28 may 2024

Cannes 2024: Interview with Diane Kruger, heroine of David Cronenberg’s new film

Winner of the award for Best Actress for her role in Fatih Akin’s In the Fade at the Cannes Film Festival in 2017, the German actress makes her comeback starring in The Shrouds, the moving feature about mourning directed by David Cronenberg.

Interview by Olivier Joyard.

Diane Kruger en Atelier Versace au Festival de Cannes 2024. © Versace.

Some actresses feel right at home in Cannes. Such is the case of Diane Kruger, who has been walking the red carpet for twenty years and is once again presenting a film in competition this year. The former model, long-time close friend of Karl Lagerfeld and most French of Germans has built her career in cinema between Europe and Hollywood, from Troy to Inglourious Basterds.


In The Shrouds, she embodies three fragile roles, far from the glamorous image she has been associated with. She both plays a departed woman who returns to haunt her husband (played by Vincent Cassel), who observes the decaying body of his late wife thanks to a camera system installed in his grave, the sister of the dead woman, and a digital avatar. Numéro has met Diane Kruger to discuss a feature which stands out in the Canadian director’s filmography and has taken the actress far.


Interview with Diane Kruger, star of David Cronenberg’s The Shrouds, in competition at the 2024 Cannes Film Festival


Numéro : David Cronenberg picked you for a very personal role, since The Shrouds was inspired by the memory of his late wife, who died of cancer in 2017…
Diane Kruger: When I received the script, I didn’t know how autobiographical the film was. David Cronenberg only told me about when we met. To be honest, I was a bit shocked. I realized that I was going to play with Vincent Cassel, who, with his hair and looks, was going to look exactly like David. I was going to play his departed wife. It was difficult on set at times because of that. It wasn’t at all because David put the pressure on me, but when you see my character’s physical state deteriorating, I couldn’t help but think that the director was reliving difficult moments he had been through behind the scenes. To some extent, I acted like the ghost of his past, even if The Shrouds is not a realistic film about this memory – everything is exaggerated and serves a general aesthetic.

Diane Kruger et Vincent Cassel dans Les Linceuls (2024) de David Cronenberg. © Copyright Pyramide Distribution.

“I’m a fan of Cronenberg’s work, even though I’m not a fan of horror movies.” Diane Kruger


What did you gain from working with such a seasoned director as David Cronenberg?

I’m a fan of his work, even though I’m not a fan of horror movies. His universe expands far beyond that genre and uses a tone specific to him. Before I became an actress, I was familiar with his filmography. I remember The Fly, which has traumatized me for life, yet I can’t help watching it (Laughs). His films can be disturbing, but his vision remains profoundly human. I was very moved that he chose me for this project, which is undoubtedly his most personal and perhaps most accessible one. I can see the soul of David Cronenberg in The Shrouds. His creations usually stand out for their cold, detached texture and gore aspect. Here, we find all of that, but with something extra.


In practice, what does it mean to work with a 81-year-old seasoned director?

Surprisingly, David doesn’t read the script with the actors beforehand, nor does he rehearse before filming the scenes. I was baffled because I’m not used to that. If this film would have been shot ten years ago, I’m not sure I would have been able to do it. You really have to be ready. On a set like this, you have to respect every word, you can’t improvise. You don’t try, you just go for it. There were no acting instructions or references in the script, just a simple conversation before we started. It happened for David and I to have a chat on set when I was feeling vulnerable because of the nude scenes. I don’t normally do that, but the naked scenes were essential as the film is about the body, about the physical love you can feel for someone who is alive, and then one day is gone. David reassured me and explained to me how the shadows would work.

“Sometimes it is hard to get what is expected of you.” Diane Kruger


You’re saying that you wouldn’t have been able to make that film ten years ago. Why is that?
What has changed today is that I’m more confident. For me, the greatest difficulty for an actress is to blend in with the desires and preferences of each director. Directors are very particular and different beings with their own obsessions and work processes. Sometimes, it is hard to get what is expected of you. I could have been confused by David’s method without the experience I have today. I worked a lot on my own and with Vincent Cassel to prepare myself for the role. What gave me confidence wasn’t necessarily the recognition from the directors or the award I received at Cannes in 2017, but really the opportunity to get to know the characters better and better. I’m older, so I draw my inspiration from things I have experienced. Life is good.


Do you always work hard on your roles beforehand?

I’m not one of those actresses who can just turn up on set and be spontaneous. To be free and open to the unknown, I need to prepare myself. I read, I document. I prepared for six months for In the Fade by Fatih Akin (the film that won her the award for Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival in 2017). You never work for nothing, even if a film is bad. Actors and actresses are not responsible for the final result (laughs). I can be disappointed sometimes, but that’s not what my job is about.


The Cannes Film Festival has always been part of your career. What do you remember most about it?
I have nothing but very positive, strong memories. The most important films of my career have all ended up on the Croisette. It all started with Troy in 2004, which changed everything for me. Then, there were Christian Carion’s Merry Christmas in 2005, which made it to the Oscars, Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds in 2009, Fatih Akin’s feature in 2017… The excitement and anxiety of showing one’s work remains unmatched, this year included with The Shrouds! Obviously, there’re also the parties, the dresses, the brands, but above all, all the brilliant filmmakers gathered in the biggest festival in the world. It’s a privilege.

Diane Kruger et Vincent Cassel dans Les Linceuls (2024) de David Cronenberg. © Copyright Pyramide Distribution.

Have you been back on the set since this last shooting?

There are a lot of directors I want to shoot with, even if I have less time since I became a mom (her daughter Nova Tennessee was born in 2018). So when I’m shooting, I’m giving it 250%. I’ll soon be starring in Pablo Agüero’s Saint-Ex, again alongside Vincent Cassel. Then, I’ll be shooting a new adaptation of the novel Dangerous Liaisons in France directed by Jessica Palud for HBO Max, as well as another series adapted from Sarah Vaughan’s book Little Disasters.


Do you still live between France and the United States?

I will mainly stay in Europe for the rest of the year, which is good for me. I really like the United States, but I’m happy to be here. I feel European and I love shooting in France.


The Shrouds (2024) by David Cronenberg, starring Diane Kruger, Vincent Cassel and Guy Pearce, in cinemas on September 25th, 2024.


Traduction Emma Naroumbo Armaing