Diane Kruger Says Her Kid Is Her Biggest Fan—and Toughest Critic

The actor and author talks about global parenting, sharing stories, and her new picture book, 'A Name from the Sky.'

Diane Kruger

Franziska Krug/Getty Images for WMF

Late on a Friday afternoon, actor Diane Kruger is in Nashville, Tennessee—one of her favorite places in the world—trying on a new role: author.

The Swimming With Sharks star is a featured speaker at the city's annual book festival, promoting her new picture book, A Name from the Sky, and this is a decidedly new adventure for her. “I’m really excited,” she says. “I’m going to get to read the book to other people. I’ve read it to my daughter, but to see reactions from other kids is going to be interesting. I was just in Toronto for a week, filming, and now here I am. It’s lovely.”

Kruger paused pre-festival to chat with Parents about tough critics, finding balance in life and motherhood, and learning to embrace your name and history. 

This book is obviously very autobiographical. What made you want to write a picture book specifically?

Well, it kind of started, you know, with the pandemic. I was in Los Angeles, working on a show, and my daughter was 18 months, and my mom was with us to look after her while I was working, and then the world stopped. So we got to spend all these months at home. And finally kind of had this time to tell those old stories that you know you've heard so many times. My mom kept saying that I was such an odd kid when I was growing up, and I remembered her telling me the story about the meaning of my name. I was born in Germany, and it’s a very unusual name there. So that literally changed my life, because all of a sudden I felt more confident. I felt like I could be anything, no matter how many kids are gonna make fun of me for my name. That was how the idea started. And here we are two years later.

Yeah! The gestational process for a book is usually longer than for a human. Speaking of which, you have said that you picked your daughter Nova’s name for a very specific reason—and it became part of the book.

She was already around for a little while, but the more I thought about what I wanted to write about, the more it made sense. And then naming this book A Name From the Sky, it just all made sense all of a sudden. My mom named me after the goddess of the hunt, who was always flying around. We named Nova that because we loved the idea of a star that is the brightest star, and who is changing most, right? The idea of being reborn every day, and this a new opportunity for a new day. And then her dad [Norman Reedus] and I met on a movie called Sky, so this idea of the sky just kept coming back.

Diane Kruger A Name from the Sky Picture Book

Mason Lane and mineditionUS

Were you guys reading a lot? 

She’s almost 4, and it's my favorite time with her. I love, love, love reading, and now that she's a bit older I love taking her to bookstores. It's one of our favorite things to do on a weekend. It's so interesting for me to see what she gravitates to, like the illustrations. She has a huge library. There's nothing better than to start the nighttime routine an hour early, because she wants to listen to like four books. I'm trying to read to her in German as well.

You mentioned the start of the pandemic, when the world stopped. We’re still in the thick of it in so many ways, though the world is opening up. What has that been like for your family? Nova’s sort of a pandemic baby.

It was scary for long for a moment. Like everyone, we all congregated home and washed our mail, and all that, you know. But now, it's like we've all had COVID. Nova brought it home from school. But at least we’re all vaccinated, so it feels a bit more manageable. I don't want her to grow up with that fear of the unknown. Yes, let’s install common sense into her, like hygiene and stuff like that, and that's important, too. But I want her to be free. We were pretty much at home all the time, and now it’s picked up a bit. We’re in France for a year. I’m grateful to be traveling again. 

France must be fun for a year.

Yes, it’s for work, but it’s fun. I made a movie there all summer. And then, Norman, my partner, is about to start his spin off there. So yeah, it's just been great. I'm German, and I've always wanted live in in Europe and just get to make that connection with Nova’s upbringing. She's loving it. I put her in school wherever we go. So now she’s at a bilingual school, learning English, French, and German. I’m grateful that she feels like she gets to see the world, and I can show her the world. So I can’t complain. We’re cautious, but open and optimistic. I tried to install into her that she lives everywhere, and then we have friends everywhere. I’m trying to install this thing in her that we miss people but we just see them later. A positive spin. I can't wait for Nova to be 16 and tell me that I was a terrible mother. But for now, I’m running with this. 

Are you nervous about author life? It's a whole new world for you.

It’s really surreal, especially writing for children. I can’t wait for the reaction. They don’t know me from TV or movies. They don't know me as Diane Kruger. So it's gonna be a different experience. I'm so excited about the whole thing. 

Becoming a mother, it's such a life-changing experience, in the most pure sense. I have enjoyed that journey so much and because of the pandemic I got given that great gift in that I was home, you know, for two years. I got those two years and really appreciate them. I’m a very hands-on mom, So reading time with children is just so fun. The idea that you get to curate the world for a minute in their lives, and whether they remember it or not, it imprints. It's gonna change the way they look at the world.

And you’ve already faced your toughest critic. 

Truly, kids are so honest. Like my daughter. When I showed her the picture book, she had…feedback. “I hate my outfit.” “That's not me!” You know what I mean. Like, it's so honest; it's not about the story. It's just like, “You're not a goddess!” It's so refreshing. And slightly brutal, but yeah, I just have to be like, “Yes, you're right, I know you don't like red. I should have paid more attention." 

And I was going to take her with me to this Barnes & Noble signing in New York in November and invite her class from school there, but I don’t know. They’re the perfect age. But I'm hesitant because I feel like she's gonna be there, and she's just like, “This is bullshit! My mom is not a goddess.” But I’ll keep going. 

Are you planning to write more books?

I make up stories all the time for Nova. And there's this one story she keeps asking about, to tell more stories about this character that I invented in my head. So maybe. I would love to. My imagination runs crazy wild, too. But I’ve been working a lot, and now I’m doing book stuff, so for the rest of the year, I think I’m just going to be home for Nova and enjoy being cozy and sharing stories. 

She’s too young to have watched most of your work, but does she understand what you and Norman do for work? 

She's starting to. We tell her that we pretend for a living. We pretend to be different characters, because she gets that. She loves the put on the costumes and makeup and stuff and she's come to set with me quite a bit. I played a pilot in this last movie and she's so excited. She loves taking planes. She’s thrilled that I could possibly fly the plane. On the way home from that shoot,  the lady recognized me and took us to see the cockpit. And Nova told the pilot, “My mother can fly this plane!” She was so proud.

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