Some people baked banana bread during the pandemic. Diane Kruger wrote a children's book.
On Tuesday the German-born actress — best known for roles in Inglourious Basterds, Troy, the National Treasure films and In the Fade — released A Name from the Sky, a deeply personal children's story in which Kruger shares her own experience growing up as something of a quirky misfit who never quite fit in with the other kids in her small, rural German town.
The book was borne out of lockdown, a time when the star, who shares 4-year-old daughter Nova Tennessee with fiancé Norman Reedus, was able to reconnect with her mother and revisit old family stories.
"I was in L.A. working and my mom was there from Germany helping with Nova. The world shut down and weeks turned into months and I hadn't spent that much time with my mom since I was probably 16, when I moved out," Kruger tells Yahoo Life, citing her time studying ballet and pursuing modeling abroad as a young woman. "And so we started talking again about my childhood ... and we talked about the moment that really changed my life in a very significant way: When she told me about the meaning of my name."
Diane, Kruger explains, was an unusual name to have in Germany, and she was teased as a result. The young Kruger also preferred to read books rather than play with her peers, and had a habit of walking to school while pulling a bunny on a leash. She felt odd and out of place, until her mother shared the origins of her name: Diana, the Roman goddess of wild animals and the hunt. Something clicked into place for Kruger, who suddenly saw new possibilities and adventures for herself.
The book also shares how Kruger and Reedus settled on their own daughter's name. While Tennessee comes from the couple's time awaiting her birth amid the majesty of the Smoky Mountains, Nova, Kruger writes, is "for the star that brings light on the darkest nights, for the promise of a new beginning that each day holds."
That "new beginning," she adds, is especially meaningful given that Kruger, now 46, was in her early 40s when she became a mother, and had considered the possibility that she might not have a child at all. The actress has previously spoken about how she might have struggled with motherhood in her younger years.
"To be honest, I couldn't have imagined having a kid earlier," Kruger says. "I was kind of toying with the idea around the time I was like in my late 30s; I just didn't think it was going to be for me. And you know, Nova was a surprise. I mean, I would've liked to have a kid, but I thought I was too old, to be honest, and I was in a newish relationship so we definitely weren't trying to have a baby. [But] when I look back I just feel such peace and ease and that the world gave me Nova when I least expected it but I most needed it. She's been the greatest blessing in our lives."
Now 4, the toddler is a Mulan devotee who loves tae kwon do and My Little Pony and is slowly getting the hang of the new bicycle she just got for her birthday. Like any parent, Kruger is happy to talk about her kid — but she's fiercely protective of her daughter's privacy when it comes to social media and the paparazzi. The 355 star doesn't show her daughter's face on Instagram, and has called out photographers who hound her family. For the most part, she says, life as a parent in the public eye is "manageable," but she has little tolerance for the invasive moments that make her feel unsafe.
"It's so scary to have grown men run after you when you're holding a baby or you're pushing a stroller and they're yelling and they're, you know, shoving stuff or they're jumping out of bushes," she says. "And it's scary for her. And it's just so weird. I really want her to be innocent and I want her to explore life and the world without having her every development put in magazines. I didn't know I was gonna feel this way until I had her, but it's really driving me crazy. I think we should protect our children, you know?"
Kruger, of course, isn't the only bold-faced name in her family. She laughs when asked if Reedus, who also has a grown son with supermodel Helena Christensen, gets the same questions about trying to find a work-life balance as a parent.
"Men never get asked these questions," she says. "And in a way I understand why, because women — let's be honest — they do all the heavy lifting most of the time. You know, I go grocery shop, I'm the one that looks for the school if we go somewhere, I'm setting up the play dates, right? I do so much just on a daily basis as a given, as most moms do."
Still, she feels lucky that her life as an actress, and now a writer, allows her more freedom than most.
"Obviously I'm privileged because I don't work every single day," she notes. "I can make a film and then I have a couple weeks off, and so I can be a stay-at-home mom.
"I have a lot of guilt when I work," she admits, noting that she just wrapped a film shoot, where work days tend to run 14 or 15 hours long. "I feel terrible not really being able to spend quality time with her. So it's definitely not always easy. But the bonus is she gets to come with me and I see her weekends and then we have a couple weeks where truly I'm just attached to her hip. It's just the way it is. And so she understands more and more, and I think she's excited. You know, she understands 'Mom's gonna be done soon, and then it's our time.' And we're very close."
As a mom, Kruger says she's a stickler for good manners, a firm bedtime and honoring your word. Beyond that, she's "very, very liberal."
"I want her to have wings," she says. "If she wants to have pink hair, she can have pink hair. She wants to, you know, buy some costume because she's that person for this week, we can do that. I want to enable her imagination as much as I can."
Mother and daughter's favorite ritual is visiting a bookstore on Sundays to pick out a couple of new reads. But what does Nova make of being featured in her mother's new children's book?
"It's very close to home for her," Kruger says, adding with a laugh that she first read the book to her daughter, Nova "was calling BS on me being a goddess."
"She's like 'Mom, you're not a goddess.' And she had a minor meltdown about the choice of dress that the illustrator [Christa Unzner] put on her at the end, the blue dress and the red shoes. Because she hates red, and how could I ever let that happen?" she chuckles.
But the little girl is now, understandably, "very protective" of A Name from the Sky.
"I've been on this book tour for a while and I say, 'Well, Mommy's going to go talk about your book,'" Kruger shares. "The first time she got really teary and said, 'Please don't sell my book. It's my book. It's my story.' It's really sweet."
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