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Models-turned-actresses have notoriously short shelf lives — anyone remember Cindy Crawford in “Fair Game” or Gisele Bündchen’s turn in “Taxi”? But Diane Kruger is striving to make her cinematic mark more permanent. Her latest role is a play for the Hollywood big leagues: the German native smolders as Bridget von Hammersmark, a Nazi-era silver screen star who spies for the Allies, in Quentin Tarantino’s highly anticipated World War II film “Inglourious Basterds.”

“It’s the first time a director of this caliber has trusted me with a part that has nothing to do with the way you look or the movies I’ve done before,” says Kruger, who appears alongside Brad Pitt, Eli Roth, Mélanie Laurent and Cannes Best Actor winner Christoph Waltz.

This story first appeared in the August 6, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

No stranger to red carpets in her role as a global ambassador for Jaeger-LeCoultre — and usually with boyfriend Joshua Jackson in tow — the starlet has been working overtime as “Inglourious Basterds” makes the rounds of international premieres in advance of its Aug. 25 release date. Here, Kruger takes a breather to talk to WWD.

WWD: We hear you had to fight for this role. Is that true?

Diane Kruger: [Quentin Tarantino] actually had someone else in mind when he first cast his movie, and that didn’t work out for whatever reason. He actually couldn’t believe that I was German, so I had to prove my German-ness to him.

WWD: But you would have been a perfect spy — didn’t Karl Lagerfeld say you’re the only person who can speak German, French and English perfectly, with no accent?

D.K.: I do speak fluent French, but I know I have an accent. He [Karl] says that because his own accent is so strong and he speaks the same way in German, French and English. English is not my first language, so I’ve always had to work at my accent. It’s become sort of my specialty — I’ve played South African, Serbian and German, obviously.

WWD: What was it like working with Tarantino?

D.K.: If you know Quentin, he’s definitely the captain of the ship. His enthusiasm and persona go a long way. It’s like a haven for actors. You just get bombarded with the most extreme movie references and footages, and every actor gets a whole list of films he wants you to see for your character. Films you’ve never heard of, or actors you’ve never heard of. So his sets are really about the love of making movies.

WWD: Are you a fan of Forties fashions, which you wear in the movie?

It was a wonderful time in the sense that fashions were really very feminine and emphasized what’s pretty about women. The belted waist and the hair and makeup were very flattering. A lot of the costumes were actually vintage. But I have to say the best [part of this role] was actually getting down and dirty. To have the ripped skirt, the [bullet] hole in the leg — being disheveled is usually more fun.

WWD: Were there any outfits you wish you had been able to keep?

D.K.: They sent me a couple of things. I actually wore silver shoes [from the movie] to the premiere [at the Cannes Film Festival] for good luck. They went with my dress so that was cool.

WWD: What’s next for you?

D.K.: I have two movies: “Mr Nobody,” which is sort of sci-fi. The story starts in the future and then it’s a flashback to the present time.Then I have “Inhale,” which is an independent film about organ tourism — people who go to Mexico to buy a lung. That’s a heavy movie.

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