this.

Well, as long as it was equal.

Right. Nobody got paid anything! But yes, it seems to be general practice that a man can be 60 and have a 25-year-old co-star, yet the other way around, it doesn’t happen. I would do a project that made sense. It doesn’t make sense that an aging 55-year-old movie star is OK to have a 25-year-old ingénue in a movie. I’m surprised people don’t find it more outrageous than it is. 

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How do you feel about onscreen nudity? Did you talk to Lena about it, someone who’s gotten a lot of criticism for her nudity on Girls.

She’s gotten that criticism because she’s not a skinny model. That’s where the sexism comes in. If that character was super skinny and beautiful like on Game of Thrones, nobody seems to make a big deal about it on that show. I don’t have a problem with nudity if the part requires it. In this movie, how do you do all these love scenes if you’re all covered up?

Although, I saw more of your body than of Reedus’ body.

That’s because he’s very restricted by [his Walking Dead contract].

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Are there any directors who are good about showcasing women in Hollywood?

Michael Haneke (The White Ribbon, Amour), for one. I think there are a ton of great directors; I think it’s the scripts that are not good for women.

How did your husband, Joshua Jackson, end up in the film?

Well, he’s an actor, and we were looking for actors for free. So I was like, “Hey, want to be the policeman?” I was worried about having chemistry with him, because we’re not supposed to have chemistry. But when he stepped out of the trailer, I knew we were OK. He’d been growing this beard for about three months and then shaved it off for the mustache. I told him he had to shave it off before he came home!

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What about more collaborations together?

Why not? I mean, he’s a great actor. We’re both busy and working and we don’t have any projects together. There’s a fine line of what you can do before a relationship will overshadow a movie.