Diane Kruger on David Cronenberg’s Cannes Film The Shrouds: It Made Me Think About My Mortality

Diane Kruger on David Cronenberg’s Cannes Film The Shrouds: It Made Me Think About My Mortality

Diane Kruger has always had a deep connection with the Cannes Film Festival. The prestigious event, now in its 77th year, has been a significant milestone in the German actress’s career. From her breakout role as Helen in “Troy” in 2004 to her award-winning performance in “In the Fade” in 2017, Cannes has been a backdrop for many of her career-defining moments.

“Going to Cannes has marked the turning points for every step in my career,” Kruger, now 47, reflects. “Just being there, whether the film was well received or not, you feel like you’re truly welcomed in this circle of aspiring artists and the greater world of filmmaking. The French really take a particular interest in filmmakers. And with a few exceptions, the audiences in Cannes aren’t going to see a movie just for an actor who’s in it. Instead, it’s like, ‘Oh, we’re gonna go see Cronenberg’s next picture.’”

This year, Kruger returns to Cannes with David Cronenberg’s highly anticipated film, “The Shrouds.” This marks her first collaboration with the renowned 81-year-old Canadian director, and it’s a significant project for both of them. For each, it will be their seventh film to premiere at the festival. Both Kruger and Cronenberg have also served on the main competition Cannes jury, with Cronenberg as the jury president in 1999 and Kruger as a member in 2012.

Exploring Mortality in “The Shrouds”

“The Shrouds” is a horror and sci-fi hybrid that fits well within Cronenberg’s oeuvre, reminiscent of his classics like “Scanners,” “Videodrome,” “The Dead Zone,” and “The Fly.” However, this film is deeply personal, rooted in Cronenberg’s own experiences. The story revolves around a businessman, played by French actor Vincent Cassel, who invents a device that allows mourners to view their deceased loved ones. The film is Cronenberg’s artistic attempt to grapple with the loss of his wife, Carolyn Zeifman, in 2017.

“It’s 100% the most personal film he’s ever made,” Kruger says. She stars as three different characters in the film, a challenging role that has profoundly impacted her views on life, love, and mortality. Living in New York City with actor Norman Reedus and their 5-year-old daughter, Kruger took some time to discuss her Cannes history and her latest project.

A Journey Through Cannes

Reflecting on her Cannes debut, Kruger recalls, “The year before ‘Troy,’ Cannes gave me the Trophée Chopard for best newcomer actors. My first Cannes was a wild experience. I had to leave straight from the ‘Troy’ set in Malta to go to the festival. They sent a small airplane to pick me up, and I had to get dressed in the plane in an outfit I’d never tried on before. We were just hoping it would fit.”

Her memories of serving on the Cannes jury are equally vivid. “I remember it being a bit of an impossible task, comparing really great films with each other. It gets very heated at times during the jury deliberations. It can be exhausting but it’s really pure to experience a film festival just for the movies and none of the other BS. And I made friends for life. Alexander Payne was on the jury with me, and a few months ago when I saw ‘The Holdovers,’ he was the first person I texted afterwards.”

Advice for Future Jury Members

Kruger offers some sage advice for this year’s jury members: “Don’t go out too much at night because it’s truly not fair to that movie you’re going to see at 8 a.m. the next morning. Also, defend your point of view while being open to hearing a different perspective. As an actor, I tend to have an emotional response to most of the films I see. It’s interesting to hear what a director or writer has to say. It’s a very individual experience.”

Winning Best Actress for “In the Fade”

In 2017, Kruger won the Best Actress award at Cannes for her role in “In the Fade.” She recalls the emotional toll the film took on her. “I hadn’t worked since we finished shooting because it was so emotionally draining. I had six months of prep just talking about death, attending grief counseling groups, experiencing grief. I was exhausted emotionally.”

When her name was called, it was a moment of profound recognition. “It was the first time in my career where I felt like all this effort had been recognized. And I also understood that you don’t campaign at Cannes. It’s not like winning an Oscar. The jury watched everything and thought my work stood out, so that was an incredible honor.”

