Best known to international audiences for her portrayal of the flame-haired, hyper-kinetic heroine of Tom Tykwer’s Run Lola Run (1998), Franka Potente is one of Germany’s fastest rising young actresses. Born on July 22, 1974, in the town of Dülmen, Potente was educated at Munich’s Otto Falkenberg Schule and the Lee Strasberg Institute in New York. According to legend, she was “discovered” as an actress by a casting agent who saw her in a bar restroom one night and asked her to describe herself in one sentence.
Potente made an auspicious film debut in Hans-Christian Schmid’s 1996 film Nach Fünf im Urwald, for which she won that year’s Bavarian Film Prize for Young Talent; she subsequently did a good deal of television work before enjoying her international breakthrough in Run Lola Run. A huge hit in Germany and a sleeper success in the States, the film featured Potente in a state of constant locomotion, running through time and fate to save her boyfriend from the clutches of his gangster employers. Her performance, which combined urgency, unflappable verve, and surprising warmth, earned her the respect of any number of critics, and she found herself — alongside director and then-boyfriend Tom Tykwer — being hailed as one of the European cinema’s most exciting new talents.
Earning a German Shooting Stars award from the European Film Promotion in 1998, Potente went on to do starring work in a number of films, including Tykwer’s The Princess and the Warrior (2000), which cast her as a lonely mental hospital nurse who falls in love with a disturbed army veteran-cum-thief. The actress’ growing international stature was also reflected in her casting as Johnny Depp’s girlfriend in Blow (2001), Ted Demme’s account of the life of George Jung (Depp), a drug dealer who was instrumental in the rise of cocaine use in the 1970s. International fame continued to grow for the striking actress when, following a small role in the Todd Solandz satire Storytelling (2001), she was cast opposite Matt Damon in director Doug Liman’s fast-paced thriller The Bourne Identity. Inspired by Run Lola Run (it not only utilized that film’s star, but prominently featured a track from the Lola soundtrack in its advertising campaign), the action thriller started to expand Potente’s strong cult appeal into full-blown commercial viability.
After spending the next two years mostly absent from movie houses, Potente re-teamed with Damon for the sequel, The Bourne Supremacy in 2004.