By People Staff
July 01, 2002 12:00 PM

You’d think after all the huffing and puffing she did as an orange-haired babe with 20 minutes to save her boyfriend’s life in the 1998 indie hit Run Lola Run, German actress Franka Potente would be fit for anything. But nooooo. After auditioning four times to play Matt Damon‘s love interest in the Robert Ludlum thriller The Bourne Identity, she got the job. And then, thanks to the studio, The Trainer. “Nobody had ever had a problem with my body before,” grumbles Potente, 27, who didn’t mind the three-hour-a-day cardio-weight workouts as much as the low-carb diet: “All that red meat made me nervous and angry.” Still, what’s a fräulein to do? As she says, “That’s the Hollywood part.”

A part she manages as flawlessly as her English—no surprise to Damon. “She’s an alpha female, a really strong woman,” says Damon, who plays an amnesiac secret agent who seeks help from Potente to discover his past. While filming in Prague last year he happily followed what he calls her “infectious forward momentum,” whether hitting nightclubs or hiding from the trainer. Notes executive producer Frank Marshall: “She’s spunky.”

Tell it to her parents. Dieter, 53, a school headmaster in Potente’s tiny hometown of Dülmen, and Hildegard, 50, “were hoping to see me onstage,” says Potente, whose brother Stefan, 24, studies medicine. But after the multitattooed acting student at Munich’s Otto Falckenberg School was spotted by a casting agent at a bar in 1996, there was no talking her out of film. Just as today there is no talking her into commenting on her reported romance with Elijah Wood, 21, whom she met making the upcoming comedy Try Seventeen this spring. “Just say,” she suggests, “I had a huge smile on my face.”