Diane Kruger is born in Algermissen, Germany, 1976. The ballerina-turned-model-turned-actress got her start in The Piano Player (2002), a poorly reviewed thriller starring Christopher Lambert, and fared a little better a couple of years later opposite Brad Pitt in Wolfgang Petersen’s Troy (2004), playing Helen of same. A stint with Nicolas Cage in two National Treasure movies preceded her outlandishly brilliant performance as Mata Hari figure Bridget von Hammersmark in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds (2009).
Most recently, Kruger put her stamp on one of the most compelling figures in history—Marie Antoinette, the Austrian princess basically bought and shipped to France in order to provide Louis XVI with an heir. Diane Karenne executed the role in the rare 1929 silent film The Queen’s Necklace, a performance pegged by one critic as a trifle glum, with Karenne seeming to telegraph her character’s tragic end from reel one. In 1938, Norma Shearer forged ahead with her interpretation of the French queen shortly after her husband, MGM producer Irving Thalberg, died unexpectedly of pneumonia. Thalberg’s pet project, aptly titled Marie Antoinette, was a lush, expensive production and Shearer, not always the most natural of actresses, was rewarded with a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her solid performance.
This century has seen at least three embodiments of the doomed monarch: Joely Richardson’s silly, frivolous supporting player in The Affair of the Necklace (2001), Kirsten Dunst’s youthful vanity in Sofia Coppola’s anachronism-laced Marie Antoinette (2006) and, currently in theaters, Diane Kruger as the troubled sovereign during the early days of the French Revolution in Farewell, My Queen (2012).
Kruger’s Marie Antoinette is seen through the eyes of a devoted servant (Léa Seydoux) over the course of three days and arrives to the viewer fully formed—no backstory, no painstaking explanation of character. Kruger’s is an impressively assured portrayal of a queen wholly self-possessed, prone to superficial whims and indulgences, protected from reality by the ornate, Baroque bubble that is Versailles and slowly, confusingly, waking up to the disillusionment and unrest of her people. “She’s quite borderline,” said the actress in a recent New York Post interview. “She’s so different from scene to scene. The mood swings are quite extreme.”
Farewell, My Queen is currently screening in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.