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Alexandra Maria Lara has ‘Youth’

Attracting the eye of Francis Ford Coppola

Given her lineage, Alexandra Maria Lara just might have the acting gene stamped in her DNA. Her father, Romanian actor Valentin Platareanu, had been running Bucharest National Theater before emigrating to Berlin, where he founded the Charlottenburg Acting Academy. Lara soon followed in her father’s footsteps, attending classes there and eventually landing a part in a German TV series at the age of 16. She has never looked back.

“My first part came along by accident and then everything happened really fast,” recalls Lara, now 28. “I’ve never tried to force anything. So far I’ve been very fortunate to get some great parts, but maybe it’s exactly because I never pushed too hard.”

While she’s played significant roles in such miniseries as “Napoleon,” “Der Wunschbaum” and “Doctor Zhivago,” it wasn’t until she held her own as the personal secretary Traudl Junge to Bruno Ganz’s Hitler in “Downfall” that her career experienced a dramatic upswing and attracted the attention of Francis Ford Coppola.

For the filmmaker’s much-anticipated “Youth Without Youth,” Coppola’s first directing effort in 10 years and based on a WWII-era novella by Romanian writer Mircea Eliade, she had to master speaking ancient tongues such as Aramaic, Sanskrit and Babylonian.

“Filming with Francis Ford Coppola was an amazing experience,” Lara says. “He wrote me a letter after seeing me in ‘Downfall,’ and we arranged to meet in London. At the end of the meeting, I had the part. I couldn’t believe it!”

Lara’s been working nonstop since, including tackling the part of Annik Honore, the Belgian lover of Joy Division singer Ian Curtis (Sam Riley), in “Control.” Shot entirely in black-and-white, “Control” is the directorial debut of famed rock photographer Anton Corbijn. “Playing someone who’s still alive was an interesting challenge,” Lara says.

Fortuitous roles continued to come her way, including a part in James Ivory’s foray into contemporary drama, “City of Your Final Destination” alongside Anthony Hopkins, Laura Linney and Charlotte Gainsbourg.

“So far, Berlin has proven to be a really good base for me,” Lara says. “I don’t want to lose the overview of what I’m doing, so I haven’t tried to get an agent in L.A. One step at a time.”

Claim to fame: Playing Hitler’s secretary in “Downfall.”

Career mantra: “Stay true to yourself.”

Role model: Her father.

What’s next: James Ivory’s “City of Your Final Destination” and Ridley Scott-produced miniseries “The Company,” about the history of the CIA, among other projects.