The Personal Connection in “The Shrouds”

The theme of grief in “The Shrouds” resonates deeply with Kruger, especially given Cronenberg’s personal connection to the story. “When I read the script, I was surprised by how emotional it was. When I met him, I didn’t know that this was inspired by his own story. He told me that he lost his wife and that many scenes are based on their actual experiences. This film is a depiction of a very difficult time in his life.”

Kruger shares a poignant moment from her conversation with Cronenberg. “He said when his wife passed away, she was put into a coffin, and that was almost harder for him than her passing. He couldn’t accept the fact that she would be alone in the coffin in the ground and he couldn’t be with her. It took all he had to not jump in with her. That is a part of what the film is about.”

Playing Multiple Roles

In “The Shrouds,” Kruger plays three distinct characters: the main character’s wife, her sister, and a personal assistant avatar. “One of them is the main character’s wife, who we see more in flashbacks. One of them is her sister, who is very extravagant and kooky. And then there’s a sort of personal assistant, an avatar character, which doesn’t necessarily resemble me all that much, but it’s my voice.”

This duality technique is something Cronenberg has explored before, notably in “Dead Ringers.” For Kruger, playing multiple roles was a unique challenge. “It was definitely a mind f–k, excuse my English. The sisters have different personalities but they are alike as well. For the two roles, he didn’t want to get too into prosthetics, but I look just different enough so that you buy it as being two different people.”

Filming with Cronenberg

Filming with Cronenberg was a unique experience for Kruger. “On the set, he directed us, but I felt that he was trying to distance himself to a certain extent from what was happening. He didn’t do rehearsals, he never had a table read. I think he didn’t want to hear us say those lines out loud. But thankfully, I have enough experience to realize that he would be expecting me to be ready to deliver the minute I stepped on set in Canada.”

Comparing this experience to working with Quentin Tarantino on “Inglourious Basterds,” Kruger notes, “Quentin really loves to rehearse, so there’s a safety blanket because you’ve tried out the lines. With Cronenberg, he didn’t want that. Earlier in my career, that might have been paralyzing for me, but it was pretty clear that that’s what he wanted on this picture.”

Reflecting on Mortality

Working on “The Shrouds” has made Kruger reflect on her own views about mortality and love. “The movie is about love in the sense of spending your life with someone and then also saying goodbye. As I grow older, I find myself thinking, ‘Who do I want to be around in good times and bad?’ And not that I think about my own mortality all the time, but I kind of do think about it in terms of what love actually means and how it expands, how it changes.”

In this sense, Cronenberg’s film is a deeply personal and emotional exploration. “It’s a desperate, emotional cry for wanting someone you’ve lost to come back. Even though it’s his vision and there’s a techno graveyard and gore, in this particular film you really sense him as a person.”


**Q: What is “The Shrouds” about?**
A: “The Shrouds” is a horror and sci-fi film directed by David Cronenberg. It revolves around a businessman who invents a device that allows mourners to view their deceased loved ones. The film is deeply personal, inspired by Cronenberg’s own experiences with loss.

**Q: How many characters does Diane Kruger play in “The Shrouds”?**
A: Diane Kruger plays three different characters in “The Shrouds”: the main character’s wife, her sister, and a personal assistant avatar.

**Q: What makes “The Shrouds” different from Cronenberg’s other films?**
A: While “The Shrouds” fits within Cronenberg’s horror and sci-fi genre, it is his most personal film to date, inspired by his own experiences with the loss of his wife.

**Q: How has working on “The Shrouds” impacted Diane Kruger?**
A: Working on “The Shrouds” has made Diane Kruger reflect on her own views about mortality, love, and the meaning of life. The film’s themes of grief and loss have profoundly affected her.

**Q: What advice does Diane Kruger have for Cannes jury members?**
A: Diane Kruger advises Cannes jury members to not go out too much at night to be fair to the movies they watch early in the morning. She also encourages them to defend their point of view while being open to different perspectives.

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