Birth Date: July 22 1974
Birth Place: N/A
Franka Potente was born in the German city of Munster, and raised in the nearby small town of Dulmen. Raised with her younger brother Stefan by their schoolteacher father and medical assistant mother, Franka's childhood was a fairly static one: while her father was occasionally relocated to new teaching posts, they were all restricted to the Westphalian region of Germany, involving only moves from one small town to another.
As a high-school student, Franka's personality was indicative of the occupation she would one day take on; an outgoing girl, she is remembered by her classmates today as the class clown, the one who would always be elected as the klassensprecherin, or class spokesperson. It was perhaps due to this aspect of her character that a 17-year-old Franka made the decision to complete her last year of high school as an exchange student in Houston, Texas.
This experience proved to be a powerful one, as Franka went on to immerse herself fully in American culture, even acquiring an American boyfriend who went to Germany with Franka to meet her parents. It was also in America that Franka began to pursue an acting career, one that she had desired since early childhood. Shortly after her arrival home, she enrolled at the Otto Falkenberg School of Performing Arts in Munich, beginning her classes in 1994.
off on the right foot
Outside of her school hours, Franka sought out acting jobs on the side, and made her first screen appearance in the 1995 student film, Aufbruch. That same year, after being approached by a casting agent in the bathroom of a Munich nightclub, Franka got her first taste of professional work in the made-for-TV movie Nach Funf im Urwald (a.k.a It's a Jungle Out There). The film, directed by Franka's then boyfriend Hans Christian Schmid, was well-received and soon made its way into theaters. Franka's performance was critically applauded, and she was awarded the 1995 Bavarian Film Award for Best Newcomer.
In an echo of her high-school days, Franka completed her last year of training in the US, taking instruction at the Lee Strasberg Theater Institute in New York City. She returned to Europe in 1997, where she resumed her professional work in both German and French productions. By 1998, Franka's acting resume boasted appearances in 13 film and television productions, although she had yet to break through onto screens outside of Europe.
up and running
The movie that launched Franka into the international market was an unlikely candidate, a small-budget German film whose initial screenings were restricted, for the most part, to art-house theaters. The movie's director, Tom Twyker, met Franka in a Munich cafe in 1997, and it was through this chance meeting that she was cast in the lead for Run Lola Run, a role that he had in fact written for her. This first encounter also led to a relationship between the young director and actress, one that endured for several years.
After a successful run in Europe, Run Lola Run made its North American premiere at the 1998 Toronto Film Festival before hitting the Sundance Festival in 1999. Dubbed by one critic as "Viagra for the eyes," the fast-paced film was an instant critical hit, and Franka's warm performance in it was particularly well-received.
Although the doors to the American film industry had been flung open for Franka, she chose to continue working in her native language. After Run Lola Run, Franka appeared in four German movies, most notably the horror film Anatomy (2000) and The Princess and the Warrior (2000), another Twyker project.
franka goes to hollywood
Franka made her English language debut in 2001, as the narrator in Todd Solondz's Storytelling. This film, like Run Lola Run, was largely restricted to small, obscure theaters, but that same year Franka reached a larger audience with a part alongside Johnny Depp in Blow. Franka's role as Depp's stewardess/drug runner girlfriend was relatively short, but it caught the attention of American audiences, and gave Franka an opportunity to demonstrate her grasp of English. Not long afterwards, she was cast as Matt Damon's love interest in the highly-anticipated spy thriller, The Bourne Identity. In it, she plays Marie, a woman Jason Bourne (Damon) first kidnaps, but who then helps him on his run.
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