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Diane Kruger on Her Awards Buzz-Worthy Performance in ‘In the Fade’

Playing a woman whose family perishes after a terrorist bombing in “In the Fade” left emotional scars on Diane Kruger. It also brought her an unwanted tattoo, in the form of an anchor on her inner ankle. She’d made a bet with director Fatih Akin that their movie wouldn’t get into Cannes. It not only did, but Kruger won the festival’s actress prize in May. So on a recent summer night, she made good on her promise. Did it hurt? “Like hell,” Kruger says. “It’s all right. It wouldn’t have been my first choice, but I think it’s important to keep bets.”

Here’s another one: “In the Fade” will earn Kruger her first Oscar nomination. The movie, which screens at the Toronto Intl. Film Festival before a release from Magnolia Pictures, is a career best for the star of “Inglourious Basterds.” Kruger carries every scene. She spent months preparing for the role, her first in her native German. Kruger spoke to Variety about the part.

How did you meet Fatih?
We actually met in Cannes five years ago. A year ago, I was in L.A. and got a phone call from a producer that Fatih had a script for me. We talked on the phone. He said: “I don’t want to send you the script. I want to come and meet you.” I was nervous because I wasn’t sure that upon meeting me, he would be convinced I could do this. I wasn’t sure I could do this.

Why not?
You’ve seen the movie. She’s a pretty extreme character. She’s a fighter. I knew he wanted me to change quite a bit. Are people going to believe I’m a hard-living, tattooed, bleached girl from Germany? It was a journey for me. I had been gone for 25 years. I was part of the entire casting process. I did screen tests with every single character. We created this character together. I lived where my character would have lived. I became this person.

“Are people going to believe I’m a hard-living, tattooed, bleached girl from Germany?”
DIANE KRUGER

You also went to support groups for people who had lost loved ones?
Yes. When you lose someone through murder or an explosion, when people can’t get to see the bodies of the deceased, it’s worse — to not have the closure of being able to say goodbye. That came out very strongly in the stories. You can feel that in the movie.

It’s a physically difficult performance.
I lost a lot of weight — a good seven pounds, which is a lot on my frame. To be honest, that was kind of unconscious. I didn’t go on a diet. I started feeling this incredible sense of grief and loss. And that added to the personal grief. Two people in my family passed away while we were filming: my stepdad and then my grandmother, who kind of raised me.

What was it like seeing the movie at Cannes?
It was nerve-racking. This is truly my first big starring role. It was my first German-language role. I felt a lot of mixed emotions, excitement, but at the same time pressure that people will feel about the film as strongly as I do.

The Manchester terror attacks happened right before the premiere.
It was really strange to promote this movie while that was happening, knowing so many people became my character within the time of the festival. I was overcome with emotion in so many different ways.

I want to ask you about another great performance. You played Kellyanne Conway in a Funny or Die video.
They called me. I thought it was really fun.

Did you watch a lot of CNN?
I do because I follow politics. I just wanted to make her a really horny drunk, basically, who gets high on her own success.

That’s an interesting take. 
Oh God. I feel like my green card might get revoked.

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