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Culture

Franka Goes to Hollywood

Few German film stars make it to Hollywood, fewer actually make it in Hollywood. But actress Franka Potente looks well on her way. She’s just scored a hit with the critics with her second big-budget Hollywood film.

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She better get used to the LA sun.

At Friday’s German Film Prize awards in Berlin, where Germany’s film glitterati gather annually for the Teutonic version of the Oscars, more than a few conversations will surely be revolving around Franka Potente, and many might start with the question, "How did she do it?"

Make it big in Hollywood, that is. That’s something few German actresses outside of Marlene Dietrich have managed.

It might be a stretch to say the 27-year-old actress who first gained international attention as a flaming red-head in Run, Lola, Run has hit it really "big". But with two films opposite Hollywood heavyweights Johnny Depp and Matt Damon under her belt, Potente’s star is definitely in the ascendant.

Critical Acclaim

Potente’s latest Tinseltown foray, The Bourne Identity is getting rave reviews by the critics and is sure to bring more Hollywood scripts her way. In the gripping spy thriller, she stars as a German student who impulsively helps out a young American on the run.

He’s got a unique problem, he can’t remember who he is or where he came from, but he can fight like the devil. It turns out he’s a CIA hit man and his former bosses want him dead.

The film is being praised for its solid directing, two strong leads, and the fact that it's attuned more to character and story than to spectacle. Its refusal to insult the audience’s intelligence sets it apart from most recent films of the genre.

Potente has earned points with critics for her nuanced portrayal of a woman caught up in circumstances she doesn’t understand, yet who manages to keep her humanity even as her world descends into a maelstrom of violence and intrigue.

This time out in English-language cinema was easier for the German than her supporting role in Ted Demme’s 2001 film Blow. In Identity she plays a German (who speaks English) and therefore didn’t have to drop her accent. In Blow, she played an American and had to work with a dialog coach for two months before she got the accent down.

Her worst moment during filming, she told an interviewer, was a scene in which she had to say, "Honey, would you be bummed out if I didn’t go to Chicago with you?" No easy feat for a German girl born and raised in the deep provinces. Potente said after several shots of Jägermeister and countless takes, she managed to make it sound fairly convincing.

Solid Career at Home

Although still a relative newcomer on the American scene, Potente is an old pro on the German screen, even at her young age, listing no fewer than 16 films on her résumé.

She studied at a school of performing arts in Munich from 1994 – 1996 and while there won a Bavarian film award at the age of 21 for "Best Newcomer." She continued to receive praise from German critics for her subsequent work.

But it was her colorful look and energetic performance in Run, Lola, Run (she estimates she had to run up to four kilometers a day during filming) that really put her on the international map.

Potente says she’s not considering moving stateside at this point. She’s waiting to see what kinds of future offers she gets. But if the early reviews of The Bourne Identity are any indication, she might soon be packing the moving van